Mendocino Animal HOspital
By Dr. Katy Sommers
The answer is simply, “most likely, yes!” We live in a rural area where wildlife is abundant and ticks are common. A single bite from a tick infected with the nasty little spirochete which causes Lyme disease is all it takes.
But let’s clarify an important fact: Being infected with the Borrelia bacteria from the tick bite isn’t the same as having the disease itself. This is tricky to grasp sometimes, but experts tell us that, unlike in human cases, up to 90% of our dogs that are infected with the Lyme organism show no symptoms at all. In fact, 1 in 16 dogs in our area will have a positive test for Lyme infection, which is often quite a surprise to family members.
Thankfully, the majority of these dogs that test positive will get a “subclinical infection” which never leads to medical issues. However, other dogs may take months to develop symptoms, and sometimes this form of Lyme disease can be deadly. The trouble is, we can’t determine which infected dogs are going to get the actual Lyme disease.
Symptoms can be dramatic, with fever, swollen painful joints and reluctance to move. These are easy to diagnose and we have effective antibiotic treatments, yet some of these dogs may suffer from debilitating and relapsing symptoms. In other dogs, symptoms are vague or resemble symptoms of other diseases, requiring further testing. In these cases, we can see progressive, untreatable kidney or neurologic issues that can be fatal.
Because our dogs reside in a high-risk area, Lyme disease prevention is paramount. Prevention has many aspects and includes avoidance of tick areas, natural tick repellants, timely tick removal, the use of oral or topical tick control medications, and in some cases, Lyme vaccination.
In our next blog, I will explain how you can prevent this disease, and how to choose what combination of options will work best for your situation.