Paws for Wellness A happy and healthy pet starts with a plan!

Lyme Disease Prevention & Awareness

Dog exploring in the weedsMay is Lyme Disease Prevention Month! Lyme disease is a very serious and potentially debilitating bacterial infection that affects our canine companions, as well as humans, cats, and horses. Dogs are upwards of 50 percent more likely to get Lyme disease than humans.

What is Lyme disease?

Lyme disease is spread by ticks. Deer, or blacklegged ticks, are the main species of ticks that spread the disease in North America, but other tick species have also been found to spread the disease, specific to the country or region they are in. Lyme disease is caused by an infectious bacteria called Borrelia. When a dog is bitten by an infected tick, it passes the infection to the dog. A tick must remain attached to the dog for at least 36-48 hours before it is able to pass the infection. Ticks are drawn to dark, moist areas on the body, such as under the collar, under the tail, inside the groin area, between the toes, under front legs, and in the elbow areas.

Ticks are generally tiny, ranging from the size of a sesame seed to a grain of sand, and can be difficult to detect. Immature ticks, called nymphs, are especially tiny, less than 2mm and very difficult to see. Humans and other animals can all contract Lyme disease from ticks, but there is no evidence that suggests Lyme disease is passed from animals to humans, or from person to person. However, pets can potentially bring infected ticks into their homes, which could then infect humans.

Lyme disease has been reported on every continent in the world except Antarctica, although it is more prevalent in certain areas. Australia and New Zealand have very low incidence rates of Lyme disease, although cases have been reported. In North America, it is found in all states in the USA, although it is most prevalent in the northeastern, upper Midwestern and Mid-Atlantic states. In Canada, it has been found mainly in southern Ontario and Manitoba, with cases reported in southern Quebec and Eastern Canada as well. Forested, grassy and sandy areas are the highest risk for tick exposure. Ticks will cling to leaves, twigs or blades of grass, and wait until their sensors detect an approaching host on which to grab onto. Ticks can also live in backyard grass shrubbery and woodpiles closer to homes.

What are the symptoms of Lyme disease?

Signs and symptoms of Lyme disease in dogs are more difficult to detect than in humans. Humans often get a characteristic “bulls eye” rash at the infection site, but animals don’t develop this tell-tale sign. Because other symptoms of Lyme disease are common and found in relation to many other diseases, some dogs may go over a year before showing symptoms, and is often not considered until other potential conditions have been ruled out.

Clinical symptoms of Lyme disease are lameness, swollen joints, and fever, with other symptoms occurring secondary to fever. The lameness associated with Lyme disease, or Lyme-related arthritis as it is sometimes called, can also be referred to as ‘shifting leg lameness’, and occurs suddenly as affected joints become swollen and joint fluid builds up. The lameness usually resolves quickly, but can reoccur in a different joint or limb, often meaning that the dog is not properly treated or diagnosed. Dogs with Lyme disease often run high fevers, with lethargy, lack of appetite, swollen lymph nodes, and increased water consumption and urine output resulting as the body attempts to eradicate the bacteria. The more serious consequences of Lyme disease can be multiple organ damage, and sudden kidney failure.

How can I prevent my dog from getting Lyme disease?

There are many things you can do to help prevent your dog from contracting Lyme disease. The best method of prevention is to avoid areas that are known to be heavily infested with ticks, especially in the springtime when the nymphs are most active. In your own backyard, remove tall grasses and clear brush from around the house and areas your dog frequents, to control the environment ticks can thrive in.

Any time your dog has been in area where ticks may live, such as wooded areas or meadows, check your dog for ticks promptly and thoroughly afterwards. Remove any ticks that may be on your dog using tweezers, ensuring you protect yourself from exposure by wearing disposable gloves.

Talk to your veterinarian about the tick preventatives that are available, and ask for their recommendation on what products are best for your dog, based on the area you live in and your lifestyle. Remember that no one product can guarantee absolute protection. Topical preventatives are usually reapplied every 30 days and are easy to use. Your veterinarian may recommend you reapply in between doses if your dog has been swimming or bathed. Collars are widely available that repel and kill ticks via a medication that the collar emits. However, most collars won’t suffice as an effective preventative on its own; since the medication is concentrated around the head and shoulders, the hindquarters are often left less protected. There are also chewable tick preventative tablets that provides tick protection for much longer than topical or external tick preventatives.

Vaccines for Lyme disease are available in North America and other parts of the world with high incidence rates. They may be unavailable in areas with low rates of reported Lyme disease. Your veterinarian may recommended it for dogs who live in endemic areas, or that are frequently in environments where ticks may be prevalent. The vaccines are most effective before any exposure to Lyme disease, so vaccinating as a puppy if you live in high- risk areas is something to consider, although vaccinating dogs who are grown or who have already been exposed to Lyme disease can still help to prevent reinfections. Yearly revaccination is necessary to maintain immunity for your dog. Talk to your veterinarian about whether the Lyme disease vaccine is right for your dog.

Being knowledgeable about Lyme disease and taking steps to prevent your dog from contracting is it greatly preferable to having to treat your dog for Lyme disease once it has been infected.


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Meet Our Team

  • Dr. Laura  Neuhaus (Raiff) Photo
    Dr. Laura Neuhaus (Raiff)


    Dr. Laura Neuhaus is a graduate of the University of Missouri - College of Veterinary Medicine. Following graduation, she completed an emergency and specialty medicine internship at VCA Emergency Animal Hospital and Referral Center in San Diego. She enjoys ophthalmology and has a special interest in avian medicine. Her hobbies include gardening, hiking, and spending time outdoors. She is the proud parent of a cat and 2 parrotlets.
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    Dr. Mitchell Meyerhoeffer


    A Virginia native, Dr. Mitchell Meyerhoeffer (Dr. M is fine!) started his career in the veterinary field in high school at Chesterfield Technical Center's veterinary science program. He completed his undergraduate degree in Biology at Virginia Commonwealth University while working as a veterinary assistant in a specialty and emergency hospital. Dr. M then completed his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine training at Virginia Tech, enjoying the hiking and outdoor scenery in Blacksburg when he could ...
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    Veterinary Technician

    Beth joined the GAH staff in April 2010. Originally from Maryland, she now lives in the Gloucester area. She has been working as a Licensed Veterinary Technician since graduating from Blue Ridge Community College in 1989. Away from work, she enjoys reading and working her dogs in obedience and agility classes. She has two dogs, three cats, four ferrets and three reptiles.
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    Veterinary Assistant

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    Treatment Team Lead

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    Kennel Care Team Lead

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    Kennel Care Team

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    Kennel Care Team

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    Kennel Care Team

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    Professional Groomer

    I'm Aidan, and I'm not your typical groomer. I'm a passionate animal lover with a heart full of love for our furry friends. Every day, I get the incredible opportunity to work my magic as a groomer at the renowned Grafton Animal Hospital. I can't express just how much I adore what I do. It's not just a job; it's a calling. I find immense joy in transforming your beloved pets into the best versions of themselves. Whether it's a shaggy dog that needs a fresh haircut, a cat in need of a spa day, or ...
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    Practice Manager

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    Front Desk Supervisor

    Ricky came to Grafton Animal Hospital in April of 2011. He was a little shy at first, but once he became more comfortable with us, he became one of the team. Ricky is a Congo African Grey Parrot. We think he is around 10 years old, but no one is sure. He will sometimes put on a show of whistling, talking, singing and dancing, and imitating sounds like telephones and coughing. Visit our Facebook page for an opportunity to see Ricky in action.
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    Staff Meeting Coordinator

    Lucy joined the Grafton Animal Hospital reception team as the new Noisemaker bird in September 2016. After losing our long-time mascot, Croaker, earlier that year, we learned of a young Quaker parrot available for adoption at the Peninsula Regional Animal Shelter and decided she might be a good fit for the clinic. Lucy quickly made herself at home and before long, she was showing the staff who was really in charge. She is generally pretty friendly, so you will often see the staff holding her. ...
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    Daisy & Duke

    Staff Meeting Coordinators

    Daisy and Duke joined the GAH team in June of 2009. They were stray kittens that needed a home, and Squeaks was in need of a brother or sister. After some convincing, we were able to keep both. If you haven’t seen our kittens roaming the clinic, it’s because they are still learning their way around. For now, they are great morale boosters that keep us entertained during our staff meetings.
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    Grooming Manager

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    Kennel Care Team

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