We all want our pets to be healthy, and some of us really go out
of our way to make that happen. Take Marie Shelto, who gave her
dog, Bocker, flea and tick protection year-round, and always
checked his fur for ticks after even so much as a dash
outside.Living in upstate New York and then in Westchester, the
danger from ticks is more present than it might be for pet
elsewhere in the US
, but Marie has always known the dangers that ticks bring, and
has determinedly taken all the suggested steps for keeping dogs
safe from ticks: she uses a
monthly flea and tick preventative
, and she checks Bocker for ticks—even finding them crawling in
his coat from time to time, though never attached to his
skin.Imagine her surprise when her dog contracted Lyme disease,
not even just once, but twice!
A Famously Charming and Helpful Pooch
is a Labradoodle, a mix of
, and he’s also a mix of a homebody and a star. You may know him
from roles in
Eat, Pray, Love
War of the Worlds
, or you may recognize his curls from a Tommy Hilfiger ad.Or, you
may know him for his work as a therapy dog—Bocker is certified
with Therapy Dogs International and helps young students learn to
read as a confidence-building Tail Wagging Tutor. He's also made
trips to Sandy Hook, CT
, to provide therapy and show love and support for the surviving
families of the school shooting.He's so personable and warm that
Shelto says while working as a therapy dog, he can just tell
which children want him to come in close for pets and hugs, and
which ones simply want him by their side. His eyes and demeanor
are so soulful that during photo shoots for his ad appearances,
photographers have asked, "Who is the person inside the furry
So how did this personable pooch end up with Lyme? To help get
the word out about this dangerous illness during
Lyme Aid Awareness Month
, we talked to Shelto about Bocker’s experience with Lyme, and
what she knows now that she didn’t before.When Bocker first
showed signs that something was wrong, symptoms came on suddenly.
He was three years old and "all of a sudden one day, could not
even walk, couldn't stand up" Shelto says. She took him to the
veterinarian, where he was able to limp inside, and a blood test
showed that he'd contracted Lyme.After one day of antibiotic
treatment, Bocker was back to normal. He finished the course of
antibiotics, and was in the clear.Until September 2012, that is,
when a routine blood test at the vet showed he had Lyme disease
again. This time, not only had Shelto seen no ticks, Bocker
hadn't even exhibited any symptoms of illness. "I was floored,"
she says.Being a working dog like he is, Bocker gets more
grooming and primping than most, and Shelto routinely used a flea
comb to go over his fur after being outside. Nevertheless, the
bacterial disease was there, so Bocker took another course of
antibiotics and has been symptom-free since.
"Talk about being confused," Shelto says of how she felt. After
following the normal recommendations of using flea and tick
protection and regularly checking Bocker for ticks, Bocker still
contracted the disease twice. What's more, two veterinarians
who've seen Bocker over the years have different opinions on the
Lyme vaccine -- a common topic of contention amongst vets.Lyme
disease is a difficult illness to diagnose and treat, not just in
pets, but in people, too. Part of the problem is that the
vary from person to person (and pet to pet), and could crop up
days after a bite, or weeks or even months afterwards. Bocker
experienced lameness in his legs the first time he had Lyme, but
he'd never had a fever, lost his appetite, or became lethargic.
Like Shelto, you could find your pet with Lyme disease and never
even have seen the tick.Bocker was never given the Lyme disease
vaccine because his "original doctor didn't want it," Shelto
says. Their veterinarian at the time felt there was little
benefit to the vaccine, and explained that some dogs actually
develop symptoms of Lyme from the vaccine. She's since been told
that the vaccine may have helped. "It doesn't seem like
there's a heck of a lot of clarity about it, and that's a shame."
Bocker is now off his antibiotics and has had no recurring
symptoms, so hopefully that'll be the end of his run-ins with the
disease."If I ever get another dog," Shelto says, "what do I do?
I'm still unsure." If she had gone to a vet who'd recommend the
vaccine, she wonders, "would that have prevented it, or
not?"Shelto says that in the end, "it's really tricky" but
"awareness is the key," because in addition to transmitting
diseases to our pets, ticks "can wind up on you."Shelto says that
in her experience, ticks are more active in her area in October,
rather than in the early spring and summer, so pet parents should
be aware that tick season may be longer than what is commonly
Lyme Disease Awareness Month: Get Informed All Month Long
Lyme Disease Awareness
, which is fitting because flea and tick season has begun! That
means ticks are out and about already this year, and you and your
pets could contract Lyme.
What is Lyme
is a serious illness caused by a bacteria that ticks transmit
when they bite. The blacklegged tick, or
, most commonly carries Lyme. Our dogs are subject to Lyme when
we take them hiking, and we're subject to the disease as well.
, too, can sometimes contract Lyme.
3 Things You Probably Didn't
Know About Lyme
1. Lyme is difficult to
Many victims of Lyme have had the experience of being
misdiagnosed, or they just assume their symptoms are the result
of being too stressed or tired.
can vary from person to person, and can seem insignificant at
first, like fatigue or flu-like symptoms, but can progress to
kidney, heart, and nervous system issues if untreated.
can also be difficult to recognize.
2. Symptoms can become be very
While a rash and a fever are unpleasant, these potential early
indicators of Lyme are mild in comparison to kidney, heart, and
nervous system issues. Some victims of Lyme have hallucinations,
experience memory loss, and have trouble staying focused, to the
point where work becomes impossible.
3. In some cases, Lyme disease
might become incurable:
Sometimes Lyme just won't go away, even after treatment. People
who live with the disease must constantly manage their symptoms.
So What Can I Do?
Be informed and be alert! Stay tuned all month as we cover
how Lyme affects dogs, cats, and people, and how you can be
You can follow Bocker on
his Facebook page,
of which Shelto says, "he does all himself; I don't get
involved."*Photos courtesy of Marie Shelto