Lyme disease is a multisystemic zoonotic disease (disease of humans and animals) in many parts of the world including Canada. Borrelia burgdorfer, is the most common bacteria to cause Lyme disease. Transmission occurs by the Ixodes ticks, commonly the Ixodes dammini (the deer tick). In Saskatchewan the most common tick found is the American dog tick (aka the wood tick), which does not carry the causative agent of Lyme disease. Deer ticks make up a very small portion of ticks found in Saskatchewan. During tick season (early spring to fall), infected ticks bite a host, human or animal, resulting in the transfer of the organism and thus infection of the host.
In Canada, Lyme disease is most prevalent in areas of southeastern Manitoba, southern and eastern Ontario, southern and southeastern Quebec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia and southern British Columbia. Although Saskatchewan is not among this list, cases have been diagnosed in animals that have never travelled outside of Saskatchewan. Positive cases have been diagnosed in Esterhazy, SK.
Early signs that may be missed include discomfort, fever, and swelling of local lymph nodes. Lameness, joint swelling and pain are the classical symptoms described in dogs diagnosed with Lyme disease and may occur anywhere from 2-6 months after the dog becomes infected. Lameness may become severe and involve a single joint or multiple joints for several days at a time. There is potential for the infection to cause inflammation in other tissues such as the kidneys, heart and nervous tissue. However, lameness is the most prominent clinical sign associated with the disease in dogs.
For the majority of infected people the first sign of Lyme disease is an erythema migran, a rash at the site of the tick bite. Erythema migrans may occur days to months after the inciting bite and may last for several weeks. Other symptoms include fatigue, chills, fever, headache, muscle and joint pain as well as swollen lymph nodes. Severe cases, including untreated cases, may develop into nervous system disorders, skin rashes, arthritic symptoms, heart palpitations and fatigue. Fatalities are rare. Please consult your family physician should you experience any of the above symptoms or have any concerns about lyme disease.
Testing you pet for lyme disease is simple, quick and easy and can be completed at your local veterinarian. Here at Twin Valley Veterinary Health Services we use the SNAP 4Dx Plus. This test allows us to test for the presence of either antibody or antigen to several organisms. Included in this test are Dirofilaria immitis (heartworm disease), Anaplasma phagocytophilum and Anaplasma platys (Anaplasmosis), Ehrlichia canis and Borrelia burgdorferi (Lyme disease). For every positive lyme test a blood sample is also sent to Guelph, Ontario for verification.
Treatment includes a month long course of antibiotics. There is potential for infected animals to remain infected, resulting in recurrent lameness or other clinical signs. Overall prognosis for animals diagnosed with Lyme disease is good.
Tick prevention is key to protecting your dogs from Lyme disease. Ask your veterinarian about tick repellent and Lyme disease vaccination, especially if you are travelling to tick infested and Lyme prevalent areas.
Sabrina de Baat
WCVM Class 2015