Vets Say It's An Especially Bad Lyme Disease Year For Pittsburgh-Area Dogs

Jul 5, 2017

Veterinarians in the Pittsburgh area said they've seen an increase in dogs testing positive for Lyme disease this year.

Pennsylvania already has the highest rate of human infection in the nation, and experts warned in February that the summer’s tick season could be a bad one, thanks to warmer winter weather. 

Penn Animal Hospital reported an average of one positive pup a day, which officials said is far higher than past years.

Lyme disease in canines generally isn't fatal, though complications can lead to death. Cats don’t get Lyme, and humans can’t get Lyme from dogs, but “dogs bring ticks in the house and then they crawl on us,” said veterinary technician Jackie Moog.

At Greentree Animal Clinic, where Moog works, more dogs are testing positive, too. She said an owner may not realize their four-legged friend has been infected because each dog reacts differently.

“A dog could present with vomiting and diarrhea or lethargy,” Moog said, “or a dog could present with leg lameness, or limping and sometimes leg swelling. We’ve seen it all with Lyme disease, as far as the symptoms go.”

She said some might show no symptoms at all. Lyme is not curable, but can be treated into remission with antibiotics. 

Dogs can be vaccinated against the disease, and most veterinarians recommend owners invest in flea and tick prevention products before any bites are found.

“You can get it in the form of a collar, a tablet, a topical. There’s all kinds out there right now,” said Moog.

That includes dogs who might not go outside much or who only go into their own backyard.

“Ticks are crazy – there are way more of them, I think, in peoples’ yards. They’re just not aware of it,” said Alyssa Helsel, who works in Greentree’s front office. “They think it’s out in the woods or, ‘not in your neighborhood,’ but deer pass through your yard all the time so I think it’s definitely more prevalent in this area because of the deer population.”