Lyme disease in pets is one of the most common tick-transmitted diseases in the world. Learn how you can protect yourself and your pets from the infection.
What is Lyme disease?
Lyme disease is a bacterial infection carried by parasitic ticks. The disease can be picked up by any animal, anywhere in the world, including humans.
The disease is spread by ticks that carry a specific bacteria after biting an infected animal. While not all ticks carry this bacteria, it’s near impossible to know which ones do.
Some areas of the UK have a higher risk than others, including grassy, wooded areas in the south of England and the Scottish Highlands. Most tick bites happen between May and October.
According to the veterinary charity, PDSA, the number of known cases of Lyme disease in pets has increased by 500% since 2009. The number of human cases has mirrored this rise too, so staying one step ahead of ticks is now more important than ever.
What are the symptoms of Lyme disease in pets?
Only a small percentage of pets develop symptoms of Lyme disease, and they can take weeks or even months to take hold. Be sure to look out for:
- arthritis and swollen joints
- lethargy and lameness
- high fever
- loss of appetite
- kidney damage
How to deal with ticks
Dogs and cats are particularly susceptible to tick bites and tick-related diseases, which might not always be easy to detect.
Ensure you check your pets after walks through grassy and wooded areas for any ticks that may have become attached, and remove them with a tick remover. We advise that you thoroughly brush your dog after each walk.
If you do spot a tick, don’t be tempted to use tweezers; ticks latch on tightly, and you can remove the tick’s body but leave part of the mouth, causing irritation and infection. Instead, your vet can supply you with a specialist tick remover. If a tick is removed within 24 hours, infection can be prevented.
If the disease is diagnosed in its early stages, your vet will recommend a course of antibiotics. A longer treatment is usually 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.
How to prevent Lyme disease
Tick control and removal are crucial to preventing Lyme disease as well as other diseases that ticks carry.
To protect your pets, use an effective parasite treatment that kills ticks within two days. These come in many forms, and your vet will be able to prescribe you with a treatment that’s best suited to your pet.
Vaccinations are available for Lyme disease, although they’re not always 100% effective. Your vet will help you decide whether to opt for vaccination.