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Question and Answer ArticleDogs & Lyme Disease

By Jennifer T. Derrick
Published: February 17, 2011
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Photo by Victor Soares
Q:  We do our best to protect ourselves and our children from deer ticks and Lyme disease, but do we need to worry about our dog? We bring her with us to the cottage, and she loves to run through the fields and woods around our place. Can dogs contract this disease? If so, how can we prevent it?
– Trisha Flemming, via-e-mail  

A:  Those darn ticks! Yes, it is possible for your dog to get Lyme disease, especially if you live in an area where the disease is prevalent.
   
The majority of diagnosed cases of Lyme disease in humans (85 percent) have been diagnosed in New England. Minnesota and Wisconsin account for about 10 percent of the cases. California has 4 percent of diagnosed cases, and the rest of the U.S. – a mere 1 percent.
   
Even if you live in an area where the disease is widespread, only about 10 percent of dogs exposed will actually develop the disease. And, aside from regularly avoiding prime tick areas during prime tick time – which is pretty hard to do with a fields-and-woods romping canine – one of the most effective ways to prevent Lyme disease in dogs is to apply a topical anti-tick medication like Frontline Plus or K9Advantix. You can also use a tick collar, but many people find these to be less effective, while others feel that tick collars containing the product Amitraz do work well. (Note: Tick control products for dogs should not be used on cats.)
   
There are also canine vaccinations available for Lyme disease, though the vaccinations are only recommended if your dog spends time in an area where the disease is endemic. Ask your vet for more information on the types available and the pros and cons of each.
   
These are the general symptoms you should be aware of regarding Lyme in your pet: loss of appetite, lethargy, fever around 103 to 105, swollen lymph nodes and/or joints, and lameness. Typically, symptoms show up later in dogs, usually from two to five months after exposure. While the effects of Lyme disease can be quite serious, canines usually bounce back once the disease is identified (by means of a blood test) and once they have undergone antibiotic treatment.

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