What is Lyme disease?
Lyme disease is caused by a spirochete (bacteria) species of the Borrelia burgdorferi group that is commonly carried by rodents. Transmission of the bacteria happens when a tick bites an infected rodent and picks up the bacteria. The tick then passes the bacteria along when it bites a human or animal and feeds for as little as 24 hours. Not all ticks carry the bacteria that causes Lyme disease.
What are the signs of Lyme disease?
Once infected, dogs may experience a stiff walk with an arched back, sensitivity to touch, a fever, lack of appetite, depression, inflammation of the joints and lymph nodes. Signs of Lyme disease usually occur weeks after a tick bite. However, most dogs do not develop clinical signs when infected with Borrelia burgdorferi.
How often should my dog be tested for Lyme disease?
The need for testing will be determined by your dog’s lifestyle and your geographic location. An important discussion with your veterinarian about your dog’s risk factors can help you determine if and when your pet should be tested. Knowing the prevalence of this disease in your area and where you travel with your pet will be important in deciding the course of testing and preventive action you will choose in consultation with your veterinarian.
How can I protect my dog from Lyme disease?
Avoiding tick-infested areas is the best prevention. After walking in areas with long grass, run your hands over your dog’s fur to check for ticks, paying close attention to their ears, head, neck, belly and feet. Effective preventive medications are available from your veterinarian to repel ticks on your pet. New products are now available that are administered less often and that have an increased safety for the pet and the environment. Vaccination against Lyme disease is recommended for pets that live in endemic areas or that travel to areas where Lyme disease is prevalent.
How do I remove a tick from my dog or cat?
Using tweezers or a tick removing tool, carefully grasp the ticks head and mouth as close to the skin as possible and gently pull the tick straight out. Do not twist as you pull and try not to squash the tick as you remove it. Save the tick in an empty pill bottle or a doubled zip-lock bag and call your veterinary hospital to find out if they can submit it for identification.
The Latest Update on Lyme Disease in Canada
Ticks populations are on the rise in Canada. In 1990, ticks carrying Lyme disease were only found in Long Island, Lake Erie, southern Ontario. Today, they have been identified in other parts of southern and eastern Ontario, Nova Scotia, southeastern Manitoba and New Brunswick. Ticks carrying Lyme disease are now commonly found in this area.