There has been a lot of media interest in ticks and Lyme disease in dogs in recent months. Lyme disease is a tick-borne bacterial disease which affects both humans and animals.
Ticks are found practically everywhere, from forests to gardens to beaches. Tick numbers tend to be higher in certain areas, such as woodland, moorland, rough pasture and heathland. So if you regularly go walking in this type of area, your dog could be at significant risk of picking up an infected tick. We see many dogs who have picked up ticks at both our Torquay and Paignton surgeries.
Signs of Lyme disease
The disease is transmitted when an infected tick climbs on to the dog and starts to feed. The process of disease transmission generally takes around 48 hours, although it can occur more rapidly. In some dogs, infection does not cause any harmful effects but in others, a variety of symptoms can be seen. The most common signs are fever, lethargy, losing interest in food, lameness and joint swellings and there can be more serious effects. These signs can take a long time to develop, sometimes several months, after a dog is bitten by an infected tick.
Diagnosis and treatment
Diagnosis can be difficult, as the signs are similar to a wide range of other diseases, but blood tests to measure immunity levels to Borrelia can be useful. Other tests are available which can detect the bacteria in tissue samples, such as skin or joint tissue. Treatment usually consists of antibiotics, plus anti-inflammatories to control the painful lameness which can be seen. Although treatment usually gives rapid results in the short term, it is very difficult to get rid of the bacteria, and relapses can occur. Prevention is certainly better than cure.
There are several steps you can take to reduce the risk of Lyme disease for your dog. Using an appropriate tick control product is essential if your dog is walked in areas where there are ticks. There is a variety of products available and our vets will be happy to advise you on the most appropriate products to use on your pet. Avoiding high risk areas, particularly during periods of peak tick activity during Spring and Autumn, can help. Carefully examining your dog after walks to identify and then remove ticks is important, as removal of ticks within 48 hours of attachment helps to reduce the risk of disease transmission. It is important when removing a tick that you don’t leave the head in – we can show you how to safely remove a tick using a special ‘tick hook’.
Vaccination is an important way of protecting your pet and a vaccine against Lyme disease is now available. This vaccine is not included in your dog’s routine booster and cannot be given at the same time as their other injections. To vaccinate your dog against Lyme disease we need to see them for 2 injections given 3 weeks apart; after this they are given a top-up booster once a year.
For further information, or to book your dog in for vaccination, please speak to a member of our team. Alternatively, you can book your dog in for vaccination online via this website.