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Does my dog have Lyme?

Does my dog have Lyme?

Would you know if your dog had Lyme disease?
Dogs are at high risk of encountering ticks, acquiring tick bites, and catching the diseases ticks may carry. Due to their generally rambunctious and roaming nature, dogs venture more often into tick infested areas like grassy fields and areas with overgrown brush and low growing vegetation. Dogs also pant copious amounts of carbon dioxide into the air - an element that ticks are specifically designed to hunt for -  and their thick fur coats increase their chances of collecting and successfully hiding the creepy little stowaways.


Which ticks spread Lyme to dogs?
Lyme disease is typically spread by the blacklegged or deer tick (ixodes scapularis) and the Western blacklegged or deer tick (ixodes pacificus), however more recent evidence shows that Lyme can also be carried and transmitted by the ixodes angustus (no common name), the rabbit tick (haemaphysalis leporispalustris; mostly bites smaller animals but also occasionally dogs),  the ixodes dentatus (no common name; mostly bites smaller animals and birds but also occasionally dogs), and the ixodes spinipalpis (no common name; mostly bites smaller nesting animals, but is known to bite a wide range of animals including dogs). Though transmission rates are thought to be low, negligible, or unknown, the the American dog tick (dermacentor variabilis),  mouse tick (ixodes muris), and raccoon tick (ixodes texanus) also carry strains of Borrelia burgdorferi, the bacteria that causes Lyme disease, and are known to bite dogs.
tick map, backlogged ticks, Lyme disease


Symptoms of Lyme in dogs:
Symptoms of Lyme disease in dogs include but not limited to:

  1. general stiffness

  2. lameness that comes and goes

  3. swollen joints

  4. swollen lymph nodes

  5. loss of appetite

  6. fever

  7. fatigue 

  8. and lethargy 

    If Lyme disease is left untreated it can lead to damage in the kidneys, nervous system, and heart, so it is important to watch for symptoms related to those bodily systems as well. Cases are often missed, overlooked or misdiagnosed because of the possible extended delay in onset of symptoms, and the tendency for Lyme disease to look like so many other illnesses, as implied by its nickname “the great imitator.”  
    Your dog may not show signs of the disease until several months after being infected, or may be infected but asymptomatic, so keeping a good eye on your dog’s health overtime is key to knowing the cause and effect of their illness, and acquiring proper treatment. 


    Proper treatment:
    If your dog has been bitten by a tick and is showing any of the above symptoms, be sure to get them veterinarian help as soon as possible.  Veterinarians often also provide screening for tick-borne diseases in dogs that are asymptomatic, which can be key to keeping a seemingly healthy dog on the right wellness path. 
     
    How to prevent Lyme:
    As with humans, prevention is key to avoiding tick bites on dogs. There are many steps you can take to protect your furry pals, including:

    1. Use a proven, effective tick repellent. When applying topical repellent to your furry pal be sure to follow the label directions and, when applicable, spray all over the body,  but not directly onto the face - instead spray the repellent into your hands then rub over the facial area, being careful to avoid the mouth, nose and eyes. If your pup is stressed or fearful, use this method for full body application.

    2. Avoid tick infested areas. Stay on the trails, avoiding areas of overgrown vegetation. This will be easier to accomplish if you keep your dog leashed.

    3. Conduct regular tick checks.  It’s particularly important to check your pets whenever they come and go from the outside as they can easily transport ticks into your home, putting everyone inside at risk. Ticks will bite wherever they can, but tend to gravitate toward dark, moist areas, so be sure to closely examine foot pads, groin areas, ear folds, armpits, and snouts. 

    4. Keep a health journal for your dog, including dates of any tick bites, descriptions of ticks removed, and feeding stage or size at time of removal (i.e. unfed, semi-engorged, fully engorged). This will help you and your vet connect the dots if your dog develops delayed symptoms that show up months later. 

    5. Always carry a tick remover, or tick removal kit with you, to make sure you can pull off biting and embedded ticks as soon as possible.

    6. Keep any ticks you remove from your dog in the storage vial found in your tick kit so you can submit to a tick testing lab, like Geneticks, who will be able to analyse the specimen and determine which pathogens ​it carries, if any, providing incredibly valuable insight to help guide your treatment plan.

       
      Our mission at AtlanTick is to provide you with valuable information and tools to help you and your loved ones avoid tick bites and their associated diseases.
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