Lyme disease is caused by a bacteria from the Rickettsia group and is transmitted from one animal to another through tick bites. These ticks typically become infected after feeding from other infected wildlife. In general, a tick must be attached to your pet for 36-48 hours to transmit the bacteria, however, given the difficulty of finding ticks in your pet’s fur, it can be hard to determine how long a tick has been there once found.
Dogs infected with Lyme disease may not always show symptoms. It is also important to note that the bullseye rash commonly seen in people with Lyme disease is not frequently seen in dogs. If symptoms do show, they can include lameness, possible joint swelling, fever, loss of appetite, and malaise.
Lyme disease may also affect the kidneys. Lyme nephritis, a life-threatening kidney disease, can be a result and can lead to kidney failure and death. Signs of Lyme nephritis are increasing lethargy, loss of appetite, vomiting, and changes in urination and thirst. Untreated Lyme disease can have life long effects for your dog, so early treatment will lead to the best prognosis.
The best method for tackling Lyme disease is prevention. Quality flea & tick preventatives will help keep the bites from occurring in the first place. In addition, we suggest vaccinating all dogs for Lyme disease. Vaccination includes an initial injection, followed by a booster four weeks later. After this, as long as the vaccines are given on time, they are only required once a year.
Owners should check dogs for ticks any time they are in potentially infested areas. If a tick is found, it should be immediately and properly removed with a tick removal tool. The Upper Midwest is a prime region for tick activity, so owners should be aware when their pets are outside.
According to Dr. Kristopher Sharpe of Blue Pearl Specialty and Emergency Pet Hospital in Grand Rapids, Michigan, “Lyme disease hasn’t been a serious issue in the past, but we’re seeing it more and more. Incidents are increasing, so people should be more aware.”
Dowagiac Animal Hospital offers tick preventatives for any of our patients with a current exam. In addition, pets can receive the Lyme disease vaccine during our walk-in hours. Owners can also purchase a “Tick Twister” removal tool at the clinic.