What You Need to Know About Lyme Disease

 
We’re sure you’ve heard of Lyme Disease. Most people have. But we’re always here to help and educate pet parents, so we wanted to take a closer look at this serious illness as we enter Lyme Disease season. Did you know that in 2018 we saw 271 Lyme Disease positive dogs in our practice alone?
 
What is Lyme Disease?

 
First and foremost, we live in an area that is plagued with Lyme Disease. This disease is no laughing matter. It results from bacteria spread by ticks and can affect dogs, cats, humans, deer, raccoons, mice, squirrels, and other mammals. And these ticks are sneaky! They’re sometimes so small that they can disguise themselves as freckles and go undetected until after they’ve had a chance to fill with blood.
 
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports that around 350,000 people will contract Lyme Disease each year. From coast to coast, Lyme Disease is found in every state, including the entire Midwest. The majority of cases occur in spring, but this disease infects dogs, cats, people, and other animals year around.
 

Lyme Disease Is on the Rise

 
For the past twenty-five years, the CDC has seen a spike in incidents of Lyme Disease. In fact, reports of this disease have doubled! Why? Well, they suspect that as more and more people adopt outdoor lifestyles and enjoy more hiking, camping, and nature-walks, the more people and their pets are exposed to infected ticks.
 
Unfortunately, dogs end up as the most frequent victims of Lyme Disease. This is because ticks do an amazing job of hiding deep in a dog’s coat, dogs are closer to the ground, and dogs don’t have thumbs, which makes tick removal more difficult for them.
 

Symptoms and Health Concerns for Dogs with Lyme Disease

 
Only 5-10% of dogs that contract Lyme Disease will show obvious symptoms, and symptoms typically don’t occur until two to five months after infection. Dogs infected with Lyme Disease will go through three stages of symptoms and complications. Sometimes symptoms don’t appear until the third stage!
 

Stage One

  • Fever
  • Lack of energy
  • Depression
  • Loss of appetite

Stage Two

  • Lameness
  • Arthritis
  • Inflamed and painful joints

Stage Three

  • Heart complications
  • Kidney damage
  • Neurological issues
  • Severe arthritis

Symptoms and Health Concerns for Cats with Lyme Disease
 
It’s also important to remember that cats can also contract Lyme Disease. Many cat owners believe that cats are immune to Lyme Disease because many infected cats don’t show symptoms. 
 
  • Stiffness
  • Pain and sensitivity to touch
  • Trouble breathing
  • Lameness in limbs
  • Swollen and painful joints
  • Kidney issues, including possible kidney failure
  • Heart complications
  • Nervous system issues
 
 
If your dog or cat is exhibiting any symptoms of Lyme disease, we can run blood tests that look for the bacteria that causes the disease, and the antibodies that fight it. These tests help us diagnose your pet so we can begin treatment.
 

How Can You Protect Your Pet from Lyme Disease?

 
A tick infected with Lyme Disease will pass the bacteria to your dog or cat after feeding for about 24 hours. If you go on a hike or your pet plays in a wooded area, make sure you check them for ticks afterwards.
 
The best way to protect your pup or cat from getting sick is to use a prescription flea and tick preventive medicine. These will kill an infected tick before it has a chance to transmit the bacteria to your pet. Provide your pet with protection year-round and stay consistent - don’t skip any months. At Grantsburg Animal Hospital and Wild River Veterinary Clinic, we recommend the Lyme vaccine on all of our canine patients, even the house dogs, as we are in an endemic area.
 
Don’t skip annual appointments because many pets won’t show signs of Lyme Disease until months after infection. Make an appointment with us to learn about the many affordable and effective prevention methods we offer, or to explore treatment options if your furry friend tests positive.
 
Image credit: Chalabala | iStock | Getty Images Plus

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