What You Need to Know About Dogs, Ticks and Lyme Disease
Along with the gorgeous weather of spring to fall come some concerns for pet owners. If you’re a dog owner, then spring to fall is the time you want to watch out for ticks – and Lyme disease in your dog.
Ticks and Dogs
Ticks are parasites in the same family as spiders or arachnids. The common ticks that give human beings and dogs so much trouble are the brown dog tick (Rhipicephalus sanguineus) and the American dog tick (Dermacentor variabilis). They bite to take blood from their host as part of their life cycle process.
Ticks hatch in the spring and are most active as youngsters, making it the most dangerous time to venture into tick-infested areas. However their season extends from spring to fall as long as temperatures remain above 2°C (35°F). The incidence of Lyme in both humans and dogs jumped dramatically in the 1980’s and continues to spread throughout North America including Ontario.
In Ontario, known tick-infested areas include:
• Long Point Provincial Park
• Point Pelee National Park
• Rondeau Provincial Park
• Turkey Point Provincial Park
• Prince Edward Point National Wildlife Area
• Wainfleet Bog Conservation Area
• St. Lawrence Islands National Park
But – you should be cautious about venturing into any thickly wooded or boggy areas or where there is long grass at this time of year. The areas of tick-infestation are increasing in this province. Avoidance – just staying away from tick-infested areas – is the best way to protect your pet, along with keeping your dog on a monthly parasite preventive given year-round.
Lyme Disease and Dogs
The infection and resulting Lyme disease aren’t actually caused by the tick itself, but rather bacteria that live in the gut of the tick and are transmitted through its saliva as the tick bites. After a bite, the symptoms typically take about 18 hours to appear. Many dog owners will notice “shifting lameness”.
• Your dog will display lameness and favour one leg for a few days. It will seem to clear up… and then he/she will favour another leg.
Other common symptoms include:
• Change in appetite
• Dry mouth, dehydration
• Decrease in energy levels and activity
• Swollen lymph nodes and joints
• Joints may feel hot to the touch
Ticks are big enough to see and you will commonly find them around the neck, head and ears of the dog although they can be anywhere.
• Take care not to touch it – you can also be infected by tick blood!
• Daub rubbing alcohol over the area to sterilize it.
• Then use tweezers to carefully pull out the tick.
• Take your dog to the veterinarian immediately for examination even if they don’t display any symptoms as yet.
Daily grooming can be an effective tool for keeping your dog tick-free.
Diagnosis & Treatment
It can often be difficult to diagnose Lyme since the symptoms often shift in intensity from one area of the body to another. Living in or near a tick-infested area is one of the major clues along with symptoms of arthritis. There are also lab tests that can show the presence of antibodies to the tick infestation.
The good news is that Lyme is typically and efficiently treated with antibiotics in dogs. Antibiotics are typically given for a three or four week course, although improvement should be noted after a few days.
Vigilance is important though – the sooner the dog gets treatment, the better.
Call us today at 905-830-0437 in Newmarket and York Region to learn more about Dogs, Ticks and Lyme Disease and what you can do to prevent it.
About Dr. Arzem and The North Yonge Veterinary Hospital:
Dr. Gary Arzem received his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from The Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph, Ontario in 1989. He is the founder and head veterinarian at The North Yonge Veterinary Hospital in Newmarket, Ontario. Having practiced veterinary medicine for more than 25 years, his skills and special interests include surgery, dentistry, diagnostic imaging (ultrasound and radiography), dermatology, internal medicine, cardiology, ophthalmology and public health as it relates to pets and their owners. He is a founding member of The Veterinary Emergency Clinic of York Region in Newmarket. Dr. Arzem is recognized as an educational leader in the community and is involved with The Ontario Veterinary College, York Region District School Board, Simcoe County Board of Education, and Seneca College’s Co-Operative Education Programs. Dr. Arzem also participates in several continuing education conferences, including The North American and Western Veterinary Conferences and he is actively involved in fundraising for a number of charitable organizations, such as The Pet Trust Fund, The Farley Foundation, The Hospital for Sick Children and the Canadian Cancer Society. He has also appeared on City T.V.’s Animal House Calls and Rogers Your Pet Your Vet television shows and has written several articles for Newmarket’s Snapd Newspapers.