Ontario seeks more Island puppies for provincial tick study

MANITOULIN—Scott Veterinary Services in Mindemoya now has 12 dogs enrolled in the the Canadian K9 Lifetime Lyme Study, a province-wide study which is seeking to better identify, prevent and treat canine lyme disease and improve quality of life for both dogs and their people.

“It is going very well,” said Dr. Darren Stinson of Scott Veterinary Services of the clinic’s participation in the study. “We have 12 puppies which have been registered for the study. We are very pleased.”

Dr. Stinson learned about the study from Dr. Michelle Evason who did a talk on lyme disease at a conference he attended earlier this year, stressing the need for more information about where dogs are contracting lyme disease and how to prevent it. The study’s goal is to gather data on where ticks are in Canada and how to prevent the disease, as well as how to better manage the problem.

The study is being conducted by Dr. Scott Weese and Dr. Michelle Evason of the Department of Pathobiology at the University of Guelph.

“The purpose of the study is to enroll pet owners and their puppies (seven months of age or younger) that will be followed for evaluation of exposure to ticks carrying Borrelia Burdoferi (the cause of lyme disease) and their possible development of signs of illness due to lyme disease,” the consent form to participate in the research study states. “This is part of a larger long-term (lifetime) lyme disease and canine health study.”

The study will involve drawing blood from the participating puppy at the age of seven months (or less) and repeated every 6-12 months. The puppy owner will also be asked to complete an electronic or telephone questionnaire on the puppy at six-month intervals over the course of the study (three years). Commitment to the initial phase (three years) does not commit participants to the later phases of the study, but it is hoped that, long-term, the puppies and their owners will participate throughout the dog’s life. Participating in the study is free for the owner; they are simply responsible for bringing the puppy in for the blood tests and filling out the questionnaires.

As well, if a tick is found on the puppy, the owners are asked to submit it for testing.

Symptoms of lyme disease in canines include: fever, loss of appetite, reduced energy, lameness and generalized stiffness, discomfort or pain.

While none of the puppies enrolled in the study have tested positive for lyme disease, Scott Veterinary Services has seen numerous cases this year.

“My practice on Manitoulin has had seven cases of canine lyme disease this year,” he said. This is in addition to the six cases that The Expositor reported last year between the Island Animal Hospital and Scott Veterinary Services.

“We will be doing blood tests on the dogs at the six month check-in, which for many will be around December of this year or January 2018,” Dr. Stinson explained. “We will be looking for seroconvert—if they have been in contact with the disease.”

Dr. Stinson said he has seen a large growth in the number of ticks and as a result has added the lyme disease vaccination as part of their core vaccinations.

“We want to make the public aware that ticks and lyme disease are here,” he added. “We have been disappointed with the (Sudbury and District) Health Unit response.”

The study is still taking more puppies. If you have a puppy seven months old or younger, you can contact Scott Veterinary Services in Mindemoya for more information or to join the study.

For more information contact Dr. Stinson at 705-377-5666 or stop in at 2058 Highway 551, Mindemoya, Ontario.