Lyme disease is transmitted through the bite of an infected tick. Four species of ticks have been shown to transmit Lyme disease, but the most common culprit is the deer tick (black-legged tick). Deer ticks and those carrying Lyme disease are common in the Eastern United States and can be found in nearly all warm, damp areas, including northern climates in the summer months.

Who Is at Risk of Lyme Disease?

Infected ticks transmit the disease most commonly to deer and mice, but also domestic animals (dogs, cats, and horses) and humans. Pet parents can’t contract Lyme disease from infected pets; it can only be transmitted through a tick bite. An infected tick could fall off a pet inside your house, however, and put other family members at risk.

Signs and Symptoms of Lyme Disease

Only a small percentage of infected dogs and cats exhibit signs of Lyme disease. When pets do show symptoms, they often include:

  • Recurring lameness due to swelling of the joints
  • Decreased activity
  • Fever
  • Walking stiffly with an arched back
  • Loss of appetite

Left untreated, Lyme disease can eventually lead to kidney failure, which can be fatal in both cats and dogs.

How to Prevent Lyme Disease

Prevention is always the best medicine. Ask our veterinarian about which tick preventatives we recommend for your pets, as cats, dogs, and pets of different sizes require different medications. Take care to avoid areas where ticks are prevalent, such as tall grasses or brushy, marshy, wooded areas.

What to Do If You Find a Tick on Your Dog or Cat

Ticks must be attached for about 48 hours in order to transmit Lyme disease to your pet. So, if you find a tick on your pet, you should remove it as soon as possible. If you are comfortable doing this yourself, we recommend using tweezers to pull the tick out. Ticks embed themselves in their host’s skin, which means it’s important to grab the tick as close to your pet’s skin as possible. Pull the tick straight out, without twisting or crushing it. Be sure to wash your hands thoroughly to prevent possibly infecting yourself.

Screening and Testing for Lyme Disease

Pets living on the East Coast often receive an annual screening for Lyme disease. If your pet tests positive, our veterinarian will discuss the possibility of administering antibiotics to prevent the development of any clinical symptoms or organ damage.

For more information about parasite prevention and Lyme disease, contact Capital Home Veterinary Care today.