By Dr. Falter, Associate Veterinarian
Lyme disease is a syndrome caused by a bacteria called Burrelia Burgdorferi. It is one of the most common tick borne illnesses in the world and is becoming increasingly common in our area. Lyme disease affects both humans and dogs, though the course of illness and the symptoms involved are quite different between the two species.
Most dogs who are exposed to Lyme do not go on to develop any symptoms of illness. Exposure is commonly detected with the use of tests that screen for heartworm disease and tick borne illnesses. Often the positive Lyme test comes as a complete surprise to an unsuspecting owner because their pet appears perfectly healthy.
The most common syndrome observed in dogs who do develop symptoms of Lyme disease is pain or lameness in one or more joints. Often, it is what is described as a “shifting leg lameness”, meaning that the symptoms may appear in one leg, seem to resolve, and then reappear in another limb. There may be fever, swollen joints or lack of appetite as well. The symptoms generally resolve very quickly with the administration of antibiotics.
Less commonly, kidney disease may develop as a result of infection with Lyme. Heart disease related to Lyme infection has been reported, but is considered to be extremely rare.
If your pet is positive for Lyme or is diagnosed with Lyme disease, one of our veterinarians may recommend bloodwork and urinalysis to investigate for damage caused by the bacteria.
There are many steps that can be taken to prevent Lyme and other tick-borne illnesses. The most important step is to prevent exposure to ticks. Avoid walking your pet in tick-infested areas, maintain your yard and lawn to keep tick populations to a minimum and thoroughly inspect your pet for ticks after he/she spends time outdoors. If you find ticks on your pet, use an instrument designed for tick extraction to remove them – do not use your fingers! Many options are available for tick prevention, including topical applications, tick prevention collars, and oral monthly medications. We can help you select a product that is right for your pet during your next appointment.
For at-risk pets, there is a vaccination against Lyme disease available. Talk to our doctors about whether this option is right for your pet.
Give us a call today at 301-258-0333 to start your pet on the prevention path.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Now is a great time to get your pet protected from ticks and other parasites! Not only is parasite season ramping up, but we’ve partnered with Merial to save you money AND protect your pet. Plus, you can enter for a chance to win an iPad Mini! Be sure to ask one of our staff members today how you can save $50 on your next prevention purchase and be entered in our drawing for that iPad Mini!