Mar 20

How to Tell if Your Pet Has Lyme Disease

Photo credit: Bigstock
Photo credit: Bigstock

Our four-legged family members love to roam free outside during the warmer months. Unfortunately, when our pets frolic through tall grass and backwoods, that puts them at risk of Lyme disease.

It’s important to educate yourself about the warning signs of Lyme disease so you can keep your pet safe and healthy. To prepare for tick season, here’s how to know if your pet has Lyme disease – and what to do about it.

How to tell if your pet has Lyme Disease

Lyme Disease Pet Risk Factors

As with any disease, there are certain risk factors that mean your pet has a greater chance of contracting Lyme disease:

  • Spending time outdoors in wooded areas or in tall weeds and grass. Deer ticks, which transmit Lyme disease, thrive in these environments.
  • Not being regularly checked for ticks. If a tick is attached to a host for 36 to 48 hours or longer, the disease can be spread. Removing a tick within two days lowers the risk of contracting Lyme disease.
  • Living in the Northeast and Midwest regions where Lyme disease is most prevalent. 95% of confirmed Lyme cases have been reported in these 14 states:
    • Connecticut
    • Delaware
    • Maine
    • Maryland
    • Massachusetts
    • Minnesota
    • New Hampshire
    • New Jersey
    • New York
    • Pennsylvania
    • Rhode Island
    • Vermont
    • Virginia
    • Wisconsin

If any of these risk factors apply to your pets, you should be extra vigilant about the following symptoms.

Lyme Symptoms for Pets

Lyme is most common in dogs, but can also affect cats and other household pets. The disease only causes symptoms in about 10% of affected dogs. Similarly, many cats with Lyme disease are not visibly affected. When symptoms do occur, they are fairly similar for most animals.

Here’s what to look out for, specifically with your canine or feline friends:

  • Recurrent lameness
  • Swollen, warm, painful joints
  • Kidney problems or failure (indicated by vomiting, diarrhea, lack of appetite, weight loss, increased urination and thirst, abnormal fluid buildups)
  • Stiff walking
  • Sensitivity to touch
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Fever
  • Lack of appetite
  • Depression
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Heart abnormalities (rare)
  • Nervous system complications (rare)

If you suspect that your pet has Lyme disease, you should see a veterinarian for testing so that they can make an official diagnosis. Since Lyme can present itself similarly to arthritis and other immune diseases, your vet will have to determine what is truly causing the symptoms.

Lyme Treatments for Dogs and Cats

If your pet is diagnosed with Lyme disease, you can carry out treatment at home unless the condition is severe. The antibiotic doxycycline is commonly prescribed for four weeks or longer. An anti-inflammatory may also be recommended if your pet is experiencing severe discomfort.

Unfortunately, antibiotic treatment does not always completely resolve the symptoms. If pain continues or if symptoms return, your veterinarian will need to work with you to address the issues on a case by case basis.

Lyme Disease Prevention for Dogs and Cats

Though it is very common, Lyme disease is not inevitable. There are plenty of ways you can protect your pet from contracting the disease:

  • Avoid allowing your pet to roam through areas where ticks are prevalent.
  • Thoroughly check your pet’s coat and skin daily and remove any ticks using the proper tick removal method.
  • Use a veterinarian-recommended spray, collar, or topical product to repel and kill ticks.

In addition, it’s important to try to control tick populations near your home to lower the risk of Lyme disease for you, your family, and your pets. Contact DC Mosquito Squad today to find out more about our treatments to keep disease-carrying pests at bay.

Related articles:

How To Remove a Tick From Your Dog
Ways to Prevent Heartworm in Your Pet
Natural Tick Repellent for Pets
Dangerous Bugs for Pets and How To Keep Them Safe
National Walk Your Dog Week