We all have heard about Lyme disease and most of us probably know a family member, friend, or coworker who has contracted it. Additionally, most of us probably know that dogs can also get Lyme disease. However, did you also know that there are other common tick-borne diseases? In Marin, we have two common tick-borne diseases, Lyme disease and Anaplasmosis. Both of these diseases are caused by bacteria that are transmitted from ticks into dogs and people when bitten.
Both diseases are carried by the same two species of ticks in Marin, the deer tick (Ixodes scapularis) and the Western black-legged tick (Ixodes pacificus). With our mild climate and no prolonged freeze during our winter, we have tick exposure throughout the entire year. These two factors are why we recommend year round tick prevention for our canine friends. Prevention of the disease is much easier than treating the disease.
The symptoms of both Lyme disease and Anaplasmosis are also similar. The most common symptoms are lethargy (excessively tired, listless), lameness/limping, fever, and decreased appetite. Many dogs develop a mild case after being exposed to these bacteria and have no symptoms, however, there are some that can get quite sick. These dogs often require hospitalization, IV fluids, and antibiotics, and once the patient is stable to go home, they are treated for about 1 month with oral antibiotics. With Lyme disease, there is also a very small number of our patients who will develop Lyme nephritis (a form of kidney disease) that can have lifelong consequences. If your dog has been exposed to ticks that have taken a blood meal, and they are showing the above symptoms, then testing them and treating them is important.
Isn’t there a vaccine? What can I do to prevent these diseases? What should I do? These are all excellent questions. There is a vaccine to help prevent Lyme disease, however, we don’t recommend it as a routine vaccine for our canine patients at Terra Linda Veterinary Hospital (TLVH). Given the overall prevalence of Lyme disease in Marin and that there are extremely effective preventative treatments, the vaccine is not considered a core vaccine for our patients. However, if you are traveling with your dog to the Upper Midwest or NY/New England, you might want to consider this vaccine. These are the current recommendations from the UC Davis Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital. For prevention, there are several effective treatments for ticks. At Terra Linda Veterinary Hospital, we are currently recommending the oral medication Nexgard, but there are other options also available as special orders. These oral medications are all very effective at killing ticks (and fleas) before they have the opportunity to transmit the bacteria. Seresto and Preventic are very effective options that are used as collars. While there are several topical products, we are finding that they are not as effective as they once were and are not recommending them as the first choice. Last year, especially, we had several clients report that Advantix and Frontline Plus were not working for them any longer.
So what is the take home message?
Yes we do have ticks here and yes they can carry diseases that can infect our dogs and us. We recommend that all of our canine companions are on a tick and flea preventative year round. We would be happy to discuss the options in greater detail at your next appointment. Here is some general information about tick prevention in Marin
~Andrew Lie DVM, DABVP- Canine + Feline Practice