Lyme disease is transmitted to humans and dogs by the nymph and adult black-legged (deer) tick, Ixodes scapularis. The disease is caused by the spirochete bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi which gets into the bloodstream through a bite from the tick. Lyme disease can occur nearly anywhere in the US.
Only about 10% of positive dogs will ever develop clinical illness from infection with the Lyme organism. We have two Lyme tests that assist us in determining if the infection is active. If your dog tests positive on a screening test (commonly done with your annual heartworm test at Newark Veterinary Hospital), there is additional testing to determine if treatment is warranted. If your dog does develop clinical illness from Lyme disease, the most common signs are lameness, fever, lethargy, decreased appetite, and enlarged lymph nodes. Symptoms can progress and become life threatening if not addressed. The majority of dogs respond very well to antibiotic treatment.
Ticks are especially likely to be found in tall grasses, thick brush, marshes, and woods. If you find a tick on your dog and are comfortable removing it at home, the best way to remove a tick is to use tweezers to grab the tick as close to the skin as possible. The tick should then be removed by pulling straight out. Do not twist or crush the tick as you are removing it. Wash your hands after removing the tick to limit possible exposure to yourself.
We strongly recommend regular flea and tick prevention. We have several options available, please talk to a staff member if you have any questions about which product would be best for your dog. For Lyme disease to be contracted, the tick must be attached to your dog for at least 24-48 hours. Therefore, daily inspection of your dog is recommended to remove ticks as soon as possible. On dogs, look on the feet, between toes, on lips, around eyes, ears (inside and outside), and under the tail.
There are several canine vaccines available to prevent Lyme disease. The need for this vaccine should be determined on a case by case basis following a discussion with your veterinarian.