Our dog got Lyme disease

Our dog got Lyme disease

A tick—so small that you might not see or feel it—can cause a mortal infection in your dog. Here's how to prevent that from happening.

April 29, 2019 By Véronique Alarie

In 2016, during a camping trip in Florida, Claire and Gilles noticed a red spot on their dog Tchoupi's back paw.

A few days later, while he was sleeping at the foot of their bed, Tchoupi urinated. “It worried me at the time,” remembered Claire, “because it was so unlike Tchoupi. He never did that.”

Back home in Canada, the couple took Tchoupi to their veterinarian for a checkup. Following a round of blood tests, Dr Maude Imbeault announced the results: Tchoupi had been bitten by a tick several months before and had contracted Lyme disease. The tick, a tiny eight-legged parasite, had already permanently damaged Tchoupi's kidneys.

Tchoupi was hospitalized for severe dehydration and prescribed a daily antibiotic for three months. “In his last days, he would howl with pain,” remembers Claire. “We had no choice but to put him down.”

An epidemic on the horizon?

In Canada, cases of Lyme disease double every year: “We're not only experiencing more ticks, we're also seeing that they are more frequently carrying the disease,” explains Dr Imbeault. “It's no longer a region-specific problem, it's spreading everywhere.”

Lyme disease, which is caused by the Borrelia burgdorferi bacterium, is not easy to detect. Symptoms usually take 2-5 months to develop and vary widely. “In some cases, a dog might be feeling down, have a fever or lose its appetite. In others, it might have aching joints and start to limp,” explains Dr Imbeault.

As the sad case of Tchoupi illustrates, you can't always rely on antibiotics to treat Lyme disease. “In some dogs, small quantities of bacteria will remain in specific locations, such as the tendon sheaths. Antibiotic therapy doesn't always work. This is why we stress prevention,” adds the veterinarian.

In the face of this growing threat, the three-pronged approach (vigilance, prevention, vaccination) is by far the simplest and most effective way to protect your dog—and your family—from this terrible disease.

“When we took Tchoupi for his annual checkup,” remembers Claire, “we always refused the Lyme disease vaccination, without really understanding its importance. Now I tell everyone that vaccinating your dog is essential.”

Photo 1: Claire and her valiant Tchoupi on a walk.
Photo credit: Personal collection.

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