Many pet parents will be aware that Lyme disease is worldwide issue which can affect any animal, including humans. It is a condition transmitted by parasitic ticks which are often picked up by our pets in a variety of ways.
Lyme disease is spread by ticks that carry a spirochete bacterium called ‘borrelia burgdorferi’. Not all ticks carry the disease but there is no way of knowing which ones do. Some areas of the UK have a higher incidence than others and in general, woodland and heath areas carry a higher risk. People and dogs that spend time in these areas are of course at higher risk. Most tick bites happen in spring, summer and autumn.
Ticks that carry Lyme disease can latch on to exposed skin and consume the blood of their host, before detaching once full. They can prove to be a serious problem and it is important to be aware of the signs of Lyme disease in our pets in order to catch it in its early stages.
According to PDSA, the number of known cases of Lyme disease in pets has increased by 500% since 2009 – a worrying figure. The number of cases in humans has mirrored this rise, proving that in order to reduce the incidence of Lyme disease we should be more aware of the tick risk our pets face.
Only a small percentage of pets develop symptoms, however the symptoms can develop very quickly in humans. Symptoms can take weeks or months to develop, but when they are present they will be in the form of:
If the disease is diagnosed in its early stages, a course of antibiotics will be recommended. Longer treatment is recommended as by the time the symptoms show, the disease will have spread.
However, even with a course of antibiotics, the bacteria can still remain in some bodily tissues.
Dogs and cats are very susceptible to tick bites and tick-related diseases, which may not always be easy to detect.
To best protect your pets, please use an effective parasite treatment that kills ticks within 2 days. A product prescribed by your vet is best and you must use it according to your vet’s instructions. Ensure you check your pets daily for any ticks that may have attached to your dog’s skin and remove them with a tick remover – your vet can supply you with this.
Do not be tempted to use tweezers – the tweezers latch on tightly and remove the tick’s body but parts of the tick’s mouth can remain and cause considerable irritation and infection.
There are vaccinations available for Lyme disease, however their efficacy is debatable. Many experts do not recommend the vaccine, but your vet will be able to help you make this decision.
Tick control and removal is crucial to preventing Lyme disease as well as other diseases ticks carry. If a tick is removed within 24 hours, infection can be prevented.
To protect yourself, avoid walking through long grass, wear long-sleeved tops and tuck your trousers into your socks. You can also use insect repellent on exposed skin. Be sure to inspect your skin daily for any ticks that may have become attached.
Do not hesitate to contact your local Medivet practice if you suspect your pet has Lyme disease, or if you would like to discuss preventative measures.