Preventing Lyme disease in dogs
By Dr. Roger Krogstad, DVM
Wildwood Animal Hospital and Clinic LLC
Recently on television have been warnings about a widespread disease in people with greater frequency than many other diseases combined. The human medical community is finally aware of the epidemic of Lyme disease that we are also seeing in our K-9 companions. Sadly, it is not just Lyme disease being transmitted by the tick but also the bacteria of anaplasmosis, ehrlichiosis, Bartonellosis, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and Powassan virus to name a few. Now you see why veterinarians are so encouraging of the prevention steps that can be done to protect your pet from this severe illness.
Proper care may be confusing to the pet owner with all of the tick and flea product choices. There are oral medications, topicals, and professional strength collars. Your veterinarian and veterinary technicians can help you select the most appropriate product for your pet based upon a number of factors. Such things as exposure level, convenience, small children having contact with your pet, repelling vs. quick kill, and cost are all considerations.
The Lyme vaccination, though not available in human medicine yet, has been available for dogs for a number of years. Earlier vaccines, similar to many topical products, were in the 80-90 percent effective range. A combination of both still left a small window of risk for our pets.
Recently, a newer, broad-spectrum Lyme vaccine has proven more effective, and the newer oral products look to have a quicker tick kill time to prevent the early attachment transmission of anaplasmosis and ehrlichiosis. With the new vaccine and a year-round tick protection program, the potential for Lyme disease is near zero.
In dogs, Lyme disease is the great imposter, able to present with a myriad of symptoms involving multiple organ systems. By far the most common symptoms are inactivity, loss of appetite, mild fever, and lameness. The most severe cases may present with advanced kidney failure, which is often fatal. Other symptoms may be very vague, but a 10-minute blood test can show if your pet has been exposed to a tick-borne disease. A decision can then be made on treatment options.
This year Lyme disease was being diagnosed into February. Research shows from the time of tick exposure there may be a two- to five-month delay before symptoms present. Most pet owners never find the tick that infected their pet because the most common infective stage is when the insect is extremely small, smaller than a poppy seed. Also, pets do not present with a skin rash lesion as seen in people, but their hair coat would obscure it if present.
Wisconsin is one of the top four states for Lyme disease prevalence. All dogs — city and country, indoor and outdoor, large and small — can be easily exposed as ticks are everywhere being shed off their wildlife hosts. No place in Wisconsin is 100 percent safe, but vaccination, tick/flea preventatives, and thorough examination of your pet when returning from the outside can keep both you and your pet from contracting this widespread illness.
Wildwood Animal Hospital and Clinic LLC is located at 210 Airpark Road in Marshfield and online at wildwoodanimalhospital.net.