Lyme Disease is on rise – advice for pet owners

dog-in-moorlandThere is an increase of Lyme disease-carrying in ticks (Ixodes) in the UK with more cases being reported in people and pets. This information can help to raise awareness of this disease and can help you to take measures to prevent your dog catching it.

What is Lyme Disease?

If a tick bites your pet and it is carrying the bacteria that cause Lyme disease (Borrelia burgdorferi), the tick can then transfer the bacteria to your pet, which sets up a infection.

Where are ticks found?

Ticks are found in a wide range of environments, including gardens. Their numbers tend to be greater in areas such as woodland, moorland and rough pasture. Parks with deer will also have a higher density, so dogs walked in places such as Richmond Park and Bushy Park are at greater risk of being bitten. Ticks are seen all year round but in greater numbers between March and September.

What are the signs?

Some dogs that are infected do not display outward signs of illness (sub-clinical disease) however others will show a variety of symptoms. These include tiredness, a raised temperature, reduced appetite and painful joints.

How is Lyme disease diagnosed?

Diagnosis is very challenging as signs can be vague and similar to other diseases. The disease may only present clinically several months after the tick bite occurred, meaning that the two may not be associated in the history. Blood tests and tissues samples from joints can help to identify the organism but finding it can be very difficult as it is only present in the blood stream for a short period of time.

How is it treated?

Lyme disease responds to a particular antibiotic that may need to be given for several weeks past the resolution of clinical signs to help prevent future flare-ups. During the initial period, hospitalisation may be required to ensure that our patients receive sufficient fluids, nutrition and pain.

Can we prevent Lyme disease?

Prevention is far better than cure. It can take up to 48 hours for transmission of the disease to occur once the tick has bitten. If your pet has a tick attached, remove it carefully with a tick remover or visit us at Vet4life to have it cleanly removed.

Can we do anything to safely deal with the ticks?

There are a number of products available to prevent ticks attaching or quickly kill them if they do. These include tables, spot-on preparations and long acting collars (if you are a member of our Family plan scheme, take advantage of the 15% off special offer price of these collars – have a look at theFamily website for info). As there are many different parasites and diseases it is important to consider preventative treatment for these also. It can be confusing so please ask any member of the team and we will help choose the right products for your pet.

Is there a Lyme disease vaccine?

There is also a vaccine that is recommended for dogs that are exposed to Lyme disease carrying ticks. Initially two injections are given three weeks apart, with annual boosters to maintain immunity. This is a safe and effective way to prevent this disease. It can even be given at the same time as your dog’s regular health examination and booster vaccinations.

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Ian Stroud

Veterinary Surgeon at Vet4life
Ian Stroud is a highly experienced small animal veterinary surgeon with over 15 years working in practice. He has particular interests in several areas including minimally-invasive surgery, orthopaedics and oncology (cancer treatment). He currently practices in Teddington, Shepperton and Surbiton where he is the director of Vet4life.
Ian Stroud

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