Canine Diseases, Lyme diseases, spirochete, Borrelia burgdorferi, a corkscrew-shaped bacteria, bacterin.

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Lyme diseases

Lyme diseases are caused by the spirochete, Borrelia burgdorferi, a corkscrew-shaped bacteria. Lyme disease is spread through the bites of infected ticks. The natural host of the spirochete is the deer tick. This tick lives outdoors in grassy and wooded areas. The adults normally attach and feed from wild animals, especially the white-tailed deer. The nymphs are about the size of a poppy seed and peak between May and July. Latest reports show that about 25 percent of nymph deer ticks and about 50 percent of adults carry the Lyme disease.

Often families will find engorged ticks on their dogs, and so they know to watch for any problems. On people, this disease causes a classic rash and ring on the skin, but this may not be noticed on a dog.

Many dogs that test positive for exposure to Lyme disease on blood tests show no clinical signs. Dogs that actually develop the disease often start out with very acute onset painful lameness. Joints may become very swollen, red, and warm, and they are extremely painful. The accompanying fever and loss of appetite add to the impression of a depressed dog. Some dogs also go on to develop kidney problems from the deposit of immune complexes in the tissues. This syndrome can be fatal, as can rare heart problems.

Preventing Lyme disease can be difficult. Obviously, avoiding ticks should be a goal, but in some areas, that is almost impossible if you and your dog go outside for walks. There are many new and excellent topical tick preventives and repellants, so you can ask your veterinarian what products make the most sense for your situation. Certain collars and sprays, especially ones using DEET, are helpful, but don't combine products without checking with your veterinarian to make sure they are compatible.

It is believed that ticks need to feed on a dog for twenty-four to forty-eight hours before the infective organism can establish itself, so checking carefully for ticks after walks is a good idea. Use gloves or a tick puller to avoid contact with the potentially infected blood.

There is now a vaccine (that is, a bacterin) available that offers some protection against Lyme disease.