Ottawa was Declared Endemic for Lyme Desease in 2016!
In 2016, Idexx Laboritories found there were 1539 positive cases of Lyme disease reported in Ontario pets. This is an 80% increase from the 859 reported cases in 2013. The number of cases has increased in each of the last 5 years.
WHAT IS LYME DISEASE AND HOW IS IT TRANSMITTED?
Lyme disease is caused by a corkscrew shaped bacterium (a spirochete) called Borrelia burgdorferi and is spread to animals and people by the white-tailed deer tick known as Ixodes scapularis. Lyme disease was first described in 1975 when an unusual outbreak of rheumatoid arthritis occurring in children was reported in Lyme, Connecticut. In 1982, the Borrelia bacteria, transmitted by ticks, was determined to be the cause of the outbreak. In the past 30 years the disease has spread throughout the United States and now is endemic in several Canadian provinces. Since 2007, the Public Health Agency of Canada has considered the areas of the St. Lawrence Islands National Park and the 1000 Island Parkway from Gananoque to Mallorytown a “zone of risk for Lyme disease”. The Lyme infected Ixodes deer tick has been continuing its progress northward and has now reached the Ottawa area. There was a significant increase in the number of Lyme positive dogs in our area last year ( 111 reported cases)
Dogs acquire ticks in their coat after adult ticks fall off host animals, such as wildlife, into the environment. The ticks then climb up vegetation such as blades of grass and attach themselves to dogs as they walk by or sniff the ground. Infection with the Borrelia organism occurs 24-48 hours after the female tick bites the dog and becomes partially engorged with blood. Clinical disease may develop 2-6 months later.
The disease appears to be more common in dogs and rare in cats, horses, goats and cattle. Young dogs seem to be more susceptible to disease than older dogs. Not all infected dogs will show signs of illness, however those that do most commonly suffer from acute arthritis characterized by hot, swollen and painful joints. One or more joints may be involved. In many cases fever, loss of appetite and lethargy will accompany the lameness. A less common form of the disease can cause kidney failure and death. Golden Retreivers and Labrador Retrievers appear to be more susceptible to this more fatal form of Lyme disease. In addition, dogs may develop heart disease or central nervous system signs characterized by seizures.
DIAGNOSIS AND TREATMENT
Prompt diagnosis and treatment is essential in preventing degeneration of joints and permanent damage to soft tissues such as the heart and nervous system. Regrettably most dogs with Lyme disease affecting the kidneys do not survive. The disease is diagnosed by clinical signs, history of exposure to ticks or travel to endemic areas and by blood tests to detect antibodies to the Borrelia organism. Aggressive treatment with antibiotics is imperative to a dog’s recovery from disease. Hospitalization to administer intravenous fluids and other drugs may be necessary as well.
Preventing infection is the key to maintaining your pet’s optimum health. Dogs at highest risk are those that frequent areas with high populations of White Tailed deer as this is the main host for the Ixodes tick. You can reduce the risk by avoiding these areas or using products to prevent ticks from getting on your dog such as Bravecto, a chew tablet that gives 12 weeks protection or a topical solutions such as K9 Advantix that is administered once monthly. In addition, brush your dog after a walk and promptly remove any ticks if found. Safe and effective tick removal devices can be purchased from our veterinary clinic. Alternatively you may have the tick removed at our office during regular business hours.
In addition to these measures, dogs should be protected from Lyme disease through vaccination.An effective Lyme vaccine is currently available for dogs called Nobivac Lyme (Merial Animal Health). This vaccine has been proven to be over 90% efficacious in dogs in preventing infection with the Borrelia organism. Following the Initial inoculation, a booster vaccine is required 2-4 weeks later. The duration of immunity is 12 months so annual vaccination is necessary to provide continuous, uninterrupted protection against infection. All adult dogs require a Lyme disease blood test before or at the time of immunization (current cost of the test is $67.20 plus tax). Our in-house Lyme test (Snap 4Dx Test) also concurrently checks for infections by Anaplasmosis and Ehrlichiosis, two other tick-borne diseases as well as for the heartworm infection, transmitted by mosquitoes. Annual testing for Lyme disease infection in adult dogs is recommended. A positive test indicates infection and these dogs should be treated with antibiotics for 4 or more weeks. Puppies do not require a blood test if vaccinated before 6 months of age however yearly testing is also advised.
Because Lyme disease causes serious illnesses in dogs, we recommend that all dog owners of dogs that frequent areas that are high risk for tick exposure take a pro-active approach to Lyme Disease prevention by having their pet vaccinated every year and by using tick control products throughout the summer from April 1st until November 31st.
In addition, regardless of a dog’s vaccination status, any dog who has had a tick removed from its skin should have a blood test (Snap 4Dx Test) done 6-8 weeks after tick removal.
For more information or to schedule an appointment please call our office during regular business hours at 613-692-3411.