May is Lyme Disease Awareness Month
Lyme Disease Can Develop in Both Dogs and Cats
We hear a lot about people getting Lyme disease, but the sad fact is that your dog or cat can also catch this nasty illness from ticks. And the state of Missouri has one of the highest rates of tick-borne illnesses in the U.S.-- so Springfield, MO veterinarians do, in fact, see pets who have developed Lyme Disease after a tick bite. (Several other tick-borne diseases also can affect your pets; if your cat or dog has been bitten and begins to develop any new troubling symptoms or behaviors soon thereafter, we encourage you to bring them to the vet as soon as possible.)
Carried by Deer Ticks
Lyme Disease is carried by deer ticks, and when they attach to your pet for a blood meal, they can transmit the disease. Unfortunately, pets don't show the classic "bullseye" rash on their skin that often shows up when peoples are bitten and contract the disease. The good news is that the tick must be attached for about 48 hours in order to transmit the bacteria to the animal’s bloodstream, so a daily “tick check” of your pet can help reduce the chances of disease. Of course, using proper tick preventatives is the best solution of all. We recommend using Parastar Plus for dogs and EasySpot for cats as a topical tick and flea preventative. Learn more about when to start preventative care.
An animal with Lyme Disease may show lameness, fever, swollen lymph nodes and lack of appetite. Left untreated, the disease may progress to affect the kidneys, the heart or the nervous system. It's serious and very uncomfortable for your pet, but by taking preventive measures, you can save your pet from Lyme.
Blood Tests Identify the Disease
If you think your cat or dog has contracted Lyme Disease, you can have this confirmed with a diagnostic blood test. Positive results will be treated with an oral antibiotic. Remember, too, that pets do not develop immunity once they’ve had the illness, and CAN get the disease again –unless you take proper preventative measures. Dogs can be vaccinated annually against Lyme disease. Unfortunately, cats cannot.
It’s best to treat your pets year-round to avoid tick bites, but even if you let it lapse in the winter, my March in the Ozarks you need to be on the alert for these nasty pests. Our Springfield vet clinic staff recommends you start your pet’s prevention program early in the spring and give them a comfortable, tick-free spring/summer/fall.
Tick paralysis is a separate syndrome, and you can read about it here.