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Saturday, April 4, 2015

You, Your Dog and Lyme Disease

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You, Your Dog and Lyme Disease
by Taylor Malowney
When hiking with your dog, stick to trails and avoid thick grass and bushes. As spring and summer approach, you and your pooch are exploring the outdoors more. But with this newfound freedom comes the possibility of Lyme disease, an infection caused by the bite of a tick. Pet parents can also develop Lyme disease – use these tips on you and your dog.
What is Lyme disease?
Lyme disease is an infection caused by a tick bite. Ticks often contain the bacteria Burrelia bergdorferi, which is passed along in their bite and into the bloodstream. Lyme disease tick range Lyme disease tick range
 Who is at risk for Lyme disease?

Several common tick species carry the disease-causing bacteria across the United States. The Blacklegged tick is widespread throughout the East and Southeast U.S., as well as near the Great Lakes. On the West Coast, the Western Black egged tick is a carrier of the bacteria.

Dogs and outdoor cats are at risk of developing Lyme disease when they spend time outdoors in affected areas. Ticks typically catch a ride on pets’ fur after they pass through grassy, wooded or sandy areas. 

Pet parents can also be infected with Lyme disease, but only through a tick bite – you cannot catch Lyme disease directly from your pet! 
What are the symptoms of Lyme disease?
In humans, the infection initially presents as a bullseye-like rash, appearing within three to thirty days. However, the symptoms of Lyme disease in dogs differ:

Generalized pain
“Walking on eggshells,” or lameness
Loss of appetite
Joint swelling
Symptoms of Lyme disease may appear and disappear suddenly or recur over a period of time. Difficulty walking has been described as “walking on eggshells,” and may affect a variety of limbs.
How is Lyme disease diagnosed?

A vet exam is the best way to get the ball rolling. If you suspect your pet has Lyme disease, don’t wait! Symptoms can persist off and on for over a year; some pets aren’t diagnosed until several months to a year after exposure.

Your vet will perform two blood tests to diagnose Lyme disease. An antibody test is done to determine the presence of antibodies in the bloodstream, which indicates an infection. However, this test can’t diagnose what infection your pet has. This is where the second test comes in – a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test. Fluid may be taken from a joint for best results, which is analyzed at the DNA level. 
How is Lyme disease treated?
Antibiotics are used to kill the bacteria that causes Lyme disease. Course of treatment is very long, as all bacteria in the body must be eradicated to cure the infection. Your vet may need to change the prescribed antibiotic, as some bacteria are immune to certain medications.
To prevent Lyme disease, avoid sandy or brush-filled areas – they’re tick havens. 
How can I prevent Lyme disease?

When you go hiking with your dog, avoid thickly wooded or bushy areas. Stick to marked trails, especially in parts of the country where ticks are endemic.

After an outdoor excursion, thoroughly check your pet for any ticks! Wear a pair of thick gloves and long sleeves to avoid being bit yourself. Ticks can be as small as a pinhead, so use a flashlight for best results. If you find a tick, remove it immediately using a pair of tweezer. Avoid crushing the tick or partially removing it – bacteria can enter the skin through any open wound or cut. 

Over-the-counter tick control medications are widely available, either in collar or 

A vaccine for Lyme disease is also available. If you live in an area where ticks are endemic and spend tons of time outdoors, consider vaccinating your pet! Talk to your vet about the Lyme disease vaccine.
How much does Lyme disease cost to treat?
The price of antibiotics for pets and humans has been increasing in recent years – a two-week dose of doxycycline can cost $400 in some areas. Ask your vet if they use a compounding pharmacy, which can reduce costs majorly.

Blood tests usually run around $80, depending on the methods used. Pet parents also must pay the vet exam fee, which is $40 to $50 and not covered by pet insurance.