Lyme Disease and Your Dog
Lyme disease is now found in all 48 contiguous states,1 and it is estimated that 50 percent of dogs are infected with Lyme borreliosis in endemic disease areas.2 Deer ticks, which are tiny parasites, are the major carrier of Lyme disease. They transmit a bacteria bacterium to your dog. For more information on how Lyme disease is spread and what the signs are, read our Pets and Lyme Disease article.
To reduce your dog’s chances of contracting Lyme disease, take these precautions:
- Vaccinate your dog. Your veterinarian will determine your dog’s need for the vaccine based on the prevalence of Lyme disease in your area.
- Use a veterinary-approved flea and tick repellant monthly.
- Avoid tall grassy areas whenever possible, especially wooded areas inhabited by deer or field mice.
- Keep weeds under control to limit the spread of rodents, ticks and other parasites.
- When outdoors, protect your dog with an insecticide that’s effective against ticks. Your dog’s doctor can recommend an appropriate product and help you select from a wide variety of sprays, solutions and protective collars.
- When you return from an outing, carefully check every inch of your dog’s skin and coat for ticks, including the groin, around the ears and tail, and between the toes. Removing any ticks within 24 hours greatly decreases the chance of infection. A systematic tick check is the best preventive step you can take after vaccination. Do you mean besides vaccination, a systematic tick check is the best preventive step you can take?
Removing a Tick
If you find a tick, remove it immediately. Try using an alcohol swab, which may irritate the tick and cause it to loosen its grasp. Using tweezers, carefully pull the tick upward where its mouthparts contact the skin. Try not to squeeze the tick while removing it as this may enhance transmission of the bacteria. Occasionally, a small tag of your dog’s outer skin will pull away with the tick.
If you have any doubts about tick removal, bring your pet to your veterinarian for help and to determine if testing or antibiotic treatment are needed.
1. Reported Lyme disease cases by state, 1993-2008. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
2. Levy S. Use of a C6 ELISA test to evaluate the efficacy of a whole-cell bacterin for the prevention of naturally transmitted canine borrelia burgdorferi infection. Vet Ther. 2002. 3( 4):420-424.