Lyme Disease / Borreliosis

Lyme disease (“Borreliosis”) is a tick-borne bacterial infection affecting both people and animals. It was first discovered in humans in 1975 and reported in dogs in 1984.

Ticks, the carrier of Borrelia burgdorferii, transmit this disease which is spreading rapidly. In humans there has been a 16-fold increase in reported cases since 1982. It is now the most common tick-borne disease in this country. Experts believe that Lyme disease in dogs may be as much as 10 times greater than that reported in man due to a dog’s natural higher exposure to ticks outside. We are now using a 3-in-1-combination Heartworm blood test, performed while you wait at our office, which accurately tests for the presence of Heartworm, Lyme disease, and a less common tick-borne disease called Ehrlichiosis. We currently recommend that this test be performed every other year, and will automatically notify you when your dog is due.

Since we switched to this procedure in October 2001, we are seeing a frightening 41% infection rate in our unvaccinated patients. The rate in vaccinated dogs is less than 1%, as would be expected. It is, however, not 0%, because some of these dogs were exposed before we vaccinated them and, in a few cases, the vaccine is not completely protective (no vaccine is).

The clinical signs of Lyme disease in pets include:

1. Vomiting and/ or Diarrhea

2. Sudden onset of severe pain, lameness, and possible arthritis

3. Fever

4. Lethargy

5. Loss of appetite

6. Depression

Once diagnosed, we expect a reasonably high success rate using an antibiotic (doxycycline) for a period of 3-4 weeks, depending on symptoms and response.

To prevent this disease, we recommend:

Vaccination: following an initial series of 2 vaccines given 3-4 weeks apart, your dog will be given a yearly single booster with his other routine health care.

Frontline Top Spot: apply this acaricide to the back of the neck to kill ticks and fleas in 24 hours; it will last 4-6 weeks. It is very safe and kills the tick before it can then attach to you or your family, (a major consideration). Ticks tend to be most numerous in this area in early spring and late fall. Restrict your dog from playing in brush and thicket areas, or keep brush mowed where your dog plays.

Check your pets after they have been outdoors. Ticks usually attack in the head, neck, and ear region. If you find a tick, remove it with tweezers, pulling back steadily and slowly to get the mouth to release. It is very common to see a scab at that site for 1 to 3 weeks after removing a tick.

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