Veterinary researchers and biologists studying the incidence of Lyme disease in dogs in New Brunswick are warning that as more dogs are infected by tick bites, so too are humans. The team at Mount Allison University led by biologist Vett Lloyd have found rising rates of canine borreliosis, with some 17% of dogs in Moncton affected, and 10% of those in the Saint John region.
For Every 6 Dogs, 1 Human Lyme Disease Case
The ticks that carry Lyme disease are expanding their territory northwards as the climate has warmed, allowing them to survive in areas previously inhospitable to ticks. In 2011 research found that less than 1% of dogs in New Brunswick were infected with the Lyme disease bacteria – as of fall 2013 7% are infected. Earlier research also indicates that dogs act as a sentinel animal for Lyme disease in humans; for every six dogs infected there is thought to be one human infected.
These researchers carried out blood tests in 300 dogs across seven health districts to help monitor the risk of infection to New Brunswick communities. In addition to finding infected animals in areas already known to have had cases of Lyme disease, the research team found dogs seropositive for Lyme as far north as Edmundston (which is about 250km farther north than Saint John, NB).
The team plans to test another 400 dogs at veterinary centres in the province this summer, which will not only help raise awareness of the risks of Lyme disease in dogs but also to their human companions and others animals in the household.
Symptoms of Lyme disease in dogs can include:
- Change in appetite
- Fever and chills
- Sudden onset arthritis or lameness
- Change in behaviour or mood
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Skin problems
- Heart irregularities
- Neurological issues
- Kidney dysfunction
To transmit the Lyme disease bacteria a tick will usually need to be in place for at least 24 hours so it is wise to do a tick-check on every dog, and other family members, after spending time in areas where ticks are present. Many people, and dogs, simply get bitten by ticks in their front yard as few bother with protective clothing or tick-repellents when lounging in the garden on a sunny day or going out to check the mail.
Staying alert for signs of Lyme disease in dogs helps to get them diagnosed and treated faster, hopefully before any lasting tissue damage has occurred. There is also a vaccine for Lyme disease in dogs that may be warranted if the risk of infection appears high, such as in active outdoorsy dogs who frequently get tick bites.