Lyme disease is caused by a spiral-shaped bacteria. This bacteria is transmitted by the bite of the black-legged, or deer, tick. A deer tick must be attached for at least 24 hours before it is able to pass Lyme Disease to the dog (or human). This is a great reason to check your dog carefully for ticks every day and remove any found ticks promptly (your veterinary care team can help with this is you are in doubt of how to properly remove a tick).
Ticks are active above 4 degrees C; they do not die in cold weather so will be around to bite and feed any time the temperature is warm enough. With a winter like we just had, this means that dogs need either continued tick protection or tick checks at least once a day. Again, your vet care team can help you decide which option is best for you and your pet.
- swollen joints
- enlarged lymph nodes
The lameness usually has a sudden onset, rather than your pet getting gradually more and more sore, like what happens with arthritis. It is important to note that not all dogs infected with Lyme disease show signs, and may not need to be treated.
Treatment of Lyme Disease is actually fairly simple – a 4-week course of antibiotics (usually doxycycline) is curative. Most pets start to feel better within a few days, but it is very important to continue the prescribed antibiotics for the length of time your vet prescribed.
In very rare cases, Lyme disease can lead to kidney disease and kidney failure. This is why it is important to contact your veterinarian if you think your dog has Lyme disease or has been bitten by a deer tick.
If your dog has been bitten, or you suspect it may have Lyme Disease, there is a simple in-clinic test your vet can run using a bit of your pet’s blood. This tells us “yes or no” if your dog has Lyme Disease (positive or negative). This test will also tell us if your dog has any other tick-borne diseases that are becoming more common in NS, or that your pet can get through travel to other provinces or countries. Lyme Disease takes 6 or more weeks to show up in your pet’s blood, so make sure you get the Lyme Disease test done 6 weeks after you have found the deer tick on your dog.
What about cats? Cats are not nearly as susceptible to Lyme Disease as dogs and humans are. However, tick prevention is just as important for cats because of other tick-borne diseases they can get.
Make sure you talk to your Veterinary care team if you have any questions or concerns about Lyme Disease! They can help you decide if you should put your dog on year-round tick prevention, show you how to properly remove ticks, and identify the ticks that you may find on your pet.
Written by Dr. Teigen Bond