Ticks & Lyme Disease

So many products cause more problems then the ticks.  Next please go to our Yuk! Works page to get a healthier solution to ticks.

One important thing people don't realize is that there are several different diseases that a tick can give you.  Lyme Diaease is just the most common and well know.

Please make sure to get your puppy their Lyme Disease Vaccination at 3 months old.  A month later you will need a booster shot.  After that it is only the one shot per year. 

A dog can still get Lyme even with the shot.  But you shouldl notice in time before he gets really sick and you loose them.  I only know of people who have lost dogs that didn’t have their Lyme Vaccinations.  

While the infection we know today as “Lyme Disease” (named for the Connecticut town of Lyme) has been around for at least a century, public awareness (and confusion) did not really occur until the late 1980’s. Media exposure of this infection virtually exploded leaving most of the general public with some basic knowledge and a great deal of misconception. We hope to straighten out some of the myths surrounding at least the canine version of the Lyme disease infection.

HUMAN LYME DISEASE VS. CANINE LYME DISEASE


The first lesson to be learned about the Lyme disease infection is that it manifests completely differently in man’s best friend compared with the human experience. After being bitten by a tick that has transmitted Borrelia burgdorferi, 80% of humans will develop a rash and flu-like symptoms. In the next few weeks, joint pain ensues with 15% of people developing actual neurologic abnormalities associated with Lyme disease and 5% of people developing a heart rhythm disturbance called “A-V block.” At this same point in the infection timeline, dogs have yet to develop any symptoms at all.

Weeks to months after infection about 60% of people will experience intermittent arthritis attacks and 5% will develop chronic neurologic manifestations. In humans, Lyme disease presents with the potential for serious long term illness. In the dog, illness may never even occur.

When canine illness does occur it does not begin to manifest for weeks to months after infection at which point arthritis signs are noticed. Sometimes there is a fever. In dogs, heart and neurologic issues are exceedingly rare plus the symptoms of canine Lyme disease generally respond rapidly to an inexpensive course of proper antibiotics (see later for details).

The Borrelia burgdorferi organism is fairly well suited to live in the canine body without causing trouble. Most exposed dogs harbor the organism uneventfully and never get sick. Still, it is important not to discount Lyme disease in the dog completely lest one overlook an easily eliminated cause of chronic joint disease especially in dogs of the Northeast U.S.

The dog’s the most serious long term potential regards “glomerular disease.” This is a type of kidney damage that occurs when the immune system is stimulated over a very long time by a latent infectious organism (or other immune stimulus). This is a much more insidious problem for which special testing is needed (see later).

THE TICK AND ITS CONTROL

An organism that serves to transport and deliver an infectious organism from one host to another is called a “vector.” The vector of Lyme disease in the Northeast U.S. is the deer tick, Ixodes scapularis. The female tick lays a clump of approximately 2000 eggs in the spring. A very small six-legged larva hatches and attaches to a host as soon as it is able. Since the larva is very small, it typically can only reach a small host, usually a white-footed mouse. If the mouse is carrying the Lyme disease spirochete, the larva can get infected at this point.

When the larva is full of blood, it will drop off the host and lie dormant until the following spring, about a year later. At this point the larva molts and becomes a “nymph.” The nymph is a bit larger and may select another mouse as host or may approach larger game such as a dog or human. The nymph feeds 3-5 days and when it is full it drops off, remains dormant until late summer. It then molts into an adult tick. When the nymph is feeding it may infect its host with the Lyme spirochete. If the nymph was not already infected from its larval stage, it may become infected now, during its spring feeding.

The adult tick seeks a larger host, hence its name “the deer tick;” however, with man encroaching upon the range of the deer, there are often plenty of dogs or humans for the tick to attack. The adult ticks mate on their new host, feed, and transmit the Lyme spirochete if they are carrying it. The male tick remains attached through the winter but the female, once engorged with the host’s blood, drops off, hides under leaves and other debris through the winter, and lays her eggs in the spring for the two-year cycle to begin again.

The feeding tick is basically a blood-sucker. It must keep its host’s blood from clotting in order to continue sucking so it is able to regurgitate assorted enzymes to keep the blood flow liquid and smooth. It is during this regurgitation process that the Lyme spirochete is brought up from the tick’s mid-gut to its mouthparts.

This process requires a minimum of 48 hours which means
that if the tick is removed within 48 hours of attachment,
the spirochete cannot be transmitted and the host will not get the disease.

On the west coast of the United States, there is far less Lyme disease than in the east, although the northern coast of California is considered to have moderate risk. This is because the Lyme vector in these areas is primarily Ixodes pacificus, a tick that strongly prefers to feed on reptiles rather than mammals. Reptile blood has natural anti-Borrelia factors which kill the Lyme spirochete and prevent further transmission. 

The CDC (Center for Disease Control) provides a color coded map of the U.S. indicating risk.

There are several subspecies of Borrelia burgdorferi in different parts of the world so “Lyme disease” is not unique to the United States.

BORRELIA BURGDORFERI: THE SPIROCHETE AND ITS DETECTION

The spirochete that causes Lyme disease cannot live outside the body of a host. It must live within either a mammal or a tick.

In the mammal’s body, the spirochete is especially adept at binding to connective tissue. If one is doing additional reading on this organism, one will encounter references to the spirochete’s surface proteins called “Osp’s” (“Osp” stands for “outer surface protein”). Different Osp’s are expressed depending on whether the spirochete is attached to the tick midgut (OspA), the mammal’s connective tissue (OspC), or whether the tick is in an early or late stage of mammal infection (Osps E and F respectively). By modifying its Osp’s, the spirochete is able to change its presentation to the mammalian host’s immune system thus escaping immune destruction. In addition to changing Osp’s, the spirochete can change its shape into at least 3 different forms and is able to hide within cellular folds. (The Lyme spirochete is a master of disguise and camouflage.)

This presents an enormous diagnostic challenge:
 if the host’s immune system can’t even find the organism,
how are we supposed to detect it?

ANTIBODY LEVELS

A dog with symptoms of Lyme disease ideally should have a test to confirm or rule out Lyme disease. Since it is almost impossible to culture the Lyme spirochete, efforts have centered on detection of antibodies against the Osp’s. Here are the problems encountered with this method:

  • In a Lyme endemic area, as many as 90% of the dogs will have antibodies against the Lyme spirochete. Most exposed dogs never get sick but almost all of them will develop antibodies and these antibodies persist for years. How do we tell the dogs that have active infection from those that have been exposed and are not sick from their exposure?
     
  • Vaccine has been available for Lyme disease for a decade or more. How do we distinguish antibodies generated by the vaccine from those generate by natural infection?
     
  • How do we distinguish antibodies generated by similar organisms (Leptospira, for example, or harmless other Borrelia species)?

    The solution to these problems has come about only recently in the form of the “C6 test.” This is an immunological test for antibody against the “C6 peptide,” a very unique section of the one of the Borrelia burgdorgeri surface antigens. As the spirochete changes its configuration to escape the host’s immune system, the C6 peptide remains constant and always detectable. Vaccine does not contain the C6 peptide so vaccinated dogs will not test positive. Dogs with other infections will not erroneously test positive. Further, this test is simple enough to be available as an in-house test kit (the IDEXX “Snap-3 Dx test” or “Snap-4 Dx test”) which can be run in most veterinary hospitals, with results in approximately 10 minutes.

This still does not address distinguishing active infection from exposure. Dogs will test C6 positive within 3-5 weeks of infection. They stay positive for over a year.

TREATMENT AND ITS GOALS

Which of these dogs get sick and which ones do not? Does the dog with joint pain, fever, and a positive C6 test need medication? This is where the news is particularly good.

Treatment of Lyme disease utilizes a 2-4 week course of doxycycline, a medication which is inexpensive and has limited side effects potential. Amoxicillin is another effective alternative, also inexpensive and with minimal side effects. If Lyme disease is a consideration, many veterinarians simply prescribe the medication. Obvious improvement is seen within 48 hours. Further, most tick-borne infections capable of causing joint pain, fever, and signs similar to Lyme disease generally all share doxycycline responsiveness so a simple course of medication actually covers several types of infection.

Eradication of the Lyme spirochete is not a reasonable expectation with treatment; the organism is simply too good at hiding. The goal instead is to bring the patient into what is called a “premunitive state.” This is the state that 90% of infected dogs achieve when they get infected but never get ill: the organism is in their bodies latently but is not causing active infection.

GLOMERULAR DISEASE

Some dogs are in fact harmed by the long time presence of an infectious organism in their bodies. The immune system is constantly active in its attempt to remove the invading spirochete and over the years these complexes of antibodies may deposit in the kidney and cause damage. It has been recommended that dogs with positive Borrelia burgdorferi antibody levels be regularly screened for significant protein loss in their urine with a test called a “urine protein to creatinine ratio.” This group of dogs may require medication for their kidney disease. For more information on glomerular disease, click here.

Recently an especially sensitive test has been developed for the detection of minute quantities of blood proteins in the urine. This test, called the Erd test, is so sensitive that its use is not yet determined (i.e. at what point is albumin loss in the kidney significant and under what circumstances might some albumin loss be normal and expected?).

VACCINATION: YES OR NO?

Vaccine prevents infection in dogs vaccinated before any exposure to Lyme spirochetes. This means it is only helpful for dogs not yet exposed such as puppies and dogs from non-endemic areas travelling to endemic areas. Annual boosters continue the vaccine-based immunity.

There are now three types of vaccine available. The killed whole spirochete vaccine (Fort Dodge’s vaccine) uses intact dead spirochetes injected into the host. By using the entire spirochete, the host is exposed to parts of the organism that are not useful in immunization and may lead to vaccine reaction. The next type of vaccine is felt to be superior in preventing reactions and that is the recombinant vaccine (Merial’s vaccine). This vaccine generates antibodies specifically against OspA, the surface protein the spirochete uses to attach to its tick host. When the tick bites and sucks blood full of Anti-OspA antibodies, the spirochete’s migration sequence is blocked and the spirochete is prevented from even exiting the tick. The vaccine utilizes DNA for OspA cloned into a harmless virus so that the entire Lyme spirochete is not used; only the OspA DNA is used. The third type of vaccine (Intervet-Schering-Plough's vaccine) targets a protein called OspC as well as the surface protein OspA. The idea is that the OspC antibodies kill any Borrelia that have not been de-activated by the OspA antibodies, providing enhanced protection.

Vaccination against the Lyme organism remains controversial. We will present both sides of the argument and the pet owner can decide if they want to include vaccination in their Lyme prevention efforts.

Argument Against Vaccination

  • Lyme disease in the dog is an infection for which over 90% of infected dogs will never get sick and the 5-10% that do get sick can be easily treated with a safe inexpensive course of antibiotics. This situation would seem to indicate that vaccination is simply not worth the expense.
     
  • As for the kidney disease that can occur in some individuals with long term antigen exposure: we do not know what Borrelia antigens are involved in the immune stimulation that causes this condition. It might be that the same antigens used in the vaccines are involved in which case vaccination might be just as hazardous as actual infection. Even OspA, the same antigen of the recombinant vaccine, has been implicated in chronic human disease.

Argument For Vaccination

  • We vaccinate ourselves for the flu, an infection that is for most people more of a nuisance than a
    life-threatening event, and think nothing of it. Vaccination is about prevention of infection; just because an illness is not life-threatening does not mean that we should not prevent it with vaccine. Further, in a
    non-endemic area, Lyme disease is not going to be a cause of arthritis that most veterinarians will consider. Treatment is only simple if one thinks to perform the treatment but in an area where there is very little Lyme disease, this treatment may easily be omitted. Why not just prevent the infection outright from the beginning if the dog is going to travel to a tick endemic area?
     
  • If we allow our dogs to readily become infected with the Lyme organism, do they not become a potential source for human infection (through their ticks)? We try to minimize the deer and mice in our vicinity but we want to keep company with the family dog but who wants a reservoir of Lyme spirochete in their home?
     
  • As for the kidney disease, we do not know what spirochete antigens are implicated in this condition. The recombinant vaccine exposes the patient only to one spirochete antigen (OspA) and prevents the introduction of the spirochete into the mammal’s body. Vaccination, at least with the recombinant vaccine, may be preventive to this syndrome.

Again, when it comes to prevention, there is nothing controversial about tick control.
It is crucial in Lyme endemic areas to use tick controlling products.

Lyme disease is a regional problem. For more guidance regarding this infection in your area or areas where you will be travelling, see your veterinarian.

Confused about tick protection? This FAQ compares the currently available tick control products to assist you in determining which is right for your situation. These are products made by reputable major pharmaceutical companies and most are available only through licensed veterinarians. Because there are 13 different products compared in 15 different categories, we have split up the information into 3 separate tables.





Table 1:

Tick killing ingredient; Format (topical, oral, collar or spray); For dogs or cats; Approved against which ticks;
Youngest age or size approved for use; How long one application lasts
 

Table 2:

Waterproof or water resistant; Approved for pregnancy or lactation (nursing); How long until maximum effect against ticks is reached; Other parasites killed, controlled or repelled; Other active ingredients
 

Table 3:

Prescription drug or insecticide; LD50 (lethal dose to 50% of the population);
Manufacturer and product website; Additional cautions

 

 

TABLE 1

Tick Killing Ingredient

Format

For dogs
or cats?

Approved against which ticks

Youngest Age Approved

How long One Application Lasts

K9Advantix

Permethrin

Topical

Dogs only

all shown above

7 weeks

1 month

Revolution

Selamectin

Topical

Feline product available but not labeled against ticks

American Dog Tick only

6 weeks

1 month

NexGard

Afoxolaner

Oral

Dogs only

all shown above

8 weeks and minimum of 4 lbs body weight

1 month

Scalibor Collar

Deltamethrin

Collar

Dogs only

Brown Dog Tick, American Dog Tick, and Deer Ticks

12 weeks

6 months

Preventic Collar

Amitraz

Collar

Dogs only

all shown above

12 weeks

up to 90 days

Effitix

Fipronil & Permethrin

Topical

Dogs only

all shown above

12 weeks

1 month

Tritak for Dogs

Fipronil & Cyphenothrin

Topical

Dogs only

all shown above plus the Gulf Coast tick

12 weeks and minimum of 4 lbs body weight

1 month

Tritak for Cats

Fipronil & Etophenprox

Topical

Cats Only

all shown above plus the Gulf Coast tick

12 weeks

1 month

Frontline,
Fiproguard, PetArmor, EasySpot(cats),
Parastar(dogs)
Effipro (cats)

Fipronil

Topical or spray

Dogs and Cats

all shown above

8 weeks

1 month

Vectra 3D,
SimpleGuard 3*,
FirstShield Trio*

Permethrin

Topical

Dogs only (feline product does not include a tick ingredient)

all shown above

7 weeks
and 2.5 lbs

1 month

Certifect

Fipronil and Amitraz

Topical

Dogs only

all shown above

8 weeks
and 5 lbs

1 month

Activyl Tick Plus

Permethrin

Topical

Dogs only

all shown above

8 weeks
and 4 lbs

4 weeks

Bravecto

Fluralaner

Oral

Dogs only

all shown above

6 months
and 4.4 lbs

12 weeks
(8 weeks for
lone star tick)

Seresto

Flumethrin

Collar

Dogs and Cats, but
each has own product

all shown above

Dogs: 7 weeks old and 18 lbs, 10 weeks for kittens

8 months
(5 months if pet swims or bathes once a month or more), 30 days for lice

 

TABLE 2

Waterproof or
water resistant?

Approved for Pregnancy and Lactation?

Time to Reach Maximum Effect

Other parasites controlled or repelled:

Other active ingredients:

K9Advantix

water resistant

No

98% dead within 48 hours

fleas, flies, mosquitoes

imidocloprid

Revolution

water proof

Yes

48 hours

ear mitesfleassarcoptic mange mitesheartworm

none

NexGard

water proof

No

24 hours to
100% tick kill

fleas

none

Scalibor Collar

water resistant (remove collar for bathing)

Not specifically labeled against, veterinary consultation recommended

2 - 3 weeks

fleas killed, flies and mosquitoes repelled

none

Preventic Collar

water resistant (remove collar for bathing)

Not specifically labeled against, veterinary consultation recommended

100% dead in less than 24 hours

none

none

Effitix

water resistant

no

By 9 days after treatment killed at least 98% of 4 species of ticks

fleas, kills and
repels mosquitoes

none

Tritak for Dogs

Waterproof (but wait 24 hours after application before swimming/bathing)

no

90% of ticks in 1 hour, 100% of ticks dead in 48 hours, 24 hours to completely translocate

fleas

methoprene

Tritak for Cats

waterproof

no

97% ticks dead in 1 hour, 100% in 4 hours

fleas

methoprene

Frontline,
Fiproguard, PetArmor, EasySpot (cats),
Parastar(dogs)
Effipro (cats)

waterproof

Yes for topspot,
no for spray

24 - 48 hours

fleas

methoprene
in Frontline Plus,
Fiproguard Plus
and PetArmor Plus

Vectra 3D
SimpleGuard 3*,
FirstShield Trio*

water resistant

no

98% dead within 48 hours

fleas, flies, mosquitoes

dinotefuran, pyriproxifen (former kills fleas, latter sterilizes them until former product kills them)

Certifect

water resistant

Yes

18 hours

fleas

methoprene

Activyl Tick Plus

waterproof (wait 24 hours before swimming/bathing)

no

98% dead within 48 hours

fleas

indoxacarb (kills
and sterilizes fleas)

Bravecto

waterproof

yes

88% in 4 hours,
100% in 12 hours

fleas

none

Seresto

water resistant

no

within 48 hours (after that new ticks killed
within 6 hours)

chewing lice
(dogs only)

none

 

TABLE 3

Prescription Drug or Insecticide?

Toxicity/LD 50
(what is LD 50?)

Manufacturer & product web site

Additional Cautions

K9Advantix

insecticide

Imidacloprid Dermal Dose:
>5,000 mg/kg in rats
Imidacloprid Orally: 450 mg/kg in rats
>4,000 mg/kg in rats for Permethrin

Bayer

Permethrin is toxic to cats, use feline product only for cats. Avoid cat/dog snuggling.

Revolution

prescription drug

>1,600 mg/kg in rats

Pfizer

Dog should test negative for heartworm before using

NexGard

prescription drug

LD50 > 1000 mg/kg in rats

Merial

May promote seizures in dogs already predisposed to seizures

Scalibor Collar

insecticide

oral LD 50 for dogs is 300 mg/kg,
the dermal LD 50 in the rat is
greater than 2,940 mg/kg

Merck

Deltamethrin is toxic to cats. Avoid cat/dog snuggling.

Preventic Collar

insecticide

> 2,000 mg/kg in rats for Amitraz

Virbac

Amitraz is associated with an assortment of drug interactions, check with your vet. Also, collar is toxic if swallowed.

Effitix

insecticide

Fipronil Dermal Dose: >5,000 mg/kg in rats: Fipronil Orally: 750 mg/kg in rats; >4,000 mg/kg in rats for topical Permethrin

Virbac

Canine product cannot be safely used on cats

Tritak for Dogs

insecticide

Cyphenothrin (rat 318 mg/kg), Fipronil Dermal Dose: >5,000 mg/kg in rats; Fipronil Orally: 750 mg/kg in rats; Methoprene Orally: >34,600 in rats (virtually non-toxic)

Merial

The canine product cannot be safely used on cats

Tritak for Cats

insecticide

etophenprox > 5000 mg/kg (toxic dose may not be established as it is so high); Fipronil Dermal Dose: >5,000 mg/kg in rats; Fipronil Orally: 750 mg/kg in rats; Methoprene Orally:
>34,600 in rats (virtually non-toxic)

Merial

Do not use with other topical pyrethroid/pyrethrin product

Frontline,
Fiproguard,PetArmor, EasySpot(cats),
Parastar(dogs)
Effipro (cats)

insecticide

Fipronil Dermal Dose:
>5,000 mg/kg in rats
Fipronil Orally: 750 mg/kg in rats
Methoprene Orally: >34,600 in rats (virtually non-toxic)

Merial
Sentry
Fidopharm
Novartis
Novartis
Virbac

none

Vectra 3D
SimpleGuard 3*,
FirstShield Trio*

insecticide

>2,400 mg/kg in rats for Dinotefuran,
>4,000 mg/kg in rats for topical Permethrin

Summit

Permethrin is toxic to cats, use feline product only for cats. Avoid cat/dog snuggling.

Certifect

insecticide

> 2,000 mg/kg in rats for Amitraz
Fipronil Dermal Dose:
>5,000 mg/kg in rats
Fipronil Orally: 750 mg/kg in rats

Merial

Amitraz is associated with an assortment of drug interactions

Activyl Tick Plus

insecticide

Indoxacarb is inert in the mammal body,
> 4,000 mg/kg in rats for Permethrin

Merck
Animal Health

Toxic to cats

Bravecto

prescription drug

Dermal LD50: >2000 mg/kg (rat),
Oral LD50: >2000 mg/kg (rat)

Merck
Animal Health

none

Seresto

insecticide

Imidacloprid dermal dose:
>5,000 mg/kg in rats
Imidacloprid orally: 450 mg/kg in rats, Flumethrin: ld50 oral rat (male) 258 mg/kg, ld50 dermal rat > 150 mg/kg

Bayer

Safety features of collar
present so that collar
breaks off if caught



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