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Lyme Disease

What is lyme disease?

Lyme disease is transmitted to dogs through the bite of a tick. Once in the blood stream, the lyme disease organism is carried to many parts of the body and is likely to localize in joints. Current studies show that several common species of tick may be involved. The most common type of tick to carry lyme disease is the deer tick.

Can lyme disease also affect people?

Yes, but people do not get it directly from dogs. They get it from being bitten by the same ticks that transmit it to dogs. Therefore, preventing exposure to ticks is important for you and your dog.

What are the clinical signs of the disease?

Many people with lyme disease develop a characteristic 'bull's-eye' rash at the site of the bite within 30 to 30 days. For these people, the disease can be easily diagnosed at an early stage. However, symptoms of lyme disease are more difficult to detect in animals than in people and are frequently overlooked by owners. Some pets are affected with the lyme disease organism for over a year before they finally show symptoms. By this time, the disease may be quite widespread in the body.

How is lyme disease diagnosed?

Each year at a dog's annual exam we perform a very easy, inexpensive blood parasite screen that checks for four blood parasite diseases: heartworm - from infected mosquitoes. And from ticks: lyme disease, anaplasmosis and ehrlichiosis. Each year we are surprised by how many more positive results we get. In fact, here at the Fredonia Animal Hospital, we have diagnosed lyme disease more in the month of March 2011 than in all of 2010.  

With lyme disease on a rampant increase in dogs in western New York State, it is vital to have this done each year. If caught early, lyme disease can be easily treated at a relatively low cost and the dog is comfortable.

How can I prevent lyme disease?

First, prevent ticks by avoiding tick areas as described in the TICK section.

Second, use a product such as Advantix or Frontline Plus. The products not only kills fleas, bu they also aid in repelling ticks.

Third, and most important, get your dog vaccinated for lyme disease. This vaccine is initially given twice within one month. Annual vaccination is also necessary to maintain immunity. The vaccine has been shown to be safe and very effective.