February: Lyme Disease
Most people are aware that among the many unpleasant aspects of ticks is their ability to
transmit Lyme disease to both humans and pets. These unwelcome creatures also carry other tickborne
diseases with less common names and lower incident rates, such as canine ehrlichiosis and canine
Although Lyme disease affects both humans and dogs, the symptoms are quite different in each species.
For example, many people know that a “bull’s eye” rash at the site of a tick bite is a characteristic
symptom of Lyme disease in two-legged victims. Not so with our four-legged, canine friends. In addition,
symptoms of Lyme disease in dogs generally take much longer to manifest themselves than they do in
people. Clinical signs of the infection do not typically appear in dogs until two to five months after the
bite from an infected tick.
A dog infected with Lyme disease may show few, if any, symptoms at all, but if symptoms appear they
• Acute or recurring lameness due to inflammation of the joints
• Reluctance to move
• Loss of appetite
• Lethargy or depression
The most common blood test used by veterinary hospitals is the IDEXX “SNAP® 4Dx® Plus” test that can
be run in-house and provides results within a very short time (approximately ten minutes). These tests
also screen for additional tick-borne diseases as well as for heartworm disease.
It’s always nice when dog owners can take preventive steps to avoid an insidious condition like Lyme
disease from affecting their canine companions. There are two important ways to keep your dog from
contracting this disease – tick control and removal, and vaccination.
Tick control and removal – Since the disease is transmitted through the bite of an infected tick, clearly
making sure that ticks do not get on your dog is the easiest and most straightforward means of avoiding
infection. Of course, given their tiny size and the prevalence of ticks in our environment, this can be a
Here are some tips for all dog owners to follow:
• Avoid areas of high tick infestation, especially during those times of the year when ticks are
most active. Ticks are most often found in tall grasses and wooded areas, but they can hop a
ride on people and animals and turn up elsewhere as well.
• Check your dog regularly for ticks and remove them immediately if found. Remember that the
tick must be attached to the dog for 36-48 hours in order to transmit the disease. If you find and
remove the tick early, the risk of transmission is significantly decreased.
• Make sure you know the proper way to remove ticks so you don’t inadvertently come in contact
yourself with the bacteria. Use a tweezers or specially made tick removal tool to grasp the tick
as close to the mouth parts as possible, then pull straight upwards with gentle but firm pressure.