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Summer Tips for Protecting Your Dog from Lyme Disease

Reviewed by Peter Kintzer DVM, DACVIM on Wednesday, July 2, 2014
Posted July 01, 2014 in Dog Diseases & Conditions A-Z

When you think of summer dangers, you might think of things like heat stroke and poisonings. While these are very real threats, don’t let yourself forget about the dangers that ticks pose your dogs — risks like Lyme disease. Click here for Lyme disease basics or read on for advanced tips about how to avoid this nasty condition.

Lyme disease, caused by a spiral-shaped organism called Borrelia burgdorferi (Bb), can affect humans, dogs, horses, and other species. Depending on what state you live in, Lyme disease can pose a greater or smaller health danger to your dog this summer.Deer TickClick here to view a map and see if your state is at risk.

It’s worth noting that of all the dogs who test positive for Lyme disease in high prevalence states, only 5% of these dogs ever go on to develop infection or show clinical signs.1-3

Transmission of Lyme disease (Bp)
It’s important to understand the transmission of Lyme so that we know how to prevent its spread. While Lyme can be transmitted by urine, milk, and blood, the most common transmission is likely via tick infestation by hard-shell deer ticks (e.g., Ixodes scapularis or other related Ixodes species). Ixodes ticks have a 2-year life cycle1,2 and hatch in the spring (into larvae). A female tick lays approximately 2000 eggs.1 Larvae become infected with Lyme when feeding on white-footed mice. The tick larvae molt into nymphs that feed on new hosts. Likewise, nymphs can become infected when feeding on an infected animal. In the fall, nymphs molt to adults, with 50% of adult ticks in the Northeast estimated to be carrying Lyme.4 Once the tick attaches and feeds, Lyme(which lives in the midgut of the tick) begins to migrate to the salivary gland and enter the host (typically the dog).

Risk of infection is believed to be minimal during the first 12 hours of feeding;4 rather, Lyme disease typically takes prolonged feeding periods to be transmitted to your dog or you.1,4 For this reason, it’s important to use a flea and tick medication that kills insects quickly (ideally in less than 12-24 hours), as it almost guarantees that Lyme can’t be transmitted to your dog!

What if my dog is already positive for Lyme disease?
If your dog tests positive for Lyme disease, it doesn't always require long-term antibiotic therapy. If your veterinarian does

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Justine has more than 18 years of experience in the veterinary industry and is a board-certified emergency critical care veterinary specialist and toxicologist as well as the CEO and founder of Vetgirl. She is also a founding member of IDEXX’s Pet Health Network team.