While I always knew that Lyme Disease was dangerous and even devastating for humans, I thought dogs were immune to the worst of it. That is, until we lost our dog to this awful disease.

Jim and I pride ourselves on being 'dog people.' We include the dogs in as many activities as we can, and consider them members of the family. And we thought we were pretty in tune with their health, keeping track of things like eating and bathroom habits, fleas, and skin rashes. We used tick and flea repellents often and checked the dogs frequently for the tiny biters.

Copernicus was like our baby. We'd raised him from a pup and nursed him through several bouts of worms in his first year, and rashes that the vet said were allergic reactions to flea bites. Pernicus almost never picked up ticks, unlike our other dog, Lola, who is a long-haired Golden Retriever that loves to roll around in the woods. She picked up ticks daily and we were always pulling them off her. However, she's never suffered any ill effects from being bitten.

When we heard about the Lyme vaccine at the vet's office, we opted not to do it. Our understanding was that Lyme disease was not that common in dogs, and that those who contracted it mostly dealt with a little muscle stiffness. Unfortunately, our ignorance cost our poor Pernicus his life when the disease that we didn't even know he had spread to his kidneys. At that point, Lyme is 100% fatal in dogs. We had no choice but to say goodbye to our beautiful pup when he was only 3 years old.

So, in honor of him, I'm spreading the word. Lyme Disease is very common in Maine dogs. Our forested state is a prime environment for the deer tick that spreads this horrible disease. Dogs very often show no symptoms of having Lyme. While many will show signs like lameness, malaise, or lack of appetite, some will have no outward indication that there's something wrong.

In Pern's case, he was happy and active until one summer day when he became finicky about his food. We didn't think anything of it because he went through phases like that occasionally. Usually it was just before Lola went into heat or just 'because.' He'd always snapped out of it. By Saturday, he would only eat boiled chicken. We vowed to take him to the vet on Monday because, other than that, he seemed okay. But by Monday morning, he was walking very stiffly and hadn't eaten since Saturday evening. After four days of pushing fluids through his system in an effort to flush out an infection in his kidneys, the vet discovered that he had Lyme.

Don't go through what we went through. Get your pet the Lyme vaccine. It's not 100%, but it's better than leaving them unprotected. Use a flea repellent that also prevents ticks from biting. Even the combination of the two won't guarantee that your pet won't get a tick, and won't get Lyme. But it drastically reduces the chances. And, if they do get sick, at least you'll know that you did everything you could. Many pets live with Lyme Disease every day. They have medications that help them to live happy, healthy lives. Pern's case was rare, just like him. But I'd hate to see any other family lose their beloved pet over something they might have been able to prevent.