You may be hearing more about Lyme disease recently, and for good reason. Current estimates from the CDC show that 300,000 to 400,000 people in the US are diagnosed or treated for Lyme disease yearly. The disease affects humans and animals and, if left untreated, can result in painful complications. 

Lyme disease is a bacterial infection transmitted by the bite of an infected tick. The bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi is responsible for Lyme disease, which has become the most common vector-borne disease in the United States. 

With spring rains, moist air, and tall, green grass, now is the time to prevent this debilitating disease’s spread to your pets. Felton Veterinary Hospital shares a few tips for how to keep your best friend safe.

Lyme Disease in Pets 

Lyme disease spreads when a tick feeds on an infected host, such as a rodent or bird (deer do not carry the bacterium responsible for Lyme disease), and then transmits it to another animal (or person) through its bite. The black-legged tick (also known as the deer tick) spreads the disease in the mid-Atlantic, Northeastern, and north-central US. The Western black-legged tick spreads the disease on the Pacific Coast.

Dogs are most commonly affected by Lyme disease, but cats and other mammals are also susceptible. Symptoms aren’t always obvious and can lead to recurring health challenges. Diagnosis can often be difficult since signs of Lyme disease in pets can independently resolve, only to reappear months later. 

Signs of Lyme disease in dogs include:

  • Fever 
  • Joint pain (may manifest as uneven gait)
  • Lethargy
  • Inappatance 
  • Lameness

If you see any of these symptoms, don’t hesitate to have your pet evaluated in our office. Antibiotics are effective at treating Lyme disease, and the sooner they are administered, the better off your pet will be. 

Understanding Ticks

Ticks are notorious for spreading disease and can infect your pets (and you) with Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Anaplasmosis, and Babesiosis. Year-round parasite protection for your dog is the most effective way to prevent Lyme disease. However, even if your pet isn’t particularly outdoorsy, you could inadvertently bring a tick inside after even an innocent neighborhood stroll. 

Baby ticks, or nymphs, gear up in the spring to become adults in the fall by feeding in the spring and summer. These tiny ticks thrive in overgrown, grassy, shrubby, or forested environments. Like the spiders they are related to, ticks can position themselves on the tips of grasses and wait for their next host to walk by. A host may be a deer, rodent, possum, lizard, rabbit, or a pet. 

Preventing Lyme Disease in Pets

The most important tool for preventing Lyme disease is the consistent use of year-round preventives. We carry several safe, effective monthly preventives with topical and chewable options to keep your dog tick-free. We also carry the Seresto tick collar, a great way to prevent ticks from crawling onto your dog during outdoor adventures or backyard romps. Talk to your veterinarian about the best option for your pet. 

The ability to transmit disease is only possible after a day or two of active bloodsucking, so it is imperative to check for ticks daily and remove them immediately. 

Take these steps to remove a tick from your pet safely.

  • Use a pair of tweezers or a tick removal tool to gently grasp the tick at the base near your pet’s skin.v ons n.
  • Pull the tick directly up and out without twisting or turning.
  • Clean the site with rubbing alcohol or a pet-safe disinfectant.
  • You may want to preserve the tick in rubbing alcohol to have it tested for Lyme disease.

Other ways to prevent Lyme disease in pets include:

  • When walking or hiking with your dog, keep them out of grassy or heavily wooded areas.
  • Stay on marked paths while hiking, and always wear light-colored long sleeves and pants in the woods. Consider a chemical or herbal bug repellent while you are outside. 
  • When you come inside, run your clothes immediately in the dryer. The washer does not kill them, but the heat of the dryer will. 
  • Inspect your pet thoroughly for ticks each time they come inside. Pay special attention to the ears, groin, armpits, toes, and base of the tail.
  • Control ticks in your yard by removing brush, leaf litter, and overgrown grassy areas. Maintain fencing to prevent wildlife from bringing ticks into your yard.
  • Talk to your veterinarian to determine if your pet might be a good candidate for Lyme disease testing or a vaccine.

If you have further concerns or questions about Lyme disease in pets, we encourage you to contact us at 831-335-3466.