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It's Time For a 2016 Lyme Conversation with Veterinary Practices

By Pam Foster
April, 2016

According to the latest Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC) prevalence maps, 1 in 16 dogs in the U.S. tested positive for Lyme disease. That's astounding – 1 in 16!

Let's look at what the CAPC numbers mean.

Vet Advantage photo: Here's how to use CAPC maps and other tools to help veterinary practices prevent and manage Lyme disease in dogs.

  • 573,135 dogs were tested in this data. "This number reflects the total number of tests reported to CAPC… and represents a sample of the total dog/cat population in this area."
  • 34,886 dog tested positive "The number represents the total number of positives tests out of the total number of pets that were tested. Since the map does not contain the data for all tests, it serves primarily as an indicator of the parasite activity in your area."
  • Lyme disease in dogs is widespread, with regional differences. 24 states have a high prevalance rate. Many of these are in the Northeast (no surprise there) but also in other areas including Alaska, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, Wisconsin and Wyoming. 13 states have moderate levels, and 14 have a low prevalence. [Separately, The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) reported that in 2014, 96% of confirmed Lyme disease cases were reported from 14 states. This is a human statistic, not about dogs, but it's worth noting.]

Now, U.S. Lyme disease prevalence is likely to be much worse than these numbers represent, because CAPC is tracking reported cases only. Many more cases may be detected but not reported to CAPC.

What does all this mean to your customers?

Lyme disease in dogs is a major concern to be discussed with practices in your region, especially the areas with high and moderate prevalence.

Consider asking these questions during every practice visit in your region:

  1. Have you reviewed the latest CAPC maps for canine Lyme disease prevalence in your county?

If not, go on the website with them. It's quick and easy‚ taking less than 1 minute. The data may be quite eye-opening for your customer and spark a deeper conversation.

  • Visit
  • Locate the tab "Tick Borne Disease Agents."
  • Click on the "Lyme Disease" tab.
  • Then select "Dog."
  • You'll see a U.S. map with national rates.
  • Click on the state you're interested in. Then click on the link to see prevalence by county.
  1. Can you tell me about your tick and Lyme disease management procotols for dogs?

The answer to this question will give you clues into the practice's routine for discussing, preventing and managing tick problems and Lyme disease. If it appears that the practice has a "loose" protocol or a gap in the steps it takes to manage Lyme disease, suggest the following to your customers.

Review the CAPC Parasite Control recommendations for Lyme disease. This resource covers the cause, tick lifecycle, diagnosis, treatment, control and prevention, and much more. As you look at this resource with customers, you have a chance to bring up and assess the need for:

  • Screening methods to identify exposure to the Lyme agent Borrelia burgdorferi
  • Vaccines and year-round tick-control products (as well as tick removal products)
  • Diagnostic solutions: understanding the various diagnostic options and how to interpret results
  • Treatment solutions (antibiotics) for Lyme disease plus any related conditions (pain due to polyarthritis, for example)… as well as methods for managing persistent signs and potential reinfections

Make sure you're up-to-date on the latest Lyme disease management solutions from manufacturers. In addition to product materials, some (if not all) of the manufacturers may have a library of helpful practice- and client-education tools. And speaking of client education… here's one more question to ask practices:

  1. Do you talk with your clients about ticks and Lyme disease?

The AVMA, along with several other organizations and companies, offers all kinds of resources to help practice teams talk with all clients about examining their pets for ticks, proper tick removal, reporting tick bites, watching for signs of infection, getting tested, and of course, tick-bite prevention.

  • The CAPC website updates its prevalence maps each month… so encourage practices to sign up for free email updates and use the data to educate pet owners in the lobby and other teachable opportunities. And, CAPC offers an iPad app to use for interactive client education that brings local data to life.
  • And, as we mentioned above – most of the tick and Lyme-disease related product manufacturers online and printed materials you can use to help clients understand the need for vigilance.
With Lyme disease prevalence in dogs a growing concern in most of the U.S., you can play a huge role in helping practices address it effectively with local pet owners.

Topics: Lyme