Is Your Dog Showing a Loss of Activity, Appetite? It Might Not Be the Heat
News / July 3rd, 2018     A+ | a-
North Haven, CT (July 3, 2018) This time of year most of us with dogs in the family are aware of the nuisance of ticks, and the possibility of Lyme Disease as a result. Although cats can also attract ticks, they are not subject to developing Lyme disease. We at the Animal Haven want to alert pet owners to the perils of Lyme and how to recognize it, prevent it and treat it if necessary.
Lyme Disease is spread by the black legged tick (aka deer tick), one of several species of ticks particularly active in the Spring and early Summer but a nuisance all-year-round.
 
“There is no ‘safe time of year’ away from these opportunistic creatures,” warns Arnie Cary, DVM member of The Animal Haven Board of Directors. “If the weather in the winter is over 40 degrees, and there is no snow cover, adult ticks will quest for a meal and can spread the disease. Each stage needs a blood meal to proceed to the next. The larvae are most apt to feed on mice, the actual reservoir for the Lyme bacteria.”
 
The deer tick is a small tick that feeds on many species, including deer, rodents, dogs, cats, people, many other mammals and birds. Not all deer ticks are infected, but many are. The deer tick has a two-year life cycle from egg to larva, to nymph, to adult and then more eggs. Adults feed in the Spring and Fall; the female adult can achieve a reasonable size and be easily seen when fully engorged. The larvae and nymphs, both quite small, feed in the Summer.
 
Lyme bacteria is ingested by the larval ticks, and the disease spreads as each succeeding stage feeds. According to the Center for Disease Control, “the infected ticks must be attached for 24-48 hours or more before the Lyme bacterium can be transmitted.” Most tick-killing products are not repellants, but will kill the ticks within that time frame, thus preventing the disease.
 
Typical symptoms of Lyme Disease include fever, loss of activity and appetite, lameness and joint swelling. Occasionally the infection can affect the kidneys, causing Lyme nephritis, a very serious and sometimes fatal problem, says Dr. Cary. Labs and Goldens seem to be most prone, but the issue can be found in any breed. Lyme carditis (heart disease) is a rare but documented problem causing heart block in some dogs.
 
Unfortunately, pets may not show symptoms for 2-5 months according to The American Veterinary Medical Association. Unlike in humans, there is no “bulls eye” skin lesion that appears at the tick bite site.
 
“Lameness may shift from leg to leg with Lyme disease. An affected joint can be very painful when manipulated, so owners should be careful when examining their pet,” says Cary. “Your best friend may snarl and act out.”
 
Diagnosing Lyme disease in the dog can be done by observing typical symptoms and having your veterinarian run a very sensitive blood test for Lyme antibodies. If there are symptoms and a positive test, treatment can be initiated. Many dogs can show a positive test, but be asymptomatic. They may not need treatment, but should be watched carefully. Because of the Lyme nephritis threat in Labs and Goldens, Cary says they should be treated or urine tests should be done to see if early kidney disease is present.
 
Several antibiotics can be used to treat Lyme disease. Your veterinarian will make that call, usually dispensing doxycycline. Symptoms are usually gone in 24-48 hours, but the month long course of medication should be completely given to prevent a recurrence or a chronic Lyme Disease problem from developing.
 
“The disease can affect both our canine companions and us, although we do not spread it to each other,” says Dr. Cary. “Precaution and prevention is the best defense. It’s better not to contract Lyme Disease in the first place than to have to undergo treatment.”
 
Prevention of Lyme disease certainly starts with tick control. There are many good products available from your veterinarian, both topical (spot-ons, collars, sprays) and oral. Spraying the yard and environment will help. There are a number of natural and organic treatments for your dog and the environment, but pick something that works in your area advises Cary. Keeping the lawn mowed and the yard manicured will also help. Ticks like long grass, brush and usually shady areas.
 
Cary says there is also a vaccination program that is very effective. Check with your veterinarian for his/her protocol, and to see whether to vaccinate or not. It may be decided your dog is not a candidate.
 
Lyme disease is a complicated disease with many questions still alluding researchers, says Cary. Your veterinarian is your best friend when it comes to how you should approach it with your dogs, relative to diagnosis, treatment, tick control, and vaccination. Use that valuable resource.
 
Media Contact:
Linda Marino
Animal Haven, President
linda@theanimalhavenct.org
203-239-2641
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