Saturday, February 2, 2008

Lyme Disease in Pets

Lyme Disease is a disease caused by a spiral-shaped bacterium, Borrelia burgdorferi. The disease can affect dogs, cats, horses, cattle, birds, wild animals, and people. White-tailed deer and white-footed mice appear to be natural carriers.

The disease is transmitted by the bite of a tick. Some biting insects have been found carrying the organism, but they are not considered as major transmitters of the disease. There is NO evidence that you can get the disease from your pet, BUT your pet could bring infected ticks into your yard or house. Most of the signs of Lyme Disease are reported in the spring to fall, when tick populations are the highest.

Lyme Disease appears to have a world-wide distribution. Cases have been reported in at least 30 of the United States. The areas of highest activity are along the northeastern seaboard, however, a few cases have been documented in Texas.

Signs of Lyme Disease are vague and resemble various other conditions. Initial signs include a rash, fever, joint swelling and pain, and swollen lymph nodes. Within days, weeks, or even months, more serious signs develop, such as heart, brain, and joint disorders. Painful joint swelling is the most common advanced sign.

A positive antibody test for Lyme Disease only shows that your pet has been exposed to the organism at some point in time. It does NOT mean that your pet is currently infected. The test is performed to help evaluate clinical signs where the disease could be a possibility. Often a diagnosis of Lyme Disease cannot be made until a response is seen to treatment for the disease. Many pets that are exposed to the organism will test positive, but never develop signs.
The disease is readily treated with antibiotics. The earlier in the course of the disease treatment is begun, the better the chance for complete cure. Your pet may appear well after only a few days of medication, BUT IT IS IMPORTANT TO CONTINUE GIVING THE DRUG FOR THE FULL TIME PERIOD or your pet may show signs again.


When you and your pet venture into areas that may be infested with ticks, you should take precautions to avoid infection with Lyme Disease or other tick-transmitted diseases. Apply repellents to yourself and regularly use flea and tick insecticides on your pet. Always closely inspect your pet and yourself after walking in woods, fields, or meadows. If you detect any ticks, do not crush the tick’s body during removal. Rather, use tweezers or forceps to grasp the tick’s head as close to your pet’s skin as possible, and gently remove the tick to avoid separation of the tick’s head from its body.


This vaccination is recommended if you live in an area inhabited by ticks or if you plan on taking your dog to the park, woods, out camping, or hunting.
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