Lyme disease, sometimes referred to as Borreliosis, is an infection caused by a bacteria (Borrelia burgdorferi) that is transmitted to animals via a tick bite. It is carried by the deer tick, Ixodes scapularis.
Until recently, Lyme disease was rarely found in Quebec. Unfortunately, this is no longer the case. It can now be found in all regions of the province, from Montérégie to the Laurentians, including Montreal. The risk of contracting the disease is greater in southern Quebec, southern Ontario, and New England.
How does a tick transmit Lyme disease? By feeding on the blood of an animal. The tick inserts its head into an animal’s skin and remains in place for an average of 36 to 72 hours. During this time it feeds on blood and gradually increases in size until it resembles a dark mass about 1 cm in diameter that may be confused with a skin mass. Once the tick has finished feeding, it lets go and falls off the animal. Ticks can also attach to humans and feed on them, causing redness and irritation of the affected skin.
Many tick-borne diseases that can be transmitted to dogs can also be transmitted to humans. However, it is important to note that these diseases can only be transmitted via a direct tick bite and not through contact with an infected animal.
Lyme disease is an inflammatory condition that can cause a variety of symptoms in dogs, such as intermittent limping (which is secondary to arthritis and joint inflammation), fever, and lethargy. These symptoms are only apparent in 5–10% of cases and are often only noted 2–5 months after a tick bite.
In order to diagnose Lyme disease, a simple blood test called SNAP 4DX is used. It is a routine test in most veterinary clinics, and it also detects heartworms.
How can Lyme disease be prevented?
The best way is to prevent a tick from ever biting your animal by using a topical or oral treatment. It will be our pleasure to discuss these products with you. We also recommend:
- Inspecting your animal every day, especially if they frequent areas that are more at risk
- Remove ticks immediately
- Avoid at-risk areas as much as possible. Since ticks are often found in wooded areas, high grasses, and near water, it is advisable to stay on well-maintained trails with your dog on leash.
- Humans venturing into at-risk areas should wear long-sleeve shirts and pants tucked into their socks.
- Vaccinating your dog against Lyme disease is another method of prevention for those who live in or visit at-risk areas.