Most people in New England have heard of Lyme disease and in fact, many people have had this terrible disease themselves. Lyme disease is caused by the spirochete (so called because the bacteria is actually spiral shaped) Borrelia burgdorferi, spread by the deer tick. Pictured right.
For the tick to transmit disease, it needs to be attached to the host for 24-36 hours. This is important to understand because if you safely remove the tick, you significantly reduce your pets chance of contracting Lyme disease.
The most common symptom of Lyme disease is lameness that sometimes shifts from one leg to another. Other signs are lethargy, fever, and loss of appetite. Sometimes, Lyme disease can affect the kidneys, which can be fatal. Dogs do not show the typical “bullseye” shaped rash, which is classic in the human form.
We can diagnose exposure to Lyme disease by a simple in-house blood test. Many dogs in New England have been exposed to Lyme disease and may come up positive on the test. It is important to understand that this test does not mean your dog currently has Lyme disease. If your dogs blood test comes up positive your veterinarian will discuss the options with you. These options include antibiotic treatment or additional testing such as a Quantitative C6 Antibody test or simple urine testing.
In severe cases of Lyme disease, dogs may develop kidney damage. For this reason we recommend closely monitoring the urine for protein leakage and blood tests to check for kidney disease. The veterinarians will discuss the testing needed to be sure that your dog does not have kidney damage.
Since the disease is spread by ticks, the best prevention is tick control with a monthly topical product or collar. A tick must be attached for over one to two days in order for the disease to be transmitted, so daily tick checks are of utmost importance.
At this time, there have been no reported cases of Lyme disease in cats. It is believed that cats do get Lyme disease, but are able to clear it from their system. No vaccine is currently available for cats at this time. Topical tick control is available and recommended for cats as well. More research is being done on just how the disease affects cats.