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Complete guide to natural tick prevention and lyme disease in dogs

Complete guide to natural tick prevention and lyme disease in dogs

  • 1. Introduction
    • 2. Types of ticks and tick-borne diseases
      • 3. What is Lyme disease?
        • 4. What are the main symptoms of Lyme disease?
          • 5. Why is Lyme disease more common now?
            • 6. Is your area affected by Lyme disease?
              • 7. Where do ticks most frequently attach?
                • 8. How long do ticks live?
                  • 9. How often do ticks feed?
                    • 10. How do ticks transmit disease?
                      • 11. How to remove a tick
                        • 12. Should you get the removed tick tested?
                          • 13. How to test your dog for Lyme disease
                            • 14. When should you use antibiotics for Lyme disease?
                              • 15. Are there natural treatments for Lyme disease in dogs?
                                • 16. Other ways to support your Lyme positive dog
                                  • 17. What about the Lyme disease vaccine, is it safe?
                                    • 18. Summary of Lyme disease prevention
                                      • Introduction

                                        I have a confession to make!

                                        My team has been very persistent in making me write a more detailed article about ticks and tick-borne disease, and while I don’t love spending my day writing and thinking about ticks, I am excited about the possibility that this article will help many dogs to stay safe from ticks, Lyme disease, and toxic chemical tick products.

                                        It may surprise you, but ticks and mosquitoes statistically pose much more of a threat to your life and health than sharks do.

                                        Types of ticks and tick-borne diseases

                                        Ticks have evolved to carry more than a dozen serious diseases. Here is the list and a picture of them:

                                        Types of ticks throughout their life stages

                                        Black legged tick (Deer tick):
                                        Lyme diseaseanaplasmosisbabesiosisPowassan diseaseehrlichiosis, and tick-borne relapsing fever

                                        Western black legged tick:
                                        Lyme disease and anaplasmosis

                                        American Dog tick (Wood tick):
                                        Rocky Mountain spotted fever, tularemia, and tick paralysis

                                        Lone Star tick:
                                        Human monocytotropic ehrlichiosistularemia

                                        Gulf Coast tick:
                                        Rickettsia parkeri rickettsiosis (a form of spotted fever)

                                        Rocky Mountain Wood tick:

                                        Rocky Mountain spotted feverColorado tick fever, tularemia, and tick paralysis

                                        Brown Dog tick:
                                        Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and tick paralysis (southwestern USA)

                                        What is Lyme disease?

                                        If someone mentions the initials BB, those who are old enough may remember that they used to stand for Brigitte Bardot (BB). Sadly, these infamous initials now stand for Borellia Burgdorferi, an ugly bacteria that ain’t a movie star! Instead it plays the main role in Lyme disease, a tick-borne illness found around the world.

                                        No Oscar for you, BB!

                                        I kind of agree that Borellia Burgdorferi would be an awesome celebrity name, but BB is nasty, and spreads around the world by hitching a ride on ticks and taking advantage of global warming and higher temperatures.  

                                        So, what are the main symptoms of Lyme disease in dogs?

                                        •  Fever
                                        •  Loss of appetite
                                        •  Reduced energy
                                        •  Lameness (can be shifting, intermittent, and recurring)
                                        •  Generalized stiffness, discomfort, or pain.
                                        •  Swelling of joints

                                                In more severe cases, kidney, heart, and neurological disease symptoms may appear.😟

                                                But the good news is that only 10% of infected dogs show any symptoms of Lyme disease, which suggests that canines have developed natural immunity. Nevertheless, 10% is still too many, and researchers and veterinarians have been battling Lyme disease in dogs for years.

                                                Why is Lyme disease more common now?

                                                Because of global warming, ticks now thrive in regions where they were rare even a few decades ago.

                                                Here is a graph of tick-borne disease incidence in the US since 2004.  


                                                Tick-borne disease incidence 2004-2018


                                                As temperatures rise, more ticks hitch a ride on a bird, deer, or other animal, and head up north to expand their territory with the patience of a stone sculptor! Ticks are willing to wait on a piece of grass all the way down to a chilly 4° Celsius, or 39° Fahrenheit!

                                                Here you can see if your area is affected by Lyme disease



                                                Lyme disease risk map - Canada



                                                Lyme disease risk map - USA



                                                Lyme disease risk map - Europe

                                                As you can see, combined with mosquitoes, ticks are
                                                nature’s most sophisticated drone-like bio-weapons.

                                                They masterfully detect their “next ride” by sensing a change in CO2, contact, heat, body odours, moisture, and vibration etc.

                                                Ticks even have a built in B.O. detector; that’s pretty cool! The only thing I can’t tell you is whether ticks smell through a nose, or some sort of mysterious alien like probe.

                                                No matter what, ticks are impressive, ugly,
                                                disgusting, little creatures! (Sorry ticks!)

                                                If you have a strong stomach, here is a video of a blood sucking tick in action. Ewwww!!

                                                It is both impressive and gross.  

                                                 To summarize, TICKS SUCK! blood out of their unsuspecting victims by injecting a dose of a “local anesthetic” to feed undisturbed for 3 or more days.

                                                These alien-like creatures insert a barbed mouthpiece into the skin. The longer a tick is attached to its host, the higher the risk of disease transmission. They also increase their body size by several times in a matter of just a few days?! Imagine how much pizza we would have to eat to accomplish that!!

                                                Here are the most common tick FAQ’s

                                                Where do ticks most frequently attach?

                                                In dogs, ticks are most commonly found on the head, neck, feet, and ears.

                                                How long do ticks live?

                                                Ticks live up to three years, and their life expectancy depends upon where they live. If the weather gets cold, they hibernate and live longer. Similarly to other insects, most ticks (with some exceptions) go through 4 life stages; egg, six-legged larva, eight-legged nymph, and adult tick.

                                                Tick life cycle


                                                How often do ticks feed?

                                                Throughout their three-year lifespan, ticks only eat three huge blood meals, one at each life stage.

                                                How do ticks transmit disease?

                                                Ticks are the “party goers” of the insect world. They drink too much, and then they “vomit” or regurgitate a part of the contents of their stomach back into the blood stream together with pathogens such as Borellia, which causes Lyme disease.

                                                How to remove a tick:

                                                1. Use fine-tipped tweezers or a tick remover to grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible.

                                                2. Turn gently and slowly until the tick detaches. 

                                                3. After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with soap and water, rinse, and apply herbal Skin Spray to reduce swelling, redness, and pain in the affected area.

                                                IMPORTANT!!! If you live in a tick-infested area, make sure you check your dog after every walk. The most important thing is to remove the little suckers within 24 hours, as this greatly reduces the risk of tick-borne disease.

                                                NOTE: Head, neck, feet, and ears are the most common areas ticks will attach to in dogs, but any area is possible.

                                                CAUTION: Do not use toxic chlorhexidine and other chemical sprays on the bite area, as they are known to slow down healing and cause irritation.

                                                Should you get the removed tick tested?

                                                The answer to this question depends on your comfort level. It isn’t always feasible to bring every tick in for analysis, because in most areas ticks are quite common.
                                                • If you decide to send your dog’s tick for testing, pop it into a clean glass jar to store it (plastic bags pollute our environment).

                                                • If you do not find testing feasible, you can keep the tick in a glass jar and in the freezer for a few weeks, just in case your dog comes down with symptoms that would warrant testing.

                                                • Monitor the bite area for signs of redness and infection.  

                                                Note: The typical Lyme disease lesion, a so-called bullseye, does not develop in dogs as it does in humans. Redness and inflammation may be the sign of a problem.

                                                How to test your dog for Lyme disease:

                                                If you decide to test your dog, the test should be done at least 6 weeks after tick exposure to prevent false-negative results.  There are a few in-house tests available at most veterinary clinics:

                                                • 4DX Blood Test (tests for Lyme disease, heartworm, anaplasmosis, ehrlichiosis)  

                                                • C6 Blood Test to detect the so-called C6 antibody protein against Lyme disease. The presence of antibodies suggests exposure to Lyme disease, but does not confirm the presence of Borrelia, the pathogen.

                                                  Note: Dogs with a positive C6 test result should not be treated for Lyme disease unless clinical symptoms are present, as t
                                                  he presence of antibodies DOES NOT equal infection!!

                                                  When should you use antibiotics for Lyme disease?

                                                  Antibiotics should be reserved for situations when:

                                                  • A dog has symptoms of Lyme disease such fever, lethargy, loss of appetite, and joint inflammation and stiffness

                                                  • A tick has been examined for the presence of Lyme disease and the test came back positive, in conjunction with your dog having a positive antibody test.

                                                  The recommended duration of treatment with antibiotics (usually doxycycline) is 30 days.

                                                  The most common doxycycline side effects in dogs are:

                                                  • Vomiting
                                                  • Diarrhea
                                                  • Loss of appetite
                                                  • Elevated liver enzymes – ALT

                                                  Are there natural treatments for Lyme disease in dogs?

                                                  The biggest problem with Borrelia is that it has the ability to make itself “invisible” to the body’s immune system.

                                                  If your dog has been diagnosed as positive for Lyme disease and SHOWS CLINICAL SYMPTOMS you can add Teasel to doxycycline as part of the treatment, according to the following protocol:

                                                   8 day teasel protocol for lyme disease in dogs 

                                                   *Please note that we currently do not have this product available in our store and cannot recommend other products for liability reasons. Thank you for your understanding. 

                                                  Other ways to support your Lyme positive dog:

                                                    1. Give your dog canine specific probiotics, such as GutSense, throughout the course of treatment. Continue providing GutSense after treatment to promote a healthy microbiome, immune system, and to counteract the negative effects of antibiotics on the gut.

                                                    2. Administer LiverTune liver detox and support throughout treatment, and continue for one month following treatment.

                                                    3. Feed a natural raw or cooked diet – see more details here:

                                                    4. Give essential minerals and vitamins to support your dog’s organs, cells, and immune health. SoulFood provides fermented certified organic vitamins, and GreenMin provides plant-based mineral and amino acid support.

                                                  Click here to find all products on one “Lyme disease” page.

                                                  What about the Lyme disease vaccine, is it safe?

                                                  I have seen a number of dogs in my practice end up with symptoms similar to Lyme disease after vaccination, including joint inflammation, arthritis, and spondylosis — even at very young ages.

                                                  Also, there is no Lyme disease vaccine approved for use in humans, which might be because the vaccine’s safety is an issue in people as well. This is why I generally do not recommend the Lyme disease vaccine.

                                                  Summary of Lyme disease prevention

                                                  1. Cut your grass short if ticks are present in your back yard.

                                                  2. Apply TickHex on your dog’s coat once or twice weekly. You can adjust the frequency of application as needed depending on when you notice ticks being attached. TickHex should prevent ticks from attaching, however, if you miss a spot on the coat or the product washes off when your dog swims, you may need to reapply more often.

                                                  3. Do not use antibiotics if your dog has a positive test but no symptoms. Many dogs can build up good immunity against Lyme disease.

                                                  4. Keep your dog healthy and strong by feeding a natural raw or cooked diet and giving the Fab4 essentials.
                                                  Fetch all you may need for Lyme disease here
                                                  Natural Flea and Tick control
                                                  About the author

                                                  Dr. Peter Dobias, DVM is an Integrative veterinarian, nutritionist and creator of natural supplements for dogs and people. Helping you and your dog prevent disease, treat nutritional deficiencies, and enjoy happier, healthier, and longer lives together.

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