Lyme Disease

A family of whitetail deer stand in a green field looking at camera.

Lyme Disease and Your Dog

New England has the highest incidence of Lyme disease in the world and chance of getting the disease is high in Connecticut. Lyme disease is caused by a bacteria carried by ticks and infection comes from a tick bite. The good news for your dog is, we have an effective vaccine to prevent Lyme disease, and most dogs recover fully if caught early and treated. Cats can also get infected but exhibit less symptoms.

How can my dog get Lyme Disease?

Lyme carriers include deer, mice, and wild turkeys but the majority of infected ticks live off the dog in woods and grasses. Odds are most dogs in this area are going to be exposed to ticks that carry Lyme each time they go outside.

How do I know my dog has Lyme disease?

Common symptoms are lameness, lethargy, increased thirst, and fever but often dogs do not exhibit any external signs. The most serious long term consequence is a form of damage to the kidneys called glomerulonephritis. That’s why we recommend a Snap test when you visit our office. We can quickly assess whether your dog has Lyme antibodies. A positive test shows exposure but not always active disease.  If your dog tests positive, we can send some blood to the lab to determine if the level of infection is high enough to warrant treatment (this test is called a C6).

What treatment do you recommend if my dog has Lyme disease?

The good news is that the treatment is relatively safe, simple and inexpensive. This is why many opt for treatment after a dog tests positive with the ‘Snap’ test. We still recommend that a C6 test be run before treatment and ideally six months afterwards to determine the response to medication. The Lyme organism is very good at concealing itself in the dog’s body and can persist despite treatment. Untreated, Lyme can cause chronic arthritis or severe kidney disease in your dog. Dogs that remain positive on the test should periodically be screened for protein in their urine to make sure that their kidneys are operating properly.

What can I do to prevent my dog from getting Lyme disease?

We have a vaccine that generates antibodies that kill the organism while still inside the tick. Since it is specific for only one surface protein, it is very safe for your dog. We recommend vaccination because it is highly effective in controlling lyme symptoms in dogs. Beware, however, the vaccine does nor stop ticks from getting on your pet or introducing lyme ticks into your home. This is why we strongly advise taking action to avoid ticks which carry multiple diseases as well as lyme. Reducing exposure to areas ticks often live is important but tick repellents are also important. Our top choice for tick and flea protection is a topical called Vectra. Call our office for other options.