As someone who loves spending time outdoors, Lyme disease is something that is definitely a concern, both for myself and for my pets. Whether you have a playful outdoor pup or a chill indoor kitty, preventing and treating Lyme disease is something all pet parents need to be aware of.
What is Lyme Disease?
Lyme Disease is a tick-borne illness caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi, usually transmitted by deer tick. You or your pet are more likely to be bitten by a tick if you spend a lot of time outdoors or live in a heavily wooded or grassy area. But that’s not to say that staying indoors eliminates all risk of contracting Lyme disease.
While visiting Colorado last spring, I was constantly on the lookout for ticks and signs and symptoms of Lyme disease, both for myself and my pets. And because I live in sunny Florida, Lyme disease is a year-round threat.
As you can imagine, pets are an easy target for these disease-causing ticks since many of our pets spend time outdoors. The experts at Zoetis say that an astonishing 1 in 16 dogs in the United States tests positive for Lyme disease. Since our animals can’t simply tell us when they start to feel ill, it’s up to us to prevent illness, keep an eye out for changes in our animals, and be quick to treat them if a problem does arise.
Lyme Disease can cause kidney failure, joint disease, and a host of other problems if left untreated, which makes it a life-threatening illness.
Signs & Symptoms of Lyme Disease
It can take 2-5 months for signs of Lyme Disease to become evident. That means if you went camping a few weeks ago and everyone seems fine now, you’re not in the clear just yet. It’s important to always keep your eyes open for changes in your pet’s health.
Typical Symptoms of Lyme Disease Include:
- Loss of appetite
- Joint swelling
- Decreased activity
If you notice these symptoms of Lyme disease in your dog or cat, please contact your veterinarian and discuss having your pet tested.
How to Prevent Lyme Disease in Dogs
- Use tick repellant products to make your dog a less desirable host for ticks and bugs. I love this dog bandana by Insect Shield. It offers invisible, odorless protection against fleas, ticks, mosquitoes, and other biting insects. Plus it comes in an adorable pattern.
- You may choose to vaccinate your dog. I’ll talk about this in just a bit.
- Avoid places that ticks hang out in, such as heavily wooded areas, tall grassy plains, and marshes.
- If your dog spends time in your own yard, make sure that it is kept up. Ticks love tall grass, so keeping the grass nice and short will prevent ticks from gathering near your home.
- Check your dog for ticks after each walk or trip outdoors.
How to Prevent Lyme Disease in Cats
I personally do not advocate letting your cats live outdoors. Olivia doesn’t venture outside without close supervision. Research from Dr. Marty Becker tells us that indoor cats are typically safer than outdoor cats. Keeping cats indoors protects them from the hazards of cars, predators, and helps to ward off infectious diseases, like Lyme disease.
CatWatch reminds us there is still a small risk of Lyme Disease to indoor cats, however. Cats can contract Lyme Disease if you or an outdoor pet carry a tick inside your home. This is a very rare occurrence, but it’s still always wise to be aware of potential risks. Another important reminder is if you use products on your cat to prevent or remove ticks, make sure it’s approved for use on cats, not just dogs.
What to do if You Find a Tick on Your Pet
If you do find a tick on your pet, it’s important to remove it. PetCoach says “A tick has to feed at least 24 – 48 hours in order to pass the disease on to its hosts.” Daily tick checks and fast action will be greatly successful in preventing Lyme disease in your pets.
Removing a tick isn’t pleasant for you or your pet, but there are a few tips to make things easier:
- Remove the tick carefully with this handy scoop.
- Be gentle when removing the tick, putting the scoop as close to the animal’s skin as possible.
- Try not to tear the tick while removing it. Tearing the tick can cause further spread of potential infection.
- Be sure to clean the bite site thoroughly. Also, wash your own hands and the tools that were used.
- Watch out for any redness or irritation at the bite site and continue to keep the site clean. Make sure you have first aid products that are approved for pets. Here’s a list of items to keep on hand in your pet’s medicine cabinet.
- Call your veterinarian. It’s always wise to let your vet know what’s going on with your pet’s health. They may want to speak with you about vaccinating against Lyme disease.
Lyme Disease Vaccination for Dogs
Preventing disease is much easier than treating it. Treatment for Lyme disease in dogs is not always successful. Additionally, many dogs do not display symptoms of Lyme disease initially, so they might go untreated for some time. Vaccination is an effective preventive measure that you can take. Zoetis’ Vanguard is the first and only chimeric recombinant canine Lyme disease vaccine. What makes this vaccine unique is that it kills harmful antibodies in both the tick and in the dog to prevent Lyme disease from spreading to your pup. Talk to your vet about Lyme Disease vaccination!
Keep Enjoying the Great Outdoors!
Don’t let the fear of Lyme disease prevent you from enjoying the things you love. It is a highly preventable disease and, as long as you take the proper precautions, you and your pup should feel free to continue exploring the great outdoors.
For even more products for outdoor adventurers like Chilly and me, check out my Amazon list for Outdoor Adventure Products!