Tick treatment crucial in combating Lyme disease

If a dog seems lethargic, appears lame or is not interested in eating, he could have Lyme disease.

Eileen M. Adams photo

Dusty, as 8-year-old golden retriever, receives flea and tick treatment every month, as well as an annual Lyme disease vaccination. Although he plays in the tall grass and brush, because of the treatments, he is unlikely to come down with Lyme disease.

Veterinarians say the best way to prevent this tick-borne disease is to make sure your pet is vaccinated against the tiny, black-legged tick, often known as the deer tick, as well as administering a monthly flea and tick medicine, such as Frontline, a topical treatment.

“More people are asking for the vaccination,” said Kathy, a veterinary technician at Countryside Animal Hospital is Rumford who declined to give her last name. “In years past, we’ve been testing for Lyme disease with other tests and we’re finding more. We always ask pet owners if they want the vaccination for their dog.”

She said even if the dog already has Lyme disease, the vaccination will prevent it from getting worse. And the dog, as well as people who are bitten by the tick, often don’t show signs for several months.

Dr. Stephen Sears, state epidemiologist, said the Maine Center for Disease Control doesn’t track Lyme disease in pets, but agreed that it has become a challenge for pet owners.

He added that Lyme disease in people has become a serious problem in Maine.

The number of new cases in people has stayed fairly consistent for the past few years, at between 750 and 1,000 a year. Because symptoms often don’t show up for months, the number of people afflicted with the disease is considered a rolling number, Sears said.

The black-legged tick has expanded its range from Lyme, Conn., in the early 1980s, he said.

He said the tiny tick gets the Lyme bacteria from mice, then deer become hosts.

Mammals that most often come down with Lyme disease are people, dogs and horses, said Dr. Michael Binette of Norway Veterinarian Hospital.

The number of dogs with the disease has stayed pretty consistent since the test for heartworm and Lyme disease began about eight years ago, he said.

Prior to that, he said he found that about 5 percent of tested dogs had the disease. Every year, two or three dogs die from it, most often from kidney failure, which is one of the symptoms of advanced Lyme.

Holly York, a veterinary technician at Turner Veterinary Services, said that practice sees quite a few cases of Lyme in dogs each year.

“People need to be more on top of flea and tick control,” she said.

Dogs and people who live in areas with tall grass and brush are most likely to encounter ticks. Just as people should check themselves for ticks, pet owners should check their dogs for ticks when they come inside.

Binette said the treatment for Lyme disease in dogs generally is antibiotics for a month. If the disease shows serious symptoms, such as kidney problems, then the dog would receive antibiotics at an animal hospital through intravenous tubes.

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Richard Pollack's picture

Ticks & Lyme disease

All very good advice. Finding and promptly removing ticks (from a person or pet) can dramatically reduce risk of diverse tick-borne infections. Once the tick has been removed, have it identified. Only certain kinds of ticks can transmit the agents of Lyme disease and babesiosis. Other ticks (such as the woodchuck tick and dog tick) can transmit yet other infections, some even more serious than Lyme disease and babesiosis. Hence, it can be useful to the patient (human or dog) and physician or veterinarian to learn the precise identity of the tick. Physical samples can be sent, or digital images uploaded, for a rapid, confidential, independent and expert evaluation. For more educational information and identification resources, visit https://identify.us.com or your local extension service.
Richard Pollack, PhD (IdentifyUS LLC)

 's picture

Here's an interesting tidbit.

A few years back my dog was put on a vitamin c regimen to acidify her urine to prevent recurrence of bladder stones. The positive side effect is, she hasn't had a flea or tick since. No evidence of fleas has been confirmed by her vet. The vet also said because it is water soluble it isn't possible to overdose on it. Apparently, because it is acidic, it makes her taste sour to the little critters. She gets 1/2 of a 1000 mg tablet in a bite of hot dog morning and night. She weighs about 30 lbs.

Chad Levasseur's picture

Treating dogs much easier than people

I wish getting treatment for people was as easy as it is for animals. When an animal presents symptoms of Lyme, Vet's immediately offer antibiotics for 4 weeks as a standard of care. When a person goes to the doctor, even with a bullseye rash they have to advocate for themselves. I know as we have been doing this for our 2yr old daughter. The doctors were willing to give her 2wks. of antibiotics at a dose lower than you would treat an ear infection! It took raised voices and loss of patience to just get a 3rd week of antibiotics which still is less than you would treat a dog! My wife had to literally bring a bag full of Deer Ticks into the doctor's office to convince him to even test her for Lyme because he didn't believe that Lyme disease was present in our area! We NEED to have doctors that are willing to look beyond there own egos and become Lyme literate. Maybe even get the guts to even challenge CDC protocol. Maybe even more importantly not forget to have just a little bit of compassion for those that are asking for their help!

Bob Deschenes's picture

Lyme Disease

Thanks for this article. I went for a hike in NH 2 months ago and our clothing was covered with ticks. I also had one on my head. I found one on my arm just 2 days ago in Princeton ME


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