Protecting Pets from Lyme

Dr. Watts, of Clevengers Corner Veterinary Care Virginia, has a column in today’s Star Exponent warning about Lyme disease and exposure of the disease on your pets.  Much of the column provides practical information about protecting your pet and general awareness of the disease.

His column states:

Veterinarians are well equipped to discover and treat this disease. An in-clinic test kit is available that finds antibodies to several tick-borne diseases, including Lyme Disease. Animals with positive results are usually started on a course of antibiotics depending on the presence or severity of clinical signs.

Pet owners have several different options to help prevent tick exposure. One of the most economical and satisfying ways to keep pets safe from ticks is to spend a little time each day brushing and grooming your pet. Experts agree that the Lyme bacteria needs about 18-24 hours in order to transmit to your pet, so a little daily pampering with brush and comb could find ticks before they can cause disease!

However, regular grooming is not enough. Many pet owners mistakenly believe that since they do not see any ticks, their dogs are not being exposed. However, even in people, 40 percent of patients diagnosed with Lyme disease do not realize they ever had a tick on their own body.

These ticks are so tiny, that the vast majority of pet owners will never see them. Believe me when I tell you that they are biting your dog.

I commonly see fluffy little house dogs that test positive for Lyme.

Together with regularly checking for ticks, properly used veterinary-quality tick control is your pet’s best defense. Products like Frontline spot-on and Preventic collars give excellent disease prevention by killing ticks before the bacteria can be transmitted.

You should always follow your veterinarian’s advice for these products as some of them, especially those sold over the counter, can be harmful to cats.

Vaccines to prevent Lyme Disease from occurring in dogs are also available. Recombinant vaccines, like Recombitek, are genetically engineered wonders of modern science. They contain only a single protein, almost eliminating adverse reactions.

When the tick begins to feed, the dog’s vaccine antibodies against lock the bacteria inside the tick, preventing transmission. In other words, we now have a safe, effective Lyme vaccine that works inside the tick, not the dog.


A lot of Dr. Watts’ recommendations follow conventional thinking.  And I for one know the consequences of following conventional thought.  So, in challenging some of his items:

  1. Tick control is certainly one of the most common ways to protect your pet.  But long-term tick control can have serious consequences.  A number of pet owners believe that products like “Front Line” are carcinogenic` and responsible for their pet’s cancer  Though, I have no scientific proof of this.   it certainly raises some red flags;
  2. Brushing your pet is certainly a good way of removing LOOSE ticks from your pet, but not attached ticks.  Also,  disposing of the hair properly is essential otherwise the brushed ticks are just waiting for their next host to come by.  And that next host may very well be you;
  3. It was believed that a tick needed to be attached for 24 hours before it passed the bacteria to their host.  This belief is now considered incorrect.  The tick immediately injects an anticoagulant into the host which itself can be infectious;
  4. Lyme vaccines are suspicious.  In the late nineties, Smith Kline had a vaccine called Lymerix which often gave people  chronic Lyme instead of protecting them against it.  Because of this, I would be very suspicious of any pharmaceutical company who claimed to have a vaccine.  Especially when your pet can’t communicate that a problem is developing following the vaccine.            
  5. And finally, to suggest a vaccine’s antibodies lock the bacteria in the tick is functionally incorrect.  The antibodies fight the bacteria whenever they meet up. More likely in the host then the tick.  But, this is a small matter.  The important thing is that the antibodies are neutralizing the bacteria.

 Nearly all Veterinarians pursue their career because of their love for animals.  I have no reason to believe Dr. Watts is any different.  In fact, all of the feedback I have seen suggests that he is an excellent Vet.

For Dr. Watts’ complete column:


~ by Rob on March 7, 2010.

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