What is Lyme Disease?
Lyme disease is an infectious tick-borne disease caused by the bacteria “Borrelia burgdorferi”
How is Lyme Disease Spread?
Lyme disease is spread by the deer tick or black legged tick, Ixodes scapularis.
There are 3 stages to the deer tick; 1) larva 2) nymph 3) adult.
Female ticks lay a clump of eggs in the spring that approximately contain 2000 eggs. A very small six legged larva hatches from the eggs and attaches to a host as soon as possible. The host is normally small in size, such as the white-footed mouse. The mouse could be carrying Lyme disease and the larva is then infected at this point.
Once the larva has taken a blood meal and is full, it will drop off the host and lie dormant until the following spring (this is normally a year later.) During this time the larva molts and becomes a nymph. The nymph is a bit larger and selects a host right away also. It will attach to another mouse or a larger host, such as a human or dog. The nymph will feed for 3-5 days and once it is full it will drop off and remain dormant until late summer. It then molts into an adult tick. If the nymph was infected during larva stage it can infect its host, but if not infected it can become infected now.
The adult ticks seek a larger host, hence its name the deer tick, but with man and wildlife inhabiting the same areas it is very easy for the tick to attack humans or dogs. Adult ticks mate on their host, feed, and transmit Lyme disease if they are carrying it. Male ticks will remain on the host throughout the winter. The female tick once it is engorged with host blood will drop off and hide under leaves and other debris through the winter. She then lays her eggs in the spring for the 2yr cycle to start again.
The tick which is a blood sucker, must keep its host’s blood from clotting in order to continue feeding. How it does this is by regurgitating assorted enzymes that keep the blood flow liquid and smooth. It is during this regurgitation that the Lyme disease is brought up from the tick’s mid-gut to it’s mouthparts. This process requires a minimum of 48 hours. This means that if the tick is removed within the 48 hours after attaching the disease cannot be transmitted, so the host will not get the disease.
Preventing Lyme Disease
So how do we prevent Lyme disease? Unfortunately there is not just one answer to this question.
It starts with vaccinating. No vaccine is 100% but it is better than not giving at all, especially if in an area that is a high risk factor, such as our location. The Lyme vaccine works by helping to block the transmission from tick to dog. We can start this vaccine at any age, ideal age is as a puppy before they have had any exposure to Lyme disease. If it is the first time for your pet getting the Lyme vaccine they will need a booster in one month, then it is a yearly vaccine.
Apply a Vectra monthly! Vectra kills through contact, so the tick does not need to bite to die. Vectra also has a repellent action that may reduce the risk of the tick attaching to your pet. If not a topical fan there is NexGard, which is a monthly chew that treats fleas & ticks. The Scalibor collar protects against ticks for up to 6 months.
Brushing your pet frequently will help you to be familiar with their skin. After walks inspecting your pet thoroughly, especially if you walked in an area that any type of wildlife could have passed through that same area.
If you find a tick on your pet, you will want to remove it as soon as possible. You do have to be careful because you need to make sure you do not crush the tick and that you remove the mouth parts. If ever concerned with removing a tick please contact us and we can do it for you.