Lyme disease is caused by a bacterium; Borrelia burgdorferi; transmitted by ticks that are commonly found on wild deer and rodents. The tick passes the bacteria along by injecting it when the tick bites a human or animal. This transfer can occur after feeding for as little as 24 hours. Not all ticks carry the bacteria which causes Lyme disease. The black-legged or deer tick (known as Ixodes scapularis), is the main tick species which can transmit Lyme disease-causing bacteria.
Most dogs that are infected with Lyme disease do not get sick. Their bodies eliminate the bacteria, and no problems develop. In some dogs, the disease may occur. Signs can be subtle and can include sensitivity to touch, fever, lethargy, inappetence and swollen joints. Symptoms of Lyme disease usually occur weeks after a tick bite.
Tick populations are on the rise in Canada. Previously, ticks carrying Borrelia bacteria were found only in specific areas of Southern Ontario (such as Long Point and Turkey Point). Today, these ticks have been identified in other parts of southern and eastern Ontario, Nova Scotia, southeastern Manitoba and New Brunswick. This increased prevalence means that it is now not uncommon to find ticks in urban areas, and even in manicured backyards!
Effective tick preventive medications are available through your veterinarian. These medications work by allowing a tick to bite. When they ingest blood, the medicine is also ingested which kills the tick and causes it to fall off of your dog. Vaccinating against Lyme disease is also an option. The most suitable preventives for your pet’s lifestyle can be discussed with your veterinarian. Regular tick checks on your dog (and yourself!) after walking in tick-infested areas are another great way to ensure your pet is tick-free. If you find a tick on your pet, call your veterinarian for guidance before removing it.
Written by: Briarwood Animal Hospital