Sarah Landesman shares almost everything with her dog Rowdy.
Things got a little too personal, however, when a tick that jumped from the dog to Ms. Landesman ended up giving her a mild case of Lyme disease in March, 2012.
“It was on him, but it wasn’t attached,” she said. “I brushed it off of him when I was half awake, thinking it was dirt. I found it attached to my thigh the next morning.”
A few weeks later, the Toledo resident started to feel as if she had the flu, even though she had received a flu shot.
“I felt constantly tired, my lymph nodes were swollen, I had a fever, and I had the chills,” she said. “I just knew it wasn’t the flu. I went to urgent care to get my blood drawn to get tested. The bite site hadn’t even formed the classic bulls-eye. The Lyme was caught so early it barely showed up on the blood panel.”
Fortunately, after a few weeks on antibiotics, she was as good as new. The tick probably preferred Ms. Landesman to the dog because of the topical tick repellent she had applied to him.
“I was definitely lucky I found it so quickly,” she said. “Even though I was sick for a week with the flulike symptoms, I’m really glad it was me and not Rowdy because he wouldn’t be able to tell me when something feels off.”
The threat of Lyme disease is moderate to high this year in northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan, according to the Companion Animal Parasite Council.
Lyme disease is transmitted through the bite of an infected tick and can affect many species, including dogs and humans. To avoid any type of infection or infestation, the council recommends year-round prevention for dogs and cats.
“While virtually all infestations of parasites are preventable, estimates indicate that fewer than half the dogs in the country are protected. Prevention is easy and relatively affordable when compared to the cost and heartache of treating a sick pet,” said Dr. Chris Carpenter, the executive director of CAPC.
Tick preventative products can include yard sprays and home powders, to various squeeze-on treatments, sprays, collars, powders, and shampoos that battle or repel these bugs.
Dr. Robert Esplin of SylvaniaVET said his practice has seen more ticks this year than last “but still not an overwhelming amount.” The office has not diagnosed clinical Lyme disease in any patients this year.
“We recommend the vaccine for dogs at high risk,”Dr. Esplin said. “Topical media like Frontline when properly applied are effective. We also suggest a collar called Scalibor.”
The scalibor collars have been available in the United States for about three years and in Europe for more than 10 years. The collar lasts about six months and repels and kills ticks, repels mosquitoes, and has some flea-killing ability, Dr. Esplin said.
“In this area there is what is referred to as tick alley,” he said. “It extends from Swan Creek Metropark west to Swanton, including Oak Openings. All of the Metroparks are higher-risk exposure areas. If you take your dog to open, high grassy areas, there is increased risk. Dogs that travel to northeast Wisconsin and Minnesota are at higher risk.”
Lyme disease is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi and is transmitted to humans through the bite of infected blacklegged ticks, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Typical symptoms in humans include fever, headache, fatigue, and a skin rash. If untreated, infection can spread to joints, the heart, and the nervous system. Lyme disease is diagnosed based on symptoms, physical findings, and the possibility of exposure to infected ticks.
Most cases of Lyme disease can be treated with a few weeks of antibiotics. Steps to prevent Lyme disease include using insect repellent, removing ticks promptly, applying pesticides, and reducing tick habitat.
Many dogs with Lyme disease have recurrent lameness of the limbs because of joint inflammation, according to petmd.com. Others may develop acute lameness, which lasts for only three to four days but recurs days to weeks later, with lameness in the same leg or in other legs.
Better known as “shifting-leg lameness,” it is characterized by lameness in one leg, with a return to normal function, and another leg is then involved; one or more joints may be swollen and warm; a pain response is elicited by feeling the joint, and it responds well to antibiotic treatment.
Some dogs also may develop kidney problems. If left untreated, it may lead to glomerulonephritis, which causes inflammation. Total kidney failure sets in and the dog begins to exhibit such signs as vomiting, diarrhea, lack of appetite, weight loss, increased urination and thirst, fluid buildup in the abdomen and in the tissues especially the legs and under the skin, according to petmd.com.
Ticks transmit two other diseases besides Lyme, Dr. Esplin said: anaplasmosis and ehrlichiosis.
“We offer a blood test for all three every year with the annual heartworm test,” he said. “The test is called 4DX and enables us to screen for all four diseases. A positive test then causes us to look in more detail, as a positive test does not mean the dog is or will be clinically ill.”
Contact Tanya Irwin at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6066, or on Twitter @TanyaIrwin.