Lyme disease

posted on November 04, 2013 by Dr. Jamie Hartman

While the temperatures have finally turned cold enough that ticks are a fleeting memory, this is one of the times of year where we see our highest prevalence of tick borne illnesses (spring being the other time).  While there are a number of tick borne illnesses, one of the more common ones is Lyme disease.

Lyme disease, or Borrelia burgdorferi, is a common tick borne illness in the Northeastern United States.  It is carried by the deer tick, Ixodes scapularis.  An infected deer tick must bite an animal and attach itself for 24-48 hours in order to transmit Lyme disease, so finding unattached ticks or using a product that kills ticks within 24-48 hours should prevent infection. If an animal does become infected, it takes many weeks to months before signs become apparent.  Animals do not tend to get a target-like rash from the original tick bite like humans do.  When they do show signs, they are often nonspecific such as fever, inappetance, lethargy, limping, especially shifting leg lameness, and just not acting like themselves.  Often this is because of multiple joint arthritis, or joint inflammation and pain.  Since it can take months to see these signs, a bite in early spring before the first dose of tick preventative is applied is usually not noticed until the following fall.

If your pet is showing any of these signs, or is just not acting right, we may recommend performing tick borne illness testing such as the Idexx 4Dx Plus test.  This test looks at a number of common tick borne illnesses including Lyme disease, as well as Ehrlichia (canis and ewingii), and Anaplamsa (platys and phagocytophilum) which can produce similar symptoms in pets.   This test looks for antibodies to the Lyme organism.  Antibodies are produced by the body when it is exposed to an infectious agent, and can remain in the body for months to years.  This means that this test does not indicate an active infection, just that the pet has been exposed to Lyme disease at some point in the past.  However, since there can be serious side effects in rare cases that can cause kidney damage, most veterinarians will use a course of antibiotics to treat a positive result in a pet that is showing symptoms.

There is a vaccine available for Lyme disease.  This vaccine must be given before any exposure to Lyme disease however to be effective.  It should be started as a puppy or at the onset of a lifestyle change that would increase exposure in an adult dog, and must be given every year to keep immunity up.

Tick control is also a very important part of preventing Lyme disease.  Using a product that kills ticks before they have been attached for 24-48 hours is vital.  These monthly topical products should be started in spring once we have reached a temperature above freezing for more than 3 days in a row-this usually means March, and should be continued until we are not getting multiple days in a row that are above freezing-generally November in this area.  Examining your pet after excursions into the woods, brush, tall grass, or up to the cabin for any ticks is also recommended, but deer ticks are extremely small and can be easily missed, so prevention is key.

One last point to bring up is that pets cannot give people Lyme disease, but they can be reservoirs for it, so if a tick bites them and then either completes its life cycle and bites a human or produces eggs which are infected and one of the offspring bites a human, this human could get Lyme disease.

Talk to us today about Lyme disease and your pet.  We can help determine a good plan of prevention, whether that includes vaccination, or just flea and tick preventatives.  Also call us if your pet is showing any signs that may indicate tick borne illness so we can test and implement appropriate therapy as soon as possible.

Posted in: Canine Health

How to Keep the Holidays Happy (and pets safe)

posted on December 02, 2012 by Dr. Jamie Hartman

The holidays are supposed to be a joyful time, and we here at Heritage Animal Hospital would like to help you keep it that way.  There are a number of items that can be found this time of year that can be harmful to your pets.  Items ranging from chocolate, alcohol, macadamia nuts, scented candles, tinsel and ribbons, antifreeze, and a number of plants can all pose threats to animals.  If you feel your pet may have gotten into any of these items, or is showing any of the signs listed below, please contact a veterinarian immediately.

Chocolate can be toxic to animals if it is eaten.  Signs of ingestion can include vomiting and diarrhea, increased urination, increased activity, and racing heartbeat.  Cookies and candies are a common source of chocolate, as are drinks such as hot cocoa.

Alcohol is toxic to animals, usually in smaller amounts than people would think.  Signs of intoxication include drowsiness, an ataxic walk (meaning un-coordinated, like a drunk person) and can progress to coma and respiratory rate depression, which can cause death.  The signs of antifreeze ingestion mimic alcohol intoxication, and are rapidly fatal, so if your pet is showing these signs, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Macadamia nuts are toxic to dogs.  Common in cookies and candies, these nuts can cause signs of weakness, muscle tremors, depression, vomiting, and ataxic walk.

In general, it is best to not give your pet any human foods during the holidays due to potential toxicities or stomach upset from foods their systems are not used to.  Raisins, grapes, garlic, onions, and other common ingredients may also be toxic to your pet.

Scented candles can pose a threat to some of our smaller animals such as birds and sugar gliders.  Strong odors from candles and other objects can cause respiratory distress, which can manifest as things such as increased respiratory rate, coughing, sneezing, and increased respiratory effort and noise.  Also, leaving candles lit where a pet could knock it over or singe whiskers can pose a serious burn risk for your pet or even your house.

Poinsettias, lilies, holly, mistletoe and other plants can be toxic if ingested, especially to cats.  Signs can include things such as vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, and changes in urination.

Ribbons and tinsel may catch your cat’s eye as a good toy, but can be very dangerous if ingested.  String like material tends to get stuck in the gastrointestinal tract and as the intestines try to continue to move it through, they will saw against the foreign material and can cause a leak in the intestinal wall.  The foreign material can also cause a blockage in the intestinal tract.  Signs of foreign body ingestion can include lack of appetite, vomiting, straining to defecate or diarrhea, and lethargy.

Christmas trees can pose additional risks as well.  Water from the Christmas tree can have additives in it that may be harmful to your pet ranging from stomach upset from sugar water to toxicity from fertilizers.  In addition, glass ornaments can cause potential problems if played with either when ingested or by causing wounds to paws and face.  Also, electrical wires can pose dangers to pets if they chew on them.  Lastly, make sure your tree is firmly anchored, especially if you have curious cats that like to climb.

Please limit your pet’s access to these potentially harmful items, and please call a veterinarian if your pet is showing any of the above signs or if you feel your pet may have gotten into something it shouldn’t have.  Together we can help keep your pet safe during the holiday season and into the new year!

Happy Holidays from Heritage Animal Hospital!

Posted in: Toxicity