Protect Your Pets Against Lyme Disease
It is possible for your pets to get Lyme disease, although some are more susceptible to the disease than others. The same tick that causes Lyme disease in people, causes Lyme disease in pets. Ixodes scapularis (deer) ticks are found throughout the state of Connecticut and human illness has been found in every town. It is possible for pets in all towns to become infected as well. Lyme disease symptoms that your pet displays may mimic other illnesses, and this can make it difficult for a proper diagnosis.
Diagnosis in cases of pet infection may include blood tests. Your veterinarian will also want to get a history of your pets exposure to ticks, location, symptoms, onset of symptoms, any known tick bites.
When it comes to household pets, dogs that get bitten by ticks are more likely to get tick-borne diseases. There is a vaccine to protect your dog against Lyme disease but it will not protect against other tick-borne diseases.
Some dogs that become infected with Lyme disease may not experience any symptoms. For other dogs, their symptoms may become chronic. Symptoms may not appear for 7-21 days or longer after a tick bite. When your dog isn't feeling well you may see changes in behavior or appetite. If you notice these changes or any of the following symptoms, contact your veterinarian to have your dog examined.
- Arthritis (joint pain that the dogs actions will show as shifting from foot to foot, and lameness)
- Kidney damage
Keep in mind, because ticks feed on dogs, dogs can bring ticks into your home. This makes it even more important for you to use tick preventive products on your dog, and to check your dog for ticks daily.
There is some debate about how cats are affected by the bacteria that causes Lyme disease (Borrelia burgdorferi). Cats may test positive for Lyme disease but not show symptoms. Cats that do experience symptoms may have:
- Lameness (may shift from leg to leg)
- Decreased appetite
Cats are very sensitive to chemicals and it is important that you do not apply any insect repellents on your cat. Speak to your veterinarian about ways to prevent ticks from biting your cat.
Horses are also susceptible to Lyme disease. Because there is no vaccine for use on horses it is important to prevent tick bites on your pet. Horses that are infected with B. burgdorferi often show signs and symptoms of:
- Neurologic impairments
- Chronic weight loss
- Low-grade fever
- Sporadic or shifting let lameness
- Muscle tenderness
Other non-specific symptoms may include:
- Behavioral changes
- Poor performance
- Skin hypersensitivity.
If you suspect Lyme disease infection in your horse, contact your veterinarian at the first sign of a problem.
STEPS TO REDUCE LYME DISEASE IN YOUR PET
These recommendations are good for all pets that are exposed to ticks. To help reduce the chances of a tick transmitting illness to your pet you should:
- Talk to your veterinarian about tick-borne diseases in your area, and tick preventives specific for your pet. There are many topical products that can help repel or kill ticks, and for dogs there is a vaccine.
- Check your pet daily for ticks, especially if it spends time in wooded or overgrown areas.
- Remove any ticks right away. Ticks need to feed for at least 24 hours to transmit tick-borne disease.
- When your pet is examined by a veterinarian, ask for a thorough tick check.
- When possible, create a tick free zone yard by following the recommendations in the Tick Management Handbook.
Preventing tick-borne diseases in your pet(s) may also prevent Lyme disease in you.
To contact the Epidemiology and Emerging Infections Program, please call 860-509-7994.