Protect pets from Lyme disease

It’s not just people who are being affected by increasing levels of Lyme disease—pets need to be protected, too.Jesse Shirey, DVM, of Elk County Veterinary Clinic, said cases are appearing with increasing frequency in the animal world as well. His latest statistics show that the clinic saw 240 cases of dogs testing positive for Lyme disease from October 2011 to October 2012.“We see a ton of Lyme disease,” Shirey said. “We see a high incidence.“Our tests actually test for exposure to Lyme disease, not actual Lyme disease, but the symptoms fit and the dogs respond to the treatment, so we assume that what we’re dealing with is Lyme disease in most of those cases.”As with humans, prevention is the key, Shirey said. The first stop for animals is a Lyme vaccination, with two boosters administered each year and then one each year thereafter.“That vaccine is not our most effective vaccine, but it is a very effective vaccine,” Shirey said.Then, topical products—Advantix and Frontline are two of the most popular—should be applied to help prevent ticks from attaching to their hosts. Frequent visual examination is also important so that owners can remove ticks before they come engorged.As in humans, complications from Lyme disease can lead to serious health problems.“We actually put down about an average of one or two dogs a month with kidney failure that we associate with Lyme disease. It’s a very nasty disease complex,” Shirey said. “That’s why the preventative is so important. As frequently as they [owners] can, they want to try to check to see [if ticks are present].”He said diagnosis can be difficult because some common symptoms of Lyme disease are the same that present with other diseases.“That’s a common problem. It’s so similar to other diseases—it’s hard to just look at it and say it’s just Lyme disease or it isn’t. We assume the dogs have Lyme disease at times because they test positive to exposure, but they may have other underlying diseases and that’s why other bloodwork and things become necessary frequently,” Shirey said.  Symptoms include general lethargy; listlessness; joint pain, most commonly in the distal joints—paws, toes, ankles and “wrist” areas; lack of appetite; fever; and swollen lymph nodes. "We look for the exposure. There is a follow-up test to determine the levels of exposure, and in some of our more chronic cases, we use that as well. With some of our dogs that have no symptoms, that test positive, if the level is high, it means the dog is chronically exposed to Lyme, that exposure test can actually help clarify the position," he said.Pick up a copy of the Wednesday, June 27, 2012 edition of The Ridgway Record for more.