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Lyme Disease in Dogs and Cats

Preventing and Treating Tick-Borne Lyme Disease

By Lauren Leonardi. May 01, 2013 | See Comments

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    PetCareRx Staff Veterinarian

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Lyme Disease in Dogs and Cats

Lyme disease is a serious tick-borne illness that can affect both pets and people. Learn about prevention and treatment for Lyme disease.

Lyme disease is one of the most common ailments to affect North American pets, especially dogs. It is the most frequently found tick-transmitted disease to afflict both pets and humans in North America. The disease is caused by a bacteria that can be transmitted to your pet through a tick.

Where Lyme-Causing Bacteria Comes From

A bacteria, called B. burgdorferi, generally originates in small rodents like mice. Ticks -- most commonly hard shelled deer ticks -- pick B. burgdorferi up from these small animals. Later, if one of these bacteria-carrying ticks finds their way to you or your pet, the bacteria can then be transferred. The bacteria is what causes Lyme disease.

Lyme Disease Time Frame

If a tick carrying the bacteria is able to attach itself to your pet for more than 18 hours, your pet might end up with the disease. If, when you discover the tick, it is not yet engorged, that’s good news! It’s a sign that the bacteria has not likely been transmitted. If the tick appears to have had its fill, and is engorged, infection with B. burgdorferi is possible.

Symptoms of Lyme can take 2-5 months to appear, after the initial bite. So if you begin to see symptoms, think back a few months. Most experts agree, early detection and early treatment of Lyme disease makes all the difference.

Preventing Lyme Disease

Spot-on monthly tick treatments are an effective way to repel ticks from your pet, but even the best ointments out there don’t offer a 100% guarantee. The affliction of Lyme Disease can be almost entirely avoided by checking your pets’ bodies for ticks after they’ve spent time outside.

Lyme Disease Symptoms in Dogs

The symptoms of Lyme disease can present as a general lack of wellness. If your dog appears depressed, won’t eat, or resists moving around because they appear to be in pain, you could be dealing with Lyme. Traditionally, antibiotics are used. When symptoms appear, don’t wait to head to the vet.

Can You Get Lyme From Your Dog?

There are no documented cases of Lyme disease being transmitted from one human to another, or from a cat or a dog to a human. However, dogs and cats can carry disease-bearing ticks into the home. Those ticks can give humans Lyme disease. It’s important to check your pets before bringing them inside after romps outdoors, especially if play time occurred in high infestation areas.

Lyme Disease in Cats

Cats can get Lyme disease, but it’s rare.

Cats are every bit as likely as a human or dog to attract ticks. They may even contract and carry B. burgdorferi, the Lyme-causing bacteria. However, a cat’s immune system can tolerate the disease-causing bacteria in a way that human and canine physiologies cannot. They may carry the bacteria forever without actually developing symptoms of Lyme.

From time to time, it does occur. In these cases, as with all cases of Lyme disease, early detection and treatment are essential to long-term health.

More on Keeping Your Pet Safe

How to Remove a Tick
Puppy Vaccinations
What Are Ticks?
Spot On Flea Control: Which Treatment is Right for Your Pet
How to Get Rid of a Tick

This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian with respect to your pet. It has, however, been verified by a licensed veterinarian for accuracy.

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