New Jersey is a hot bed area for ticks. Besides being gross to look at and remove from ourselves and our pets, they also carry potentially damaging diseases. Lyme disease is the most common tick-borne disease we see here in NJ in dogs. Hearing that your dog is positive for Lyme disease can be a scary experience, but luckily, infection in dogs is generally not as severe as it is in humans.
Lyme disease is transmitted to dogs only through tick bites of the deer tick (Ixodes sp.). The tick must be attached for a minimum of 24 hours for a dog to become infected. A diagnosis of Lyme disease is achieved by a simple blood test by your veterinarian. This test is generally performed as a 4-in-1 test along with looking for heartworm disease and 2 other diseases from ticks. Not all dogs that test positive will develop symptoms such as lethargy, fever, and lameness. Rarely, the worst cases can develop severe kidney disease. If your dog tests positive for Lyme disease, your vet will likely recommend a few things: a urine sample to make sure the kidneys are not affected, a course of antibiotics, and possibly a second blood test to determine the level of infection. With proper treatment, most dogs do well after their diagnosis.
Luckily for dogs, prevention of Lyme disease is possible. Monthly flea/tick preventatives are highly effective at repelling and/or killing ticks before they attach for 24 hours. These products should be used year-round in our area of the country and is the best first line of defense. For those dogs that spend more time outside or go hiking, a vaccine to help prevent Lyme disease is available through your veterinarian. Though not 100% effective, it can add more protection than just topical or oral flea/tick preventatives alone. If your pet has been bitten by a tick, it is important to remove it and make sure your dog is tested for Lyme disease annually.