Sadly, Lyme Disease is now found in all 50 states. It is considered a common infectious disease in the Northeast but don’t fool yourself if you live elsewhere, this problem has spread and most likely will continue to. The disease is transmitted to pets and humans by ticks. And although it is not a common disease in cats, they can get it and more importantly, they can bring ticks into your home that may transmit Lyme disease to you.
The very best way to prevent Lyme Disease is to take preventative measures to lessen the chance of your pet picking up ticks and contracting the disease. This includes staying away from tick-infested areas, checking yourself and your pet for ticks, removing any ticks you find, and if you live in an area with a high Lyme rate using preventative medications that will kill ticks (and fleas) before they transmit the disease to your pet (or you). There are several canine vaccines to prevent Lyme disease; it’s a good idea to discuss their pros and cons with your vet.
Some dogs show clinical symptoms of illness when infected with Lyme, and others don’t, so there is some debate on whether you should treat dogs that are not showing symptoms. This is something you should discuss with your veterinarian if your dog tests positive for this disease. Symptoms of Lyme are lameness, lack of appetite, fever, a stiff walk, joint pain, and general malaise. More severe complications can include damage to your dog’s organs.
Diagnosis will include blood work. If your pet tests positive for Lyme, then most likely they will need antibiotics. Most dogs recover fully. This is not a zoonotic disease, which means that your pet can’t give you the disease if they have it, but you can get Lyme if a tick comes into your home on your dog or cat and then bites you.
Even if the incidence of Lyme is low where you live, be aware that there are many other diseases transmitted by ticks. To keep your pets and family safe have a heart to heart with your vet, and then you’ll have the information you need to decide what measures you need to take to protect everyone.
Spring is the time when ticks are very active so make a plan now and stick to it so you’ll all have a healthy 2019!