Lyme disease is a dangerous
bacterial disease spread by ticks. Dogs are more suceptible to
it than cats, especially dogs that
go hiking with their pet parents. Deer ticks, the most common carriers of
Lyme disease, live in forested, shady areas, and wait for a
host to come walking by. Humans can also contract Lyme disease,
life-altering effect. So where is Lyme disease most common?
The disease was first identified in Lyme, Connecticut, hence
it's name, and it's still most common in the Northeast of the
US. All 48 connected states have reported cases of Lyme,
however, so all pet parents should be aware of the dangers and
know what Lyme disease symptoms
to look for and how to remove a
United States Lyme Disease Risk to Dogs Map
This map, from Lymeinfo.com,
a site run by pharmaceutical Boehringer Ingelheim, shows the
areas of the US where dogs are most at risk for Lyme disease.
In the red zone, almost 75% of unvaccinated dogs will test
positive for Lyme in their lifetime!
Lyme Disease in Humans
It has not been proven that Lyme disease is contagious, either
from dogs and cats to one another, or to humans. However, dogs
and cats may bring disease-carrying ticks into the home.
Ticks can absolutely impart Lyme disease to humans and other
pets, and this is the most important thing to look for. Lyme
disease in humans can result in debilitating symptoms like
permanent brain damage, and even hallucinations, so you should
take steps to prevent Lyme, and identify and treat it early.
Step 1: Avoid Ticks
If your pet plays in wooded areas, in tall grasses, or
interacts with other animals who have exposure to ticks, check them regularly. While giving them
affection, check their bodies and ears for ticks. If you find
any, remove them and kill them.
Be sure to check your own body for ticks as well. Most human
cases of Lyme come from the immature form of ticks, which can
be as small as the head of a pin, and whose bites are
If you’re able to remove ticks from the body within 12-18
hours, chances are everyone will be safe. Left undetected for
any longer, the bacteria that causes Lyme disease may be
transferred. Tick bites do not impart Lyme disease 100% of the
time, so you may be just fine. Still, look for signs of Lyme in
the coming days and weeks.
Step 2: Early Detection
When Lyme disease is present, humans -- like dogs -- may begin
to show symptoms that appear as a general lack of wellness.
Symptoms may be flu- or allergy-like, and can present as early
as a few days and as late as a few weeks after the bite.
A ring-like rash with a bite at the center is a clear
indication of Lyme disease, and you should see a doctor
immediately. However, this helpful indication isn’t always
present. Sometimes a rash will occur at the bite site, and
sometimes it will occur elsewhere around the body. Rashes may
vary in shape and texture, so it may not be clear what you’re
As soon as you suspect you may have Lyme, head to the doctor.
Left untreated, the bacteria that causes Lyme can fester. In
some cases, Lyme may become chronic, which can cause serious
neurological damage, and affect respiratory, heart, and
reproductive functions a few months or even years down the
Step 3: Treatment
Experts agree that the earlier Lyme is treated, the more
effective treatment will be.
Antibiotics are the most common, and to date the safest, method
of treatment for early Lyme disease. Courses of antibiotics may
last a few weeks, or longer. Sometimes, symptoms continue to
persist, even after a course of antibiotics. At this stage,
treatments become highly individualized.
Chronic Lyme disease can be very traumatic. Some consider
long-term Lyme symptoms to be similar to living with chronic
heart disease. It’s clearly important to check yourself and
your pet early and often for ticks.
Tick Prevention in Pets and Humans
Lyme disease prevention is essentially tick-prevention.
Prevention for your pet:
Consider a monthly spot-on
treatment for your pet, to deter ticks. If your pet
frolics in high-infestation areas, consider additional
repellants like a flea
and tick collar. Most collars protect only the face and
neck from ticks, but every little bit helps. Just be sure to
know what type of collar you're using and if you should remove
the collar before bringing your pet back inside. Check the
packaging or ask your vet.
Prevention for yourself:
Debbie Hadley, a naturalist, teacher, and insect expert, says
the best way to avoid ticks in everyday life is by doing
regular checks before allowing pets and kids back in the house
after outdoor time. She says, “Ticks can easily drop onto
carpets or furniture, where they’ll wait for a bloodmeal to
come along. Before coming back inside, strip down and search
all those places that ticks love to hide: in your hair, under
your arms, behind the knees, and even in your belly button.”
Remember to check between your dog’s toes, and in their ears as
When camping or hiking, she suggests, “using a product with 20%
DEET or higher on both skin and clothing.” Carefully applied,
of course. She also recommends applying Permethrin products “to
clothing, tents, and outdoor furniture.” She cautions that,
“Permethrin products should never be used on human skin.”
(Although Permethrin is a common ingredient in some pet spot-on
repellants.) Permethrin for use on objects is sold under the
names Permanone and Duranon.
The best prevention, all experts agree, for pets as well as for
yourself, is early detection. Look for ticks, and remove them
as soon as possible.
More on Protecting Dogs and Cats
Get Rid of Fleas in 8 Steps -
How to Find Fleas and Ticks
Flea and Tick Treatment