Since 2009, there has been a more than 20 percent increase of Lyme disease in dogs, which corresponds to a similar increase in tick infestations. Lyme disease is caused by the borrelia burgdorferi bacteria and is spread by infected deer ticks. The tick attaches and feeds over the course of 24 hours, allowing the bacteria to enter the bloodstream. The bacteria cannot be transmitted directly from animal to owner, but a pet can bring an infected tick into the home or yard, thereby increasing the chance of humans and cats coming into contact with an infected tick.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, those living in the Northeast and Great Lakes adjacent states have the highest risk of contracting Lyme disease. A similar regional trend has been discovered in pets. The five states with the highest percentages of cases being reported are New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania.
For dogs, the most obvious and common indication of Lyme disease is recurrent lameness caused by swelling and irritation of the joints. Trouble walking may or may not be accompanied by fever, loss of appetite, general malaise and in rare cases, acute kidney disease. A veterinarian can detect the borrelia bacteria by administering a blood test, but prevention is obviously the best medicine.
Veterinarians can recommend sprays, solutions, and protective collars as prevention measures. Avoiding tall grassy areas that mice and deer inhabit, and keeping weeds under control to limit rodents, ticks and other parasites are also recommended. Dogs and cats can be further protected by regularly checking them for ticks, especially right after they have been outside.