How Common is Lyme Disease in Dogs?

 |  Aug 21st 2008  |   0 Contributions



Map credit: Centers for Disease Control. The geographic distribution of Lyme disease in dogs closely matches the distribution in people.

Our 10-year-old Terrier Jazz has been bitten by two
ticks this summer . How would I know if she has
gotten Lyme disease from them? How would I tell? We
keep her on heart worm and fleameds all the time.

Angel
Knoxville Tn.

Lyme disease (often misspelled lymes disease) is spread by ticks. It can infect humans and dogs. Lyme, Connecticut has the dubious distinction of being the place where the disease was first identified. The disease is named after the town.

A fair bit of misinformation circulates about Lyme disease. The bacteria that causes the disease is most commonly spread by a type of tick called the deer tick. Many people therefore believe that deer serve as reservoirs for the disease. That is not true. In fact, certain species of wild mice are the reservoirs.

Many people also believe that Lyme disease is common throughout the United States. That also is not true. As the map above shows, Lyme disease is very common along the northeastern seaboard and in the upper midwest. It is rare elsewhere.

In particular, Lyme disease is not common in the west or the south. Experts believe Lyme disease is rare in these areas because ticks prefer to feed on lizards, rather than mice, before they feed on people or dogs.

So, to answer your question, it is not likely that Angel has contracted Lyme disease.

However, that does not mean you don't have to worry about ticks.

First, researchers have noted that tick populations are spreading and migrating throughout the United States, and their feeding habits may change. Therefore, the distribution of Lyme disease may change over time.

Also, although Lyme disease gets the most press, remember that ticks spread all sorts of other nasty diseases to humans, cats and dogs. These include rocky mountain spotted fever, ehrlichiosis/anaplasmosis, tularemia, Q fever and cytauxzoonosis.

The symptoms of most tick-borne diseases are vague. Affected animals may suffer lethargy, limping, swollen joints, decreased appetite or weight loss. In the later stages of the diseases, multiple types of organ failure may occur.

Veterinarians can run blood tests to check for exposure to the most common tick-borne diseases. I recommend that these tests be run on any pet who has been parasitized by ticks. Most tick-borne diseases can be treated if they are caught early.

The most effective way to prevent tick-borne diseases is to prevent ticks from biting your pet. Several combination flea and tick preventatives are available through veterinarians for at-risk animals.

For more information on the geographic distribution of Lyme disease in people, click here.

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