Overland Park, Kan. | May 2002
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that the number of new cases of Lyme disease in the U.S. doubled over the past decade, now afflicting nearly 18,000 people annually. And, the news is even worse for dogs, which can also contract this serious, life-threatening disease.
Based on interviews with 1,200 veterinary clinics that regularly test for Lyme disease in dogs, a study conducted by Fort Dodge Animal Health revealed that 41 percent reported positive test results for canine Lyme.
Lyme disease is a tick-borne, bacterial disease that was first diagnosed in humans in Lyme, Connecticut in 1975, and was confirmed in dogs in 1984.
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, dogs are 50 percent more susceptible to Lyme disease than humans.
“The veterinary community is very concerned with the growing number of Lyme disease cases in dogs in recent years,” said Dr. Michael LaRosh, a veterinarian with Fort Dodge Animal Health. “Fort Dodge recently conducted a survey in 12 states to identify and measure canine Lyme positive results. The overall finding of the survey – a 41 percent positive rate – really surprised a lot of people. This new information, coupled with earlier national industry data, paints an alarming picture of the recent continued increase of Lyme disease in dogs.”
“Dog owners must take precautions to ensure that their pets stay free of this debilitating disease. And, the first line of protection is having the dog tested and vaccinated for Lyme disease,” he said.
Deer ticks, western black-legged ticks, black-legged ticks, lone star ticks, American dog ticks, and Pacific Coast ticks carry the disease, and are most commonly found near woods or tall brush from coast to coast.
“Pets that spend a lot of time outdoors, and participate in activities such as hunting, hiking, or camping, are at a higher risk for contracting this serious disease,” reported Dr. LaRosh. “When visiting their veterinarian, dog owners should inquire about the risks of Lyme disease based on their particular regions and on the dog’s lifestyle. Owners should discuss having their pet tested and discuss vaccination. When vacationing with your dog to regions of the country where Lyme disease is prevalent, it may make sense to vaccinate your dog for Lyme disease a month before you leave home.”
Key indicators of canine Lyme disease include, lameness or stiffness, swelling of limbs, fever, lethargy or reluctance to move, loss of appetite, vomiting and depression. If the disease is left untreated, it can cause arthritis, kidney failure, heart damage and death.
“Recent research has shown that even if Lyme disease is treated aggressively, the dog may never be able to clear the carrier state of the disease,” said Dr. LaRosh. “That is why taking precautionary measures when available, including vaccinating the dog, are so important. It is always best for the dog and more economical to prevent a disease, rather than to treat it with limited success.”
Traditionally, tick season begins as early as March and runs through the fall in the northeastern part of the country.
Since ticks can transmit other diseases, canine experts also recommend additional measures to minimize contracting these illnesses.
After outings, dogs should be thoroughly brushed and checked for ticks. To remove a tick found embedded in a dog’s skin, use small tweezers to grip the mouthparts of the tick as close to the dog as possible. Pull the tick straight out, steadily and slowly. Apply antiseptic to the bitten area. Immerse the tick in rubbing alcohol to destroy it.
Dog owners should also consult with their veterinarian on the use of baths, dips, tick collars and other insect repellents.
“Ticks, and the Lyme disease bacteria that they transmit, can be a major health concern for dogs and their owners,” noted Dr. LaRosh. “But having dogs tested and vaccinated for Lyme disease, and taking other precautionary measures, should provide owners with peace of mind as they enjoy outdoor activities with their canine companions.”
Fort Dodge Animal Health, a division of Wyeth (NYSE:WYE), is a leading manufacturer and distributor of prescription and over-the-counter animal health care products for the livestock, companion animal, equine, swine and poultry industries in North America and international markets. Key Products include CYDECTIN® Pour-On, QUEST® Gel, EtoGesic® Tablets and ProHeart® Injection. The company is headquartered in Overland Park, Kansas.