Lyme disease is one of the most commonly transmitted tick-borne diseases. It was first reported in the United States back in 1975 in Lyme and Old Lyme, Connecticut, where an uncommon number of children experienced symptoms similar to rheumatoid arthritis. These children had all been bitten by ticks. Experts later determined that Lyme disease is specifically caused by the spirochete bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi, carried by the deer tick, and can be transmitted not only to humans but to pets as well. Lyme disease can be found in cats, but it is much more common in dogs.
Lyme disease is most prevalent in the Northeast, Midwest, Northern California, and Pacific Northwest. Although tick season typically begins in the spring and continues through the fall, these parasites can be active whenever the temperature rises above freezing (32°F). Dogs usually pick up ticks in heavily wooded areas or in environments containing brush or tall grasses. Ticks also live in backyards, where they’re deposited by other animals.
Dogs don’t exhibit the telltale red rash—sometimes manifested in a bulls-eye pattern—that we humans display, so an infection in your pet may not be as obvious. However, some common symptoms of Lyme disease in dogs/cats include:
- Appetite loss
- Joint swelling or pain
- Lameness (inability to move the limbs normally)
- Reluctance to move
To properly determine if your pet has contracted Lyme disease, your veterinarian will administer blood tests. If the tests come back positive, your dog will receive antibiotics for anywhere from one to four weeks.
Prevention is the best defense against ticks that carry Lyme disease-causing bacteria. Check your pet every day for these parasites, and if you find a tick, remove it immediately. Knowing how to remove a tick from a cat or dog is important for all pet owners to learn. (Using tweezers, grasp the tick and pull firmly and steadily until it releases and comes all the way out, ensuring that you’ve removed the head. Drop the tick in rubbing alcohol to kill it, and thoroughly clean and disinfect the bite site.) Protect your pet further with a tick topical or collar, like the Adams™ Flea & Tick Spot On® topical or an Adams™ Flea & Tick Collar. Help keep your home and yard pest free with home and yard treatments, such as the Adams™ Flea & Tick Home Spray or Indoor Fogger or an Adams™ Yard Spray.