The vet’s office: A tick-y situation
Lyme disease cases in dogs are on the rise
By Dr. Roger Krogstad, DVM
Wildwood Animal Hospital and Clinic LLC
Lyme disease is back with a vengeance now that spring has sprung. Dogs have been presenting for the last two months with attached ticks, and subsequently Lyme disease cases are on the rise. Some dogs did present with symptoms and tested positive in January and February from exposures late last fall.
Researchers have discovered that some pets may not present with symptoms for two to five months after tick exposure. Pet owners share many stories about their own struggles with Lyme disease and how they sympathize with their dogs.
The most common presenting symptoms are tiredness, loss of appetite, leg pain, and mild fever. These symptoms, along with a positive blood test, are suggestive of Lyme infection. Some of these dogs had been Lyme vaccinated and treated with quick-kill or repellant products for ticks and fleas. Unfortunately, there is no perfect system. Vaccines and tick products are not 100 percent effective. There is always a window of opportunity for an infected tick to slip in between these protections.
Lyme disease awareness has taken a back seat to other more newsworthy diseases in human medicine, but it is a major illness focus in the dogs of the upper Midwest and upper east coast. It is the “great imposter” as Lyme bacteria can infect and affect many organ systems. The most severe cases we have seen have been kidney infections, and most end in the death of the pet even with aggressive treatment. Others may just present with lethargy, digestive system problems, or JAR (Just Ain’t Right). Once a pet is infected with Lyme and goes through one month of antibiotic treatment, there is still belief, as in human medicine, that the bacteria lies hidden and dormant in the deep tissues forever.
More than half of the states in the U.S. have reported cases of Lyme disease. Along with Minnesota, Connecticut, and Massachusetts, Wisconsin leads the nation in Lyme disease prevalence.
We hear, “I keep my dog indoors. She just goes outside to relieve herself.” At one time this may have offered less risk, but city dogs, country dogs, and even lap dogs all get Lyme disease. Ticks are everywhere.
Prevention is still the key. Newer, more effective vaccines are just coming on the market for added immune protection. Oral monthly quick-kill products act fast and provide protection against Lyme transmission as well as against other tick-transmitted diseases such as Anaplasmosis and ehrlichiosis. Multimonth flea and tick collars and repellant sprays can be combined with these products for even greater protection and for the highest risk dogs.
Wildwood Animal Hospital and Clinic LLC is located at 210 Airpark Road in Marshfield and online at wildwoodanimalhospital.net.