Five Myths About Lyme Disease

Spring has arrived, along with the appearance of hungry nymph and adult ticks. Learn the facts to protect your pet.

Myth 1 – I don’t live in a wooded or weedy area, so my pet can’t get ticks.

In the past, this was generally true, but wildlife who are responsible for bringing ticks into our environment are not fearful of people today. More of our local East Suburban neighbors are sighting an increasing number of foxes, raccoons, deer, coyotes, etc, that have brought the ticks to our yards where they can complete their whole life cycle. I recently examined a new puppy owned by Oakmont clients who have a fenced in grass yard. They had the puppy for just five days and had only had him in the grass yard right by their house. When we examined his belly, we were all shocked to see a newly engorged tick attached – in mid-February!

Myth 2 – During cold winter months, I don’t need to worry about applying tick prevention.

Because most insect populations decrease once cold weather sets in, you may assume ticks will follow suit. In reality, ticks are much hardier – and their population actually peaks during the late fall season. This has been a very mild winter with, it seems, equal number of days in the twenties and the fifties. On colder days the ticks dig into rotting leaf litter or mulch that supplies enough warmth from decay to keep them alive, only to emerge on a sunny winter day to climb up bushes and stems and drop onto passing pets.
We now recommend Advantix topical, a fresh Seresto collar, or oral Simparica throughout the winter months to protect your pet.

Myth 3 – I haven’t seen any ticks, or only found a few on my pet, so I’m sure he’s fine.

The Deer Ticks that we are most worried about are very small compared to other common ticks, so finding them in a dog’s dense coat before they have fed long enough to transmit Lyme disease is rarely possible. In January 2017, 33% of all dogs tested for Lyme were positive. While not all of these dogs had current active Lyme infections, every one of those dogs had been bitten by a deer tick that fed for at least 24 hours and transmitted some Lyme bacteria.

Myth 4 – My pet was treated for Lyme disease, so now he’s cured and can’t get it again.

Once a pet is diagnosed with Lyme disease there are three possible scenarios. If he is symptomatic with fever, severe arthritis, or kidney disease, then treatment with antibiotics and anti-inflammatory meds is begun. But if a dog tests positive and is not symptomatic at that time, we can perform a second test that determines how much antibody the immune system has produced against Lyme bacteria. If the amount of antibody is very low, then we have determined that your pet was bitten and exposed to Lyme bacteria, but luckily your dog’s immune system was strong enough to fight it off and treatment isn’t required. If the amount of antibody is high, then Lyme bacteria are hiding in your pet’s connective tissues, usually along arteries, and may at some time in the future cause the symptoms listed above. These dogs are immediately treated with antibiotics. It is recommended that all dogs who are treated have another antibody level test six months after finishing antibiotics. If this follow up antibody level is reduced by 50% or more, we determine your dog is finished with treatment. Occasionally a pet will require a second course of antibiotics to achieve the 50% antibody reduction.
Having had Lyme disease does not confer long lasting immunity to prevent reinfection.

Myth 5 – My pet has already contracted Lyme disease so he can’t receive a Lyme Disease Vaccination.

Pets who have been treated for Lyme disease run the risk of reinfection. The most important consideration to prevent Lyme disease and the other four Tick Transmitted Diseases seen in Western PA is to continue using products that are proven to kill ticks quickly enough to prevent transmission. We are still recommending topical Advantix, the eight month Seresto Collar (beware of ineffective foreign impostors that are beginning to show up online), and new this year is once monthly oral Simparica.

As Lyme disease is approaching epidemic proportions in our area, more of our clients are having their pets immunized with the Lyme Disease Vaccination. Even if your pet has had Lyme disease, the vaccination series of two injections one month apart and then an annual boost will help ensure your pet does not become one of the 33%.

The protocol regarding Lyme disease is:

  • TEST

  • To better assess the health of your pets’ teeth, we now have DIGITAL DENTAL X-RAY EQUIPMENT. This allows us to see hidden periodontal disease surrounding the tooth roots so that action can be taken to judiciously suggest treatment or extraction since our pets can’t tell us where it hurts them.


    Pittsburgh Spay & Vaccination Clinic is a state-of-the-art, full-service suburban veterinary facility serving the Pittsburgh Area since 1980.. We offer diagnostic, medical, surgical, and dental care to dogs, cats, ferrets, rabbits, and pocket pets in the Pittsburgh area.

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