Lyme Disease: A Concern for Your Dog

April has been designated as Canine Lyme Disease Prevention Month. Most of us are familiar with the fact that the number of cases of Lyme Disease in humans is increasing. What about your dog? While it is not the most common tick borne disease in southwest Missouri, the number of cases is increasing.

This disease is caused by a bacterial spirochete, Borrelia burgdorferi, found in ticks. The deer tick has most often been associated with the disease, but in recent years it has become unclear if other tick species also spread the disease. The black legged tick is incriminated as the spreader of disease in humans.

The symptoms of Lyme Disease are variable, based on where the organism elects to attack the body. Typical symptoms are:

• Fever
• Loss of appetite
• Kidney disease
• Lameness
• Generalized difficulty walking
• Struggling to breathe
• Walking with an arched back
• Skin sensitivity to touch
• Heart disease (rare)
• Neurological disease (rare)

The most common symptoms are multiple joint related problems followed by kidney failure. Often joint problems present as a lameness in one leg that appears to get better in a few days, which mimics a simple overuse injury such as a sprain. However, the lameness will reoccur in the same leg or even shift to a different leg, which causes confusion. At other times, dogs appear to have back pain. Inflammation involving different joints simultaneously is the reason the appearance changes. These signs, which wax and wane, cause extensive damage to the joints before the disease is ever diagnosed.

First line protection against Lyme disease is excellent tick prevention. Isoxazoline preventatives such as Bravecto and Nexgard are safe and effective products available for use. Unfortunately, in areas of high tick populations, it is impossible for an occasional tick not to slip by this preventive screen.

For dogs in heavily infested tick areas or dogs that spend time running through the woods, tall weeds, and grass, a two-pronged prevention program is best. First, use a tick prevention such as Bravecto or Nexgard. Secondly, there is a Lyme Disease vaccine. Vaccination for Lyme Disease has been available for over twenty years and is a safe addition to your preventive program. The vaccine is not a standard vaccine given to every pet, but an additional vaccine to pets at risk. It is important that you make your veterinarian aware of your dog’s risk.

Remember, it is not just whether or not you have ticks around your house but where your dog goes, such as camping, hiking, dog parks, creeks and other wild areas where ticks thrive, that ultimately decides your dog’s risk.

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