Dogs with Lyme disease on rise

Published on May 28, 2012
Pictou County vets are finding a large number of animals with ticks this year. Numerous have tested positive for Lyme disease, a tick-borne illness. Pictured is Cherie Smith with a Dalmation named Sally at the East River Animal Hospital.

Vet clinics throughout the county are reporting incidents of dogs with Lyme disease, a illness transmitted by black legged ticks which are now known to populate various areas of the county.

Dr. Brenda Spence-MacLeod of the Pictou Veterinary Clinic said she has had two confirmed cases this spring of dogs with Lyme disease with the most recent confirmation arriving just last week.

Like many other clinics in the county, she is seeing more canines coming in with ticks and tick bites, which is something that people in this area had never had to think about in the past. Even last year, she said she didn't see it as much of a problem.

"I am more concerned about it this year," she said.

She said that there are a lot of dogs who aren't tested who could also be carrying the disease, but just aren't showing clinical signs.

Dr. Kathryn Finlayson of the East River Animal Hospital said she's tested about 50 dogs over the last year with five coming back positive for Lyme disease. She was able to successfully treat four while the fifth had to be euthenized.

"Every day we get ticks coming in from pets from all over," she said.

The ones that tested positive ranged from Abercrombie to Merigomish, she said.

Not all ticks carry Lyme disease and even those that do won't transmit the disease until their engorged which can take up to 48 hours, but because of the presence of the black-legged ticks in the area, she like other vets has been recommending that pet owners vaccinate their dogs. While the vaccine doesn't prevent dogs from getting bit by ticks it does greatly reduce the likelihood of them getting Lyme disease. There are also medications available for dogs that repel ticks and will kill them if they bite.

Vets caution that medication is toxic to cats though and people who own both dogs and cats should be careful to keep their dogs away from their cats when they're being treated.

While ticks can be out any time of year, Finlayson said we are heading into peak season and people should be sure to be checking their pets.

Abercrombie Animal Hospital Veterinarian Dr. Kelly Hodder said they've had two dogs that have tested positive for Lyme in the past year as well and seen numerous other animals who have picked up ticks. While she's seen some on cats, it's more common on dogs and the chances of getting bit varies to an extent with geography.

She and Dr. Finlayson both said that cats tend to be better groomers than dogs, which may be one reason why they aren't as susceptible to ticks.

Dogs that have been infected with Lyme disease may show signs of lameness for no apparent reason, fatigue or depression among other signs.

If you do find a tick on your pet you can remove it with a pair of tweezers and turning counter clockwise as you pull. If for some reason part of the tick remains, vets recommend scrubbing the area with soapy water.

Hodder said people should be careful not to touch the tick with the bare hands.

New Glasgow resident Brenda Sterling-Goodwin believes she contracted Lyme disease while she was working at a vet clinic and she said people need to be more aware about the disease and how common it is in this area.