Porky and Buddy: Keeping dogs safe from Lyme disease

Dear Porky and Buddy,

A couple of weeks ago you wrote about removing ticks and mentioned that, among other things, the little buggers can transmit Lyme disease.  

WHAT WERE YOU THINKING???

I have enough things to worry about, without that added to my list. My dog, Bubba, has had ticks. Not a lot, but some.  

Is it possible that he has the disease?  How would I tell? How can I prevent him from getting it in the future, short of putting  him in a plastic bubble?

Donna

Dear Donna,

Calm down. Worry about your emotional bond with Bubba instead while we give you more information.

Information is always better than worrying for dealing with a problem.

Lyme disease is one of the most common tick-transmitted diseases in the world. Borrelia burgdorferi, which is the bacteria responsible for Lyme disease, is transmitted by slow-feeding, hard-shelled deer ticks.

Infection typically occurs after the Borrelia-carrying tick has been attached to the dog for at least 18 hours. So, as we will explain later, if you are diligent, time is on your side.

The most common symptoms in dogs is recurrent lameness due to inflammation of the joints. There may also be a lack of appetite and depression.

More serious complications include damage to the kidney, and on rare occasions heart or nervous system disease. Other symptoms associated with Lyme disease include: a stiff walk with an arched back; sensitivity to touch; difficulty breathing; and lymph nodes close to the site of the infecting tick bite may be swollen.

So it is a serious disease and your worry is understandable (although useless).

If  Bubba displays any of these symptoms you need to call your vet right away.  You will need to give a thorough history of  Bubba’s health, including a background history of symptoms, and possible incidents that might have precipitated this condition.

Your vet will probably conduct a complete blood profile to look for the presence of bacteria, parasites and fungi in the bloodstream. Fluid from the affected joints may also be drawn for analysis.

If the diagnosis is Lyme disease,  Bubba will be treated with antibiotics, probably for about four weeks. Do not use pain medications unless they have been recommended by your veterinarian.

Unfortunately, symptoms do not always completely resolve in some animals. In fact, long-term joint pain may continue even after the bacteria has been fully eradicated from Bubba’s system.

How to prevent it? If possible, avoid allowing Bubba  to roam in tick-infested environments where Lyme borreliosis is common. Yes, we know that is stupid advice for any dog named “Bubba” in Upstate New York, but remember what we said about the tick having to be attached for 18 hours in order to transmit the disease?

If you groom him every day and remove any ticks you find by hand you will be doing Bubba and yourself a big favor (and improving your emotional bond with him).

In addition, your veterinarian can recommend a variety of sprays, collars, and spot-on topical products to kill and repel ticks.  So stop worrying and start brushing.

Don’t forget that the “Friends of Maurine Caprin” are holding their annual poker run benefit for the Humane Society in her memory June 7. Registration starts at 9 a.m. in the VFW Park on the corner of Fifth and Seward  in Fulton.

The cost is $15 per person. Kickstands up at 11 a.m. Cars are welcome. There will be live entertainment, drawings, a board of dreams, and overnight camping is available.

Check the Humane Society’s website for more details.

The Oswego County Humane Society provides spay/neuter services and assistance, fostering and adoption of animals in urgent need, humane education programs, and information and referrals to animal lovers throughout Oswego County.

Our office is located at 265 W. First St., Oswego. Phone is 207-1070. Email is ochscontact@hotmail.com. Website is oswegohumane.org.

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