LYME DISEASE IN DOGS & TICKS IN NJ
Lyme disease in dogs is a growing concern both to dog owners and their veterinary teams because the disease is increasing in numbers, spreading in NJ (not localized to Lyme, CT anymore nor even the North Atlantic states) and there frankly are just more ticks out there! When spring arrives, as it appears to have in New Jersey, with the trees budding, some color in the flowers blooming, warmer weather, longer days– there will be many more TICKS! And, with our warm winters there just are many ore deer and mice to transmit ticks and the diseases they carry…
These tiny disease carriers are most active during spring and summer transmitting the bacteria that causes Lyme disease as well as about 20 other diseases putting our pets (and us) at risk in our Monmouth county area. Infected ticks, which can be as small as the head of a pin, may inhabit lawns and gardens, fields and forests. Lyme disease can be confused with other diseases and sometimes the tick can carry more than one disease, leading to what is called co-infection, making diagnosis sometimes challenging.
The Lyme Disease Foundation recognizes April as Prevent Lyme Disease in Dogs month. The CDC or Center for Disease Control and Prevention has reported that more than 21,000 cases of Lyme disease are reported each year in the United States. That’s people numbers… and now we know that in Monmouth County we really do know how many dogs are infected and that number this year alone in Monmouth and Middlesex counties numbers at OVER 1000 since the Capc website https://www.capcvet.org gives us hyper local numbers that are reported monthly for our area! We also know that, at Animal Health Care of Marlboro, most of our active and sometimes silent disease is found in unvaccinated dogs: more about that later….
So how do you assess your dog’s risk? Exposure to Lyme disease is a combination of where you live, where you travel, your dog’s lifestyle and overall health. So we’d like to talk about the exposure risk in our western Monmouth county surrounds. We know that many dogs will not show signs at all except maybe being just a little “off” and who doesn’t have some days like those? Others will develop fever, loss of appetite, joint pain, and lethargy. Our veterinary team sees this presentation several times a week: and again, usually in unvaccinated dogs! Our doctors commonly see patients who have not only Lyme disease but other tick diseases combined to boot!. And, you guessed it: no vaccination!
So think about the following risk factors:
- does your dog live in an endemic area for Lyme disease? if they live in our areas of Marlboro, Manalapan, Englishtown and Old Bridge to name a few, they certainly are in an endemic area!
- does your dog live in a suburban home next to or near wildlife areas? again who doesn’t in our neck of the woods?
- is your dog’s yard surrounded by tall brush?
- does your dog go walking, hiking, fishing or camping in wooded areas?
- does your dog frequent areas with a lot of deer? like your backyard or frontyard?
If you find a tick on your dog, or answer “yes” to any or all of these questions, talk to your pet’s veterinarian.
Canine Lyme disease prevention is through a comprehensive tick-borne disease control program, including vaccination. Your pet’s vet can help to navigate through the available protection options based on what you tell us. With routine testing each year we can identify those dogs at risk.
No single form of tick control works for every dog every time. A strategy that combines checking your dogs for ticks, using repellents, avoiding riskier areas (yeah, go tell that to your dog as they run off and play fetch in the woods!) and topical protection is the foundation for control. Having your dog tested at our veterinary hospital also detects early stage disease many times even before clinical signs show up.
Vaccination is the number one way, we as the veterinary team can help! We often don’t know all the places your dog roams and can’t control that activity. But we know there are safe and effective Lyme vaccination programs for dogs. (Sorry, no people vaccination yet–even though “both ends of the leash” you and your pet are at risk because where you spend time with your dog sets you up for tick bites and disease, too). At ahc we consider Lyme vaccination a “core” vaccination for dogs. The vaccination series starts at 12 weeks of age in puppies and consists of an initial 2 vaccination protocol to first time vaccinates given between 3-4 weeks apart and that vaccination is boostered every year.
We also have some very safe and effective tick control products that work well. We currently advocate for the use of monthly NexGard oral prevention for dogs or the very effective Seresto collar by Bayer which lists 8 months of flea and tick protection for both dogs and cats (we even have rebate offers for you). So remember:
- Lyme disease is a potentially serious tick borne disease that can affect your dog (and, you!).
- The disease has been found in all 48 mainland states with our area of New Jersey considered endemic -the disease threat is near constant and pervasive.
- Dogs get Lyme disease from a tick bite most commonly the “deer tick” but the bacteria has been found in other ticks and ticks can carry more than one disease at a time.
- The bacteria transmitted into your dog by the tick bite is the method of infection: the tick acts as a transport carrier.
- Canine Lyme disease is largely preventable by using tick control, tick checks, and vaccination.
- Vaccination can help protect your dog from Lyme disease all year long.
How do you know what’s the best prevention and protection? Ask your veterinarian because we tailor our recommendations to your pet’s lifestyle. And after all isn’t that what animal health care is: a joint effort by you, the pet parent, and us, the veterinary team! Protect your dog from Lyme disease: talk to your pet’s vet today!
You can also read a recent blog post of ours for more information and statistics: http://ahc.flywheelsites.com/2017/05/lyme-disease-in-dogs/