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21 Nov What is Lyme Disease?

Lyme disease is relatively new to this area. Although first discovered in 1975 in Old Lyme, CT, and the first local cases were found about two years ago at our sister clinic: Pittsfield Veterinary Clinic. The number of cases has now increased dramatically! In order to understand this disease, we must go through some facts associated with Lyme disease.

The ticks associated with Lyme disease are the blacklegged tick, also known as the deer tick. The deer tick carries and transmits the spirochete bacteria called Borrelia burgdorferi. Interestingly, the ticks are infected with the spirochete bacteria from an infected host, such as a mouse. The tick can carry the bacteria without getting sick itself, carrying it for its remaining lifecycle and infecting various hosts.

The most common species affected by the Lyme bacteria are dogs, horses and humans. Cats and ruminants such as deer, cows, sheep and goats seem to be resistant.

It is very important pet owners are aware of tick blooms. Tick blooms occur during every spring and autumn. The damp, cool weather is the perfect environment ticks love and thrives in! A tick bloom is happening now! Ticks can be found all year, but during a bloom is when they are especially active. Ticks do not die during the winter like fleas. They are known to survive to -30 degrees Fahrenheit.

Common symptoms of Lyme disease in dogs include fever, swelling of the joints, pain, and loss of appetite, constant tiredness, and arthritis. If left untreated, Lyme disease can lead to more serious health complications such as heart disease, neurologic disease and kidney failure. Lyme disease can be fatal if left untreated.

Early detection is critical for your pet. A ten-minute in house blood test is available and can be performed during an office visit. Treatment with prescription antibiotics over a four-week period is possible in the early stages. It is important to know that if your pet has tested positive, you and your family cannot “catch” the disease from your infected pet, but be aware that ticks are in your environment.

As always, prevention is best! There are many effective tick prevention products available. First line defenses include Seresto collars, monthly topical treatments and oral chews. A Lyme disease vaccine is also available and a good second line defense. And of course, always inspect your pets and yourself for ticks after any outdoor activity!