Lyme disease is caused by exposure to a spirochete bacteria (double-membrane, asexual bacteria that is cylindrically shaped). Infection carrying ticks spread Lyme disease to pets, generally canines, by attaching to the pet and feeding on their blood for an extended period of time. This bite transmits the bacteria from the tick to the pet. Ticks that carry Lyme disease are most common in specific geographic areas - the Northeast, mid-Atlantic, and upper Midwest regions; they also thrive in temperatures above freezing, so more cases are reported during the months of March through October. After feeding on an animal’s blood supply for several hours, it can take weeks to months for the bacteria to self-replicate and travel through the bloodstream and embed itself in muscles, joints, tendons, the heart, and lymph nodes.
Some pet breeds can develop a fatal type of Lyme disease that specifically attacks their kidneys. Because Lyme disease can be fatal if left untreated, we recommend contacting the veterinarian when you first notice something might be wrong with your pet. For pet owners who live in high-risk areas, vaccination is highly recommended.
Symptoms of Lyme disease in domestic pets:
Hesitant to get up from resting position
Hesitant to run, jump, or walk
Limping on one leg then shifting to another
Occasional or permanent inability to bear weight on a limb
Swollen, painful joints
Swollen lymph nodes
How is Lyme disease treated?
Lyme disease is often extremely difficult to detect. When the veterinarian suspects a patient to have contracted the bacteria, its blood will be tested. It takes most animals 1 to 5 months to exhibit symptoms of an infection after becoming contaminated, if they show outwardly signs at all. Often, pet owners bring in their animal to address another issue; after blood tests are conducted, they are surprised to learn their pet has Lyme disease.
Once your pet has been diagnosed with Lyme disease, it can be treated with oral antibiotics that are administered daily for a period of 4 weeks. If the disease has progressed to the point of causing kidney damage, more powerful antibiotics might be necessary, and hospitalization can be required. Reoccurrence can happen, though it is rare. In these instances, the disease is managed with antibiotics for an extended period of time.
Please contact our office if you would like more information on the dangers of Lyme disease or if you wish to schedule a vaccination appointment.