What is Lyme disease?
Lyme disease is caused by a bacterial infection that is carried by ticks, particularly deer ticks. Dogs that spend much of their time outside in the yard, in parks, or running around a farm are most at risk for getting Lyme disease. However, even pets that only walk outside long enough to do their business can contract Lyme. People can also contract Lyme disease from the same ticks, so it is very important to check yourself and your pets for ticks after spending time outside.
What are the signs of Lyme?
Lyme disease can cause fever, a lack of appetite, and loss of energy. This disease can also cause arthritis. Some animals may seem like they are trying get sympathy from their owners by being lame on one leg, and switching to another. Dogs do not try to make you feel bad for them, however. Lameness that shifts to different legs can be a big indicator of Lyme disease. It is very important to have your pet tested and treated if this is suspected. Lyme disease that is left untreated can lead to kidney failure and very serious joint disease.
How is Lyme diagnosed?
There is a 4Dx test that can be done right at your clinic which screens for Lyme disease. Any animal that has been exposed to the bacteria will show a positive on this small blood test. If the 4Dx test is positive, sending an additional sample of blood to a lab for testing is highly recommended. The lab work will show if the animal is actively fighting Lyme disease and needs treatment with antibiotics.
How can I prevent Lyme?
The best way to prevent Lyme disease is to use a tick preventative year-round. The tick needs to bite your pet in order to transmit the bacteria and cause disease. Using a veterinary approved tick preventative is the recommended way to prevent Lyme disease in our pets. Talk to your veterinarian about the products they recommend. At Lake Road Animal Hospital, we recommend Bravecto, Scalibor or Seresto collars, or Activyl Tick Plus for dogs. Bravecto is a chewable tablet that gives three months of protection against fleas and ticks. The Scalibor collar is offered for free with the Revolution package at our clinic, and provides six months of tick and flea protection. The Seresto collar protects against fleas and ticks for six to eight months and can be used on cats as well as dogs. Activyl Tick Plus is a monthly topical product and protects against fleas and ticks, but should only be used on dogs as this product is toxic to cats. The variety of products ensures that you can find the best fit for your pet. We can help you find the right product for your pet’s needs and lifestyle. Even though most insects are not a threat in the northeast during the winter, it is best to still have tick preventatives on board in case you travel with your pets or in the event of a winter thaw that allows the ticks to emerge for any length of time.
There is also a vaccine for Lyme that is done in a two shot series and then protects your pet for one year. This vaccine requires one yearly booster. Pets that have tested positive for Lyme and those who spend much of their time outdoors are highly recommended to get this vaccine. Before administering the vaccine, it is recommended to run an in-house test to make sure your pet does not already have Lyme disease before vaccination. Only healthy pets should be vaccinated so they have the best possible response to the vaccine.
What should I do if I find a tick?
If you find a tick on your pet or on yourself, it’s important to remove the entire tick. If the body is removed and the mouthpieces remain under the skin, bacteria can still be transmitted, though mouthpieces typically migrate out on their own. There is a tool called a Tick Twister that allows for easier removal of the entire tick. This can be used on pets and humans. Not every tick bite leads to Lyme disease, but if you find a tick on your pet, it is best to call your veterinarian. We are always happy to answer any questions you may have regarding your pet’s health.
Written by Rebecca Burns, LVT
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