May is National Lyme Disease Awareness Month. The disease is becoming a frequent topic in the community due to the fact more and more infections are being diagnosed in our area. According to the CDC in 2014, 96% of Lyme infections came from just 14 states which included Virginia and Maryland. Just like with humans, it is important to know Lyme disease can occur in our pets as well.
Lyme disease in dogs:
Acute Lyme disease in dogs is generally known to cause one or many of the following symptoms: fever, joint swelling/pain, leg lameness (limping) that may change from one leg to another, enlarged lymph nodes, lethargy, changes in behavior, and decrease in appetite or refusal to eat. When treated dogs to fairly well and all symptoms are likely to subside. Lyme in rare cases has also been known to attack the kidneys which is a condition called Lyme Nephritis (LN). The majority of known LN cases have been fatal. According to CAPC (Companion Animal Parasite Council), in chronic cases some dogs may have persistent polyarthritis. In terms of testing for Lyme, many practices are using products that test for a combination of heartworm and tick-borne diseases at minimum on a yearly basis. If your dog is symptomatic this test may need to be repeated. Dogs that are positive for tick borne diseases on in clinic tests may continue to show up positive for years. Further testing and testing questions should be discussed with your veterinarian.
Lyme disease in cats:
Lyme disease in cats is not very well understood currently in veterinary medicine. It is believed that a majority of cats have antibodies that defend them against the disease. If your cat has been bitten by a tick and is experiencing a fever, lethargy, decreased appetite or a refusal to eat, and/or stiffness/pain it is important to have him or her evaluated. There are no Lyme specific in clinic tests for cats currently available. Lab testing and questions should be discussed with your veterinarian.
How can I protect my pet against ticks?
There are several dog and cat products that are currently available for purchase to prevent fleas and ticks. CAPC recommends using flea/tick products year round in known Lyme areas. Some of these products repel the fleas and ticks as others require a bite from the flea or tick in order to work. Depending on species, flea/tick control comes in topical options, pill options, and collar options. Consult with your veterinarian to tailor options for you and your pet’s needs as not all products are created equal. It is extremely important to never place a dog product onto a cat! The ingredients are very different and may cause seizures or even death of your cat if applied. For dogs it is recommended by CAPC in areas of frequent Lyme disease to be vaccinated yearly with an annual Lyme vaccine when possible. When getting your dogs vaccinated, it is still important to keep up on flea/tick preventatives as your dog will still be susceptible to other tick borne diseases.
After your pet is indoors from outside activities it is recommended to check their skin and fur for ticks. The earlier you can detect a tick the least likely they are to transmit a tick-borne disease. If there are any mice nests in your shed, wood piles, under the deck, etc. it is important to burn the nests or you can make or order what is called a “tick tube”. This is where you are giving the mice cotton laced with a product that will repel ticks. For more information on tick tubes go to www.TickTubes.com. The number one carrier for ticks who carry Lyme disease are deer mice.
If your pet is bitten by a tick it is important to monitor the area, monitor for the above signs, and consult with your Veterinarian. At the least your Vet’s office can document in the medical record that your pet was bitten in case he or she needs to be seen in the future for any of the above signs.
http://www.capcvet.org/capc-recommendations/lyme-disease/ – CAPC/ Lyme Disease
http://www.cdc.gov/lyme/stats/index.html -CDC/ Lyme Statistics
http://www.tickencounter.org/prevention/mouse_targeted_devices – University of Rhode Island Tick Encounter Resource Center
http://www.vet.cornell.edu/fhc/Health_Information/LymeDisease.cfm -Cornell University Feline Health Center/ Lyme Disease