As we begin to spend more and more time outside in the beautiful weather, it cannot be stressed enough that we need to protect our pets from ticks and the possibility of contracting Lyme Disease. We already touched on the topic of ticks here, however today we are going to dive a little deeper into the topic of Lyme Disease, which can cause serious health issues to our precious pets. 

What is Lyme Disease?

Lyme Disease is an illness that is caused, not necessarily by a tick, but actually by the bacteria of a tick bite. Although only carried through certain types of ticks, detection can be difficult and the disease can lead to serious, recurring health issues. These health issues can affect everything from organs to joints. If bitten by a tick carrying this bacteria, these side effects can not only occur in humans, but also in animals, including our beloved pets.

How can my pet get it?

Ticks, as we already learned in our previous post, live in the great outdoors-mostly wooded and grassy areas. Many believe that ticks are only a concern during spring and summer. However, since ticks live pretty much everywhere, Lyme Disease is a year round concern when it comes to our fur babies. 

Ticks wait in grassy areas for another living animal to pass by and use that opportunity to latch on. If our pets get bitten by a bacteria-carrying tick, then they can very well become infected. It takes about 1-2 days for the bacteria to enter the bloodstream, which is why it is crucial to be diligent about daily tick checks. 

Side effects

It’s important to know that sometimes it can take up to 5 months for side effects to start showing in animals. Again this is another reason why it is extremely important to inform your vet if your pet has been bitten by a tick.  If the disease has been transmitted to your pet, there are multiple side effects that could affect your pet’s health and behavior. These side effects include:

  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Joint stiffness
  • Lameness
  • Swelling
  • Lethargy

Every animal is different, however if your pet is experiencing any of these side effects and was bitten by a tick, then seek veterinary attention. 

Long term effects

Lyme Disease can cause many severe health conditions if left untreated. Animals have different reactions to how their bodies are affected by this disease. Many suffer from kidney and heart damage, which can be fatal. Others may suffer from difficulties with the nervous system, including paralysis and seizures. In some cases, vision impairment and skin issues have also been reported among pet owners. 

Detection and treatment

Antibodies that fight the bacteria can be detected 4 to 6 weeks after the bite and can help in confirming diagnosis. Lyme disease can be determined by a simple blood test performed by your vet. One test, the C6, will detect antibodies in the system up to three to five weeks after the tick bite. A follow-up test, a Quant C6, will assess the number of antibodies and determine if antibiotic treatment is required.

Once confirmed, your veterinarian will prescribe an antibiotic, usually doxycycline, to be given for around 4 weeks. Some animals may require a second round of treatment or other methods of treatment including therapies that target specific ailments, such as joint pain or lameness. Depending on the severity of the disease and the animal’s reaction to it, some side effects may be lifelong. 

Preventions

By applying a monthly flea and tick treatment to your pet, will help greatly reduce the risk of Lyme Disease. Although these medications do not repel the pesky bloodsuckers, they do kill them once they bite. This is perfectly fine because if the tick is killed less than 24 hours after latching on to your pet, the disease cannot be transmitted. 

Talking with your veterinarian about the Lyme Disease vaccination is a great idea and most vets will recommend getting it, especially if you live in highly wooded or grassy areas. 

Daily checks cannot be stressed enough. If your pet is spending a lot of time outdoors, then check them daily! Make sure you pay close attention to the ears, paw pads, toes, eyes, tail, and gums. If you have a dog with long hair, make sure to brush him daily and closely look through the fur to check the skin. 

Remember if you do find a tick remove it as quickly as possible and try to contain it so that you can have your vet test it for Lyme Disease. Being as proactive and preventative as possible will help keep your pet safe and healthy.