The vet’s office: Lyme disease in dogs
Detecting symptoms and working towards prevention
By Dr. Roger Krogstad, DVM
Wildwood Animal Hospital and Clinic LLC
To many of you, it may be a surprise that recently we diagnosed two dogs with Lyme disease. How can that be when it is a tick bite-transmitted infection of the Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria?
These are not new infections. The disease process began from tick exposure last September or October. Lyme disease may take months to become symptomatic.
The first symptom pet owners may notice is a small decrease in appetite or activity. This may quickly transition to one or multiple leg lameness in one to two days accompanied by inactivity and loss of appetite.
Most of these pets present with fevers of one to two degrees above normal. Also, upon physical examination no specific injury to the leg can be identified.
Many pet owners have never seen a tick on their pet because they are using tick and flea treatments, and some may even have been vaccinated for Lyme. Sadly, there is not a perfect system of protection. Topicals may be only 80 percent effective by the end of the four-week period of protection, and like most vaccinations, manufacturers only claim about an 80-90 percent protection rate.
Wisconsin, being one of the top four states for Lyme disease, presents a high risk of exposure for all dogs. Ticks are everywhere, not just in the woods but in your own back yard. Dogs of all ages and breeds are getting infected, even my daughter’s Pomachon, a Pomeranian-Bichon mix. Interestingly, cats seem to be resistant to Lyme disease infection.
Sadly, the bacteria of Lyme disease may target the kidneys and cause severe disease that could progress to kidney failure and death. If you see increased water drinking, get your dog to your veterinarian for evaluation and early treatment.
What can be done to protect our pets? Topical quick-kill or, better yet, repellant products come in variable strengths and effectiveness. Veterinary-labeled products tend to be more effective as Lyme disease’s resistance to over-the-counter products is increasing. Lyme vaccination should be added to all dogs’ core protections in Wisconsin.
Try limiting exposure by keeping dogs out of the tall grass and woods and by thoroughly examining them after return from these areas. Remember that deer ticks may only be as big as the period at the end of a sentence. Less than one-third of the people that get Lyme disease ever find the tick on themselves. Likewise, many owners never see the tick that gives their dog Lyme disease.
For additional information or if you have questions about your pet’s risk of Lyme disease in your area, call your veterinarian.
Wildwood Animal Hospital and Clinic LLC is located at 210 Airpark Road in Marshfield and online at wildwoodanimalhospital.net. It was honored as the 2015 Small Business of the Year by the Marshfield Area Chamber of Commerce & Industry.