Increasing Cases of Lyme Disease in Dogs Highlighted During April
Friday, April 14, 2023
April is Prevent Lyme disease in Dogs Month, and animal health experts are getting the word out about tick borne diseases in pets.
Over the past two decades, the number of cases of Lyme disease in humans has been on the rise, and a corresponding increase has been seen among dogs.
Maryland is among the states with the highest incidence of Lyme in the nation. While Lyme is perhaps the most well-known tick borne pathogen, there are a number of other threats to animals including Anaplasma and Ehrlichia.
Dr. Elizabeth Hepner, president of the Maryland Veterinary Medical Association, said when it comes to Lyme we cannot rely on symptoms alone.
"Some pets can be infected and not show any signs of disease," Hepner explained. "Some pets can have kind of nondescript clinical signs including lethargy or a fever, maybe a little bit of a decreased appetite, in other pets we can see shifting leg lameness and pain in their joints."
She pointed out only 5% to 10% of dogs show symptoms of Lyme, and it is important to have dogs tested for tick borne pathogens yearly. The 4Dx test used to screen for heartworm includes testing for Lyme along with Anaplasma and Ehrlichia.
While not available in humans at this point, dogs can be vaccinated against Lyme. Hepner noted the Lyme vaccine is administered by a vet then boosted after a few weeks and is good for one year, though she emphasized it is not a substitute for prevention.
"When I talk to my clients about the Lyme vaccine, I stress that prevention with your ideally oral flea and tick prevention is the best way to prevent Lyme disease," Hepner noted. "But the vaccine does add another layer of protection."
Hepner added prevention is key, and while it is important to do annual testing, she stated year round vigilance is now required.
"Very important to keep all pets on year-round flea tick and also heartworm prevention," Hepner advised. "Also, if you live in a high tick area, definitely recommend doing tick checks on your pet after you guys go outside just another layer of protection to prevent parasitism."
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