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What is Lyme Disease? How could my dog be infected?


Lyme disease is one of the most common tick-transmitted diseases in the world. It is caused by a spirochete (bacteria) species of the Borrelia burgdorferi group. Borrelia burgdorferi, the bacteria responsible for Lyme disease, is transmitted by slow-feeding, hard-shelled deer ticks. The tick needs to feed on the dog for more than 24-48 hours before infection occurs. Deer ticks or blacklegged ticks are the most common species of tick that transmits the disease. The tick becomes infected by feeding on infected mice, birds, deer and other animals before spreading it to the dog.

Your dog could be exposed to this infection in almost any outdoor location where deer ticks are found. Risk varies from region to region. The upper midwest is an endemic area and dogs are at a higher risk than many other areas in the US. Dogs are 50% more likely to get Lyme disease than humans.

How Is Lyme Disease Diagnosed?

Diagnosing can be difficult because signs aren’t often present or clear. Some dogs can have a ‘silent’ infection. The most common signs of infection are lameness, fever, swollen joints, not eating, lethargy and in some cases, kidney failure. There is a simple blood test that can tell us if your pet was exposed to Borrelia burgdorferi. If that test is positive, we may run additional tests to identify the extent of infection and other related health conditions.

What is the Treatment for Lyme Disease?

The most common treatment for Lyme disease is an antibiotic given for 21-28 days. If left untreated, damaged joints and on the rare occasion, a fatal kidney disease may occur.

Could I Contract Lyme Disease From My Dog?

Lyme disease cannot be transmitted directly from your pet to you or your family. A bite directly from the tick must occur to contract Lyme disease. However if diseased ticks are found in your area, your family can be at risk just like your dog.

What can I Do to Prevent Lyme Disease?

Good tick control is vital. There is a vaccine available for Lyme disease for dogs in high risk areas. A good tick preventative product such as Parastar applied once a month to the skin is important for all dogs at risk of tick exposure. To reduce the risk of transmitting the disease, inspect your dog and every family member for ticks several times a day when enjoying outdoor activities and remove any ticks you find immediately. Remember, no prevention is 100% effective. A yearly screening test is recommended.