April is Prevention of Lyme Disease in Dogs Month

By: Cate Burnett

Ticks and Canine Lyme Disease – What To Watch For With Our Pets

According to the Companion Animal Parasite Council, 5686 dogs out of 34,545 tested positive for tick-borne diseases, including Lyme disease and Ehrlichiosis, in the state of Texas in 2015. As of this publication date in 2016, 754 dogs have already shown as positive. With warmer weather now upon us, the tick population in the southern US is expanding. This increases the chances of our canine companions contracting these deadly diseases.

Because April is Prevention of Lyme Disease in Dogs Month, we want to place the focus on this chronic and painful disease and discuss what we as pet parents can do to keep our dogs healthy and happy year round.

History of Lyme Disease and Geographical Regions

Veterinarians first diagnosed canine Lyme disease in Connecticut in 1975, although scientific evidence indicates that the ailment has existed in wildlife for a number of years. Recent DNA testing to preserved tissue from a mouse that died in 1894 shows that the mouse was infected with the disease.

Dogs throughout the US can by affected by Lyme disease; however, it is only prevalent in wooded and rural areas where there is a high concentration of ticks. Eighty-five percent of all cases occur in the eastern coastal states from Maine to Virginia. The Northern Plains states and the Mid-West (Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan) account for the second highest incidence level of reported disease. The West Coast and the Southeastern states from Texas to Georgia and the Floridian peninsula rank next.

The reported increase of Lyme disease in the 20th Century is thought to be due to certain environmental factors. Prior to 1900, areas of this country were heavily settled and deforested, reducing native deer populations and the deer ticks that carry Lyme disease. Now that many of those same areas are being re-planted and restored, the numbers of deer are increasing. This coupled with increased awareness and testing capabilities has led to the greatly increased reporting of the disease.

Transmission of Lyme Disease and Life Cycle of the Tick

Lyme disease is caused by Borrelia burgdorferi, a type of bacteria call a ‘spirochete’ for its spiral shape. The primary carriers of this bacterium are the Eastern black-legged tick (also called the deer tick) and the Western black-legged tick. Extremely small, ranging in size from a grain of sand to a sesame seed, black-legged ticks live in shady, moist ground and can be found clinging to tall grasses, brush, shrubs, and low-hanging tree branches. They can also be found in gardens and lawns at the edges of wooded areas where deer and mice, the ticks’ preferred hosts, flourish.

Just about this time of year in the spring, tick larvae begin to emerge from eggs that were laid in the fall. The larvae feeds on small woodland mammals like mice and, if the mouse is infected, the larva enters the tick’s body through its saliva. This infected larva grows until the following spring where it molts into an adult tick. The infected adult tick then feeds on a larger mammal – namely your dog or you – and passes the B. burgdorferi into the bloodstream.

For the tick to transmit the bacteria, it must be attached to its victim for about 48 hours. If the tick dies or is removed before that time, transmission of the bacteria does not occur. Even if the tick is attached for more than 48 hours, your dog may not contract the disease.

Infected dogs pose no risk of transmitting the Lyme disease to other canine or human members of the household. After a full meal (the allotted 48 hours), ticks detach and don’t feed again for several days. There is a risk from ticks that have not eaten fully and become detached in that they might seek out another mammal to feed and pass on the infection.

Symptoms of Canine Lyme Disease

The clinical signs of Lyme disease typically occur 2 to 5 months after a bite from an infected tick. Unlike humans, dogs do not develop the rash or circular red area commonly seen around the tick bite.

Your infected dog may present with…


•A high, persistent fever of between 103 and 105ºF

•Swollen lymph nodes

•Joint swelling and inflammation


•Loss of appetite

•Stiff walk with an arched back

•Touch sensitivity

•Breathing difficulties

Additionally, some dogs develop chronic, progressive kidney disease as a result of the Lyme disease. Because this consequence is extremely difficult to treat, most veterinarians will recommend running additional blood work on your affected dog to check for continuing renal function. Chronic cardiac problems and nervous disorders have also been seen in some pets diagnosed with Lyme disease.

The clinical signs of Lyme disease may be ongoing and chronic. Some dogs can be perfectly fine one day and showing symptoms the next. A proper diagnosis and long-term veterinary treatment are typically necessary to clear your dog of the organism and prevent a relapse.

All breeds of dogs are equally susceptible to Lyme disease, though dogs used for hunting or other outdoor sporting activities are at higher risk for exposure to ticks.


Lyme disease is usually diagnosed based on a medical history that includes the possibility of tick exposure, suspicious clinical signs, and results of diagnostic testing.

Several laboratory tests can identify the B. burgdorferi organism in blood or tissues. Additionally, a quantitative antibody test (QC6) can measure the level of antibodies in the bloodstream of your affected dog to determine whether treatment is recommended.

More commonly, veterinarians use an in-clinic SNAP test to check for all tick-borne diseases including Lyme disease, ehrlichiosis and anaplasmosis. Similar to the common heartworm test, this SNAP test is very accurate, uses only a tiny amount of blood and only takes a few minutes to show results.

Your veterinarian may recommend additional diagnostic tests if your dog shows signs that other organs may be affected by the bacteria causing the Lyme disease.

Treatment and Prognosis

Treatment of Lyme disease generally consists of administration of antibiotics and (if necessary) other medications to temporarily help control joint pain and other clinical signs. Doxycycline is the most common antibiotic that is prescribed for Lyme disease, but others are also available and effective.

Your dog will probably be treated as an outpatient unless other ailments relative to the Lyme disease (severe kidney and/or cardiac involvement) are detected.

Some dogs show dramatic improvement after only a few days of receiving antibiotics, but most veterinarians now recommend a 28- to 30-day course of treatment. Unfortunately, the antibiotic treatment does not always completely eliminate infection with B. burgdorferi bacteria. Relapses are not uncommon, so pet parents are advised to monitor their dogs carefully for signs of illness.

Protection from Lyme Disease

The best protection against Lyme disease is prevention. Prevention means:

•Give your pet a flea and tick preventative that can help ensure an infected tick that attaches itself dies before reaching the 48-hour mark, that time period necessary to transmit the disease. Be sure to discuss preventatives with your vet so they can recommend one that is suitable according to your dog’s risk.

•Keep your pets away from tall grass and wooded areas to decrease their exposure to ticks, thus decreasing the odds of getting bit.

•Vaccinations have been developed that help protect against Lyme disease. This is something you should discuss with your veterinarian to decide whether this method of prevention is right for you.

Please Note: If you suspect the tick found on your dog is a black-legged tick, save the tick in a sealed container of alcohol and take it, and your pet, directly to your veterinarian for diagnostic testing.

A quick diagnosis and early treatment can save your pet from a painful, and sometimes deadly, disease.



Cate Burnette is a semi-retired registered veterinary technician with clinical experience in small and large animal medicine. With 30-plus years of journalism experience, she went back to school after 9/11 to work with her first love: animals. The pet parent of four cats, three dogs and one ex-racehorse, Cate is a certified rescue volunteer with the American Humane Association’s Red Star Emergency Services and served with the group in New Orleans doing animal search and rescue after Hurricane Katrina. She is also a horse safety and horse management expert, and has volunteered with US Pony Clubs as a district commissioner and horse management judge.

Spring Is Here! Where to Take Your Dog in Austin and Dallas

Spring is a great time to take advantage of all the fun, dog-friendly places to visit in the Austin and Dallas areas! To enjoy the warm and sunny (but not yet scorching) days, check out:

Area dog parks: Dallas and Austin both boast a large number of off-leash dog parks where your furry friend can run, jump, and play to his heart’s content. In Dallas, check out Bark Park Central, Meadows Dog Park, and Mutts Canine Cantina; in Austin, you can try Red Bud Isle or West Austin Dog Park – and that’s just scratching the surface!

Katy Trail: Three and a half miles of beautiful trail for walking or running with your pup – what could be better when the Dallas weather is perfect?

Zilker Botanical Gardens: Your leashed dog is welcome to explore the unusual plant life and themed areas of this beautiful Austin attraction.

Half Price Books: With locations in Austin and Dallas, Half Price Books is the perfect escape for a rainy spring day when you need to get out of the house. Leashed, well-mannered dogs are welcome to peruse the shelves along with their owners and find something new to read.

2nd Street District: You simply have to visit 2nd Street District in Austin, where leashed dogs are welcome on all restaurant patios and inside many of the shops.

Dallas and Austin are both highly dog-friendly cities. Besides the above-listed options, a little digging of your own will reveal lots more choices.  Where’s your favorite spot?  Let us know in the comments.

Enjoy spring with your pup!

Celebrate Cinco de Mayo with Your Dog in Dallas and Austin!

It is finally upon us. You’ve dreamt of it for months. Time to lick the salt off the side of your margarita glass and CHEERS. Cinco de Mayo, the long standing excuse for Americans to whoop it up, all while donning authentic sombreros and shaking their rumbas. But for some of us, the mere mention of Cinco de Mayo brings on visions of sunshine, patios, and our pups on a leash.

How lucky our little canine buddies are that we live in the day and age of pet—friendly EVERYTHING! Dallas and Austin have more than just a handful of restaurant and bar patios that quite literally cater to our furry friends. So this Cinco de Mayo, don’t leave your 4 legged buddy at home. Leash him up, throw on your walkin’ shoes and head on down to one of these reputable and inviting “places with a patio” to soak up the sun and sip on sangria.  We’ll also be celebrating the 14th anniversary of VIP Pets on this special day!


Iron Cactus Mexican Grill and Margarita Bar
1520 Main St
Dallas, TX, US 75201
(214) 749-4766

If you want to take the holiday-appropriate route, visit Iron Cactus Mexican Grill and Margarita Bar, where the drinks are served refreshingly cold and patrons with dogs can dine on the lower patio.

4544 Mckinney Ave
Dallas, TX, US 75205

Indulge in some delectable Tex-Mex and if you go during happy hour, you can take advantage of the FREE nacho bar! With 2 patios, there is plenty of room for you and your dog!

614 W Davis St
Dallas, TX, US 75208

If organic and local fare is what you desire, check out this New American-style restaurant which offers dog-friendly outdoor seating.

3715 Greenville Ave
Dallas, TX, US
(214) 874-0088

You can’t beat FREE warm black bean dip! Not only that, upon arrival your pooch will be treated to a cool dish of water. This Tex-Mex option is second to none and receives rave reviews.

Cafe Madrid
4501 Travis St
Dallas, TX, US
(214) 528-1731

If it’s authentic Spanish tapas and sangria you are in the mood for, you have got to do yourself a favor and head over to Café Madrid. They encourage pets to join their owners on the sunny (weather permitting) patio.

The Pooch Patio
3811 Fairmount Street
Dallas, TX 75219

If you’re looking for an alternative to margaritas and Mexican food, be sure you and your dog stop by this java haus and beer wine bistro. As the name implies, they love dogs!


Moonshine Patio Bar & Grill
303 Red River St
Austin, TX, US 78701
(512) 236-9599

Dogs are ALWAYS welcome at the Moonshine. Head on over to satiate your palette trying cutting-edge twists on Southern classics in an ambiance relatable to your own backyard patio. Added bonus: they feature a renowned Sunday buffet!

Doc’s Motorworks
1123 S. Congress Ave.
Austin, TX, US 78745
(512) 448-9181

If it’s a big juicy burger you are searching for to satisfy your hunger, enjoy one on the dog-friendly patio beneath an array of colorful umbrellas.

Ski Shores Waterfront Cafe
2905 Pearce Rd
Austin, TX, US 78730

For scenic and painting-worthy views of Lake Austin, you must visit Ski Shores Waterfront Café. Serving wings, tacos, chicken tenders, and burgers, dogs are welcome on the patio. Best of luck keeping your little buddy from taking a dip in the inviting water!

Freddie’s Place
1703 S 1st St
Austin, TX, US 78704
(512) 445-9197

Once you hear the items on this menu, you will find your mouth oddly salivating at the mere thought of Freddie’s Place. Located in South Central Austin, Freddie’s serves American Comfort food for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Enjoy Freddie’s S#!t on a Shingle for Breakfast, a Triple Decker DE-luxe Grilled Cheese for lunch, or devour the Fredelvis (burger with meat, peanut butter, bacon, and bananas) for dinner. Your pooch is welcome to join you at the outdoor seating.

Guero’s Taco Bar
1412 S Congress Ave
Austin, TX, US 78704
(512) 447-7688

Pets are welcome to accompany you to Guero’s where the salsa is always flowing and the Tex-Mex food is second to none. This is one of the livelier spots around, so pop in and join the fun next time you are strolling by.

If you are in Dallas, be sure to check out the historic Big Parade & Festival Dallas Cinco de Mayo en la calle Jefferson, May 7, 2016 from 10am to 4pm.  This is expected to be the largest celebration in Dallas showcasing a parade, festival, main stage, tailgating, car show & more.  Learn more at

And if you’re in Austin, make your way over to the Cinco de Mayo Austin Fiesta May 7-8, 2016 at the Fiesta Garden Park.  This fun event includes music from the best artists in Texas and a Polka Dance Contest.  Learn more at

Want to leave your dog at home on Cinco de Mayo? No problem!  A VIP Pet Sitter is the solution! Contact us today.

Be the Top Dog! How to Find the Best Dog Trainers in Dallas and Austin

Following up on our recent blog post “VIP New Puppy & Kitten Care: Best Practices for Your Newest Family Member”, this week’s blog post will cover another extremely important subject: dog training- specifically dog trainers in Dallas and Austin.

January is National Dog Training Month and The Association of Professional Dog Trainers wants you to make training a part of everyday life with your dog. Any dog, regardless of age, can benefit from training.  Visitors to the APDT website and will find helpful resources for pet parents and professionals alike. The site features suggestions for activities to do with your dog as well as a dog trainer search tool. APDT has a membership of over 5,000 dog training professionals worldwide. In October, the APDT will hold their annual conference and trade show in Dallas, TX.

Both Dallas and Austin boast a wide variety of top dog trainers with different styles and approaches. Take a look at some of these Yelp favorites: for Austin (check out all the 5 star reviews!) and in Dallas  Not everyone can be the famed “Dog Whisperer” Cesar Millan, but do some research and you’ll find a trainer that fits well with your lifestyle.

Pet parents have more options than ever before to meet their dog training and obedience needs. A professional trainer can come to your home for private instructions or hold group classes at a local park. Some pet supply shops, like national chain PetSmart, offer classes right in their store. There are also numerous books, DVDs and websites showcasing products for DIY dog training. Speaking of Cesar Millan, he shares loads of tips, tools and training DVDs on his website Also, if you are not yet ready to buy, YouTube features over 800,000 videos on dog training for free.

Dog agility classes are another great idea to get you and your pet moving! What is dog agility? Agility training is a dog sport that is ever-increasing in popularity. It is fun for dogs of any age or any size.  Agility training helps pet parents deepen the bond with their dogs. Participants develop mutual respect and communication skills while negotiating obstacles for praise and tasty treats. Competitions are routinely held in many areas of the country. For more information about dog agility resources in your area, check out the United States Dog Agility Association at

Remember, VIP Sitters are available to stop by as needed while you are away to reinforce training or just give your precious pooch a little extra TLC! Check out for more information.

Need a word-of-mouth recommendation for professional trainers or classes in your neighborhood? We can help with that too!

Have a dog training tip or story to share? Tell us in the comments below or over on our Facebook page.


Resident Pets

Reggie is a gray Wire-Haired terrier that my family adopted from a shelter in 6th grade. He has been part of my family for so long I cannot imagine my life without him. He is a very smart dog! My other dog is Tony. I am really not sure what type of breed he is. He has the colorings and looks of a Yorkshire terrier but he is BIG. Like nearly 20 pounds!! He is about 4 years old, a total lap dog and likes to eat EVERYTHING even if it is not food.

What I Enjoy Most About My Job

The most recent job I had was delivering packages to customers in the Dallas area. I was there for a year until the company lost the account. What that job instilled in me is that I LOVE working outside. Guess what the absolute best part of that was? Getting to see all the dogs getting walked. I have always loved animals and would love to be in any field related to them in any way.

Funniest Pet Experience

My cat, Sisqo, refuses to put his face in a water dish. Instead, he prefers to dip out small sips of water with his paw and lick it off. It is the funniest thing! I really need to get a video of it for TV.

What Our Pet Friends Teach Us

I think pets can teach us forgiveness. If you have forgotten to play a game of catch one day and your dog is disappointed, you can always count on them to be eager the next day with a clean slate ready to let you make it up to them. They don’t count your mistakes and hold them against you.

Jamie’s clients say:

… We are very, very pleased with what we’ve seen of VIP so
far, and are OVERJOYED to have Jamie coming this weekend.

Our last pet-sitter was very capable, but lacked warmth and a willingness to
interact with our dogs (which was one of the biggest reasons we hired them
in the first place).

Our initial meeting with Jamie cheered us up right away, and
dispelled any doubts we might’ve had about changing to a new pet sitting
service. She was very affectionate with our dogs (and this affection was
reciprocated). She represented your company very well, and seems like a
very good fit for us.

Matthew S

… We are relieved now to have found in Jamie someone who genuinely wants to keep our dogs happy while we are gone, instead of merely keeping them fed and watered. Jamie’s visits, and the care she put into her work, were in sharp contrast to what we were used to. We were not used to getting text message updates, much less a request from Jamie to contact HER when we arrived back home to let her know the dogs were okay. All doubts vanished with Jamie’s first text message, and we knew our dogs were in good hands. And it sure made it easier to enjoy our weekend at the horse show. The peace of mind Jamie gave us is a debt not easily repaid, but that won’t stop us from trying.

Matthew S


VIP Pet Sitter Jess with brown and white dog


Resident Pets

I have three pets. Lou(Ferrigno) is a tuxedo cat, he’s about 9 years old. Brooklyn(Fonsworthington) is a Shiba-Inu mix, he’s about 6 years old. Teddy(Theodore Froto) is a Yorkie, he is four years old. All my babies have middle names that start with F, just because. My friend gave me Lou, I adopted Brooklyn from a shelter, and Teddy is a love child from my mom’s dogs. We named him Teddy/Theodore because when he was a puppy he looked just like a teddy bear, but was also so tiny and had a chubby little behind like Theodore from Alvin and the Chipmunks!

Funniest Pet Experience

My pets are constantly making me laugh – picking one thing is so hard! I’ll give something funny that each of mine does or have done. When we go on walks and Brooklyn sees a squirrel, he will cry so loud and literally try to climb the tree to get to it, but he can’t so he just cries louder in this strange Shiba-Inu whine-cry. It’s funny but early mornings are embarrassing sometimes. Teddy lets me know that he has to go potty by sitting on my hand and staring at me. They both love swimming so it’s kind of funny when they jump in the pool in the middle of winter and realize it’s cold! When I first got my cat, my friend gave me a stuffed animal that was the same coloring and size as Lou, needless to say Lou thought it was his girlfriend and tried to make kittens, all the time.

What I Like Most About My Job

I love working with animals so much! I love that they are always so happy to see you, they are there for you at all times, and they always make me happy no matter what is going on.

What Our Pet Friends Teach Us

They can teach us so much. They teach us patience, kindness, sense of humor, unconditional love, and responsibility, to name a few.

Jess’s clients say:

just wanted to let you know…karen and jess are amazing!!

thanks so much!!