Last week we diagnosed a dog who has never been out of the Abbotsford area with Lyme disease. And though this is not an epidemic, it does raise some concern, especially since two weeks ago as I drove to work I listened to an in depth discussion on CBC about the concern the human medical community has about the rapid increase incidence of Lyme disease in people. They are attributing this increase due to global climate change and since this isn’t improving anytime soon there is concern that the incidence of disease will continue to accelerate.
LYME disease is the most common tick-borne disease in North America. It is found in southern BC, including Vancouver Island, the Gulf Islands, the Fraser Valley, the Sunshine Coast and the Kootenays. In BC less than 1% of the ticks tested carry the bacteria (Borrelia burgdorferi) that causes Lyme disease. Across North America and Europe the number of new cases of humans being diagnosed with Lyme disease is growing at a double-digit rate and according to Canada’s chief public health officer, “the numbers are much higher and it’s alarming that the numbers are increasing continuously”. We do not have studies on whether the numbers are in creasing in our dogs but if the population of ticks carrying the “Lyme bacteria” is on an increase then it is likely that we will see more pets diagnosed with the disease.
The most common clinical sign in our dogs diagnosed with Lyme disease is recurrent lameness, but one can also see lethargy, fevers, anorexia and kidney disease. For more information check out the video on PetMD.
What can you do?
As the saying goes… An once of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
1. Prevent Tick Bites – Since it takes some time for the bacteria to travel from the tick into your pet’s (or a person’s) body, removing the tick within 24 hours of attachment dramatically reduces the chance of getting Lyme Disease. This can be done manually by checking your pet’s skin daily and use tweezers or pick up an inexpensive tick remover from your veterinarian. As many ticks go undetected, as they are hidden by fur, the use of Bravecto, a chewable tablet that is given every 3 months, which kills both fleas and ticks within 12 hours can keep your pet’s safe from unwanted hitch-hikers.
2. Vaccinate Against Lyme Disease
There is still some debate about whether to vaccinate dogs against Lyme disease? Why? (1.) Because this is a vaccine against a bacteria and not a virus and therefore the immunity response to the vaccine is short lived. In fact this is one vaccine that if you are late on the annual booster and have not had the Lyme vaccine in 2 years you need to repeat the initial 2 vaccine series.
And (2.) Though it aids in the protection against Lyme disease it is not as effective as some of the other vaccines we commonly use: estimated to be about 83% effective. In 2015 a study was done on dogs from Maine, USA and the conclusion were that “the dogs that were vaccine-protocol compliant were significantly less likely to become infected.”
There are many internist who are recommending vaccinating dogs who live in areas where the tick that carry the bacteria are found, such as the Fraser Valley. According to Dr. Richard Ford DVM, Diplomate ACVIM & ECVIM, from North Carolina State University, dogs at risk in endemic areas “as part of a Lyme disease prevention protocol, must be vaccinated in addition to tick removal and control. One infected tick that escapes those first 2 barriers can easily cause infection. There is no evidence of any deleterious effects due to vaccinating Lyme disease negative dogs.”
Test the Tick
If you do find a tick remove it using tweezers or an inexpensive tick remover and bring it into the Hospital as we can run an inexpensive test, to find out whether it is carrying the bacteria that causes Lyme disease.
Any pet exposed to ticks can be tested for a multitude of tick borne diseases, including Lyme disease, by running a simple blood test. The test looks for antibodies that are produced in response to the bacteria being in your pet’s blood stream. These antibodies take time to develop, 4 to 6 weeks, so this is a test that is run at least 6 weeks after exposure, or if your dog has a recurrent lameness, especially if there is a fever associated with the lameness and or swollen lymph nodes.