Q: I found a few ticks on my dog today. I know people can get diseases from ticks, but I wondered if dogs could?
A: Ticks are an almost ever present nuisance in our geographical climate, but especially so beginning in the spring. Dogs can indeed get several different diseases from ticks. One common concern is that of Lyme disease. Lyme disease is a spirochete bacteria (Borrelia sp) that is transmitted by the blacklegged (or deer) tick (Ixodes sp). When a tick harboring this pathogen attaches to your dog, the organism is transmitted within 1-2 days into your pet. Approximately 90% of pets will remain without symptoms. Clinical symptoms can manifest within 2-5 months. Symptoms can includefever, swollen lymph nodes, joint swelling, shifting leg lameness, and rarely kidney failure.
Q: Wow, that sounds pretty bad. What can I do to help protect my dog?
A: Prevention of Lyme disease has its cornerstone in tick prevention and control. Some pets have lifestyles and environments that put them at higher risk of tick exposure than others. I recommend discussing the best tick control options with the members of your veterinarian’s team as the overwhelming majority of products found over the counter are minimally effective. Additionally, a vaccine is available for at risk pets, but pet owners should understand that the vaccine is not 100% effective, so tick prevention and control remains the optimal choice.