Deer Ticks, Lyme Disease, and Your Dog
"Ixodes Scapularis", also known as the deer tick, is the most common carrier of Lyme disease. Lyme disease was first diagnosed in 1975, but has existed long before the 1900's. Today it is found mostly in the eastern coastal states and in Wisconsin and Minnesota. Some cases of Lyme disease occur elsewhere, but infrequently.
Lyme disease is caused by a parasite known as Borrelia, which infects the tick and is then transmitted to the mammal on which it is feeding.
Ticks feed off of mammals and lay eggs of their bodies. A tick can contract Lyme disease at any point in its life cycle. A tick's life begins as an egg, it hatches into larvae, becomes a nymph and then it reaches adulthood and begins laying its own eggs. The tick bites its mammalian host and stays attached until it has had a full meal. It will not bite another mammal after that. The tick must stay attached for at least two days in order to transmit or contract Lyme disease. A tick can give the disease to its host, and can contract it from its host.
Lyme Disease on Dogs
Studies have shown that only 10% of dogs exposed to ticks carrying Lyme disease have contracted it. The dog may not contract the disease if the tick has been attached less than two days. An infected dog cannot infect other members of the household unless the tick or eggs become dislodged and reattach to another mammal.
Symptoms of Lyme Disease
Lyme disease doesn't show up in dogs until two to five months after being infected. Symptoms may vary with different forms of Lyme disease, but often include:
- swelling of the joints
- lack of appetite
Dogs rarely develop arthritis or kidney failure. The sooner the dog is treated, the easier treatment should be.
Treating Lyme Disease
Treating Lyme disease usually involves the aggressive use of antibiotics for two to three weeks. Your veterinarian will take a blood test, although some differ on the effectiveness of these tests. Some animals may never rid themselves of Lyme disease, but the symptoms can be eradicated.
Preventing Lyme Disease
There are vaccinations against Lyme disease available for dogs, but experts debate their effectiveness. Some dogs can be infected with Lyme disease prior to vaccination, rendering the treatment ineffective. There are also a number of strains of the bacteria causing Lyme disease, and one strain in the vaccination may not be able to kill other strains.
Vaccinated dogs can still contract Lyme disease, though at less of a frequency than their unvaccinated counterparts. The best thing you can do to protect your dog against Lyme disease is to notice when your dog is feeling lethargic, or you notice any other changes in its behavior. The sooner you pick up on your pet's illness, the better!