The Truth About Lyme Disease
Most people have heard of Lyme disease, but far fewer know anything about it. Others may have heard extracts of information, but their actual understanding of the disease is very limited. Nevertheless, Lyme disease is something that poses a very real threat to humans and animals alike, particularly in certain parts of the country.
All responsible pet owners, and even humans without animals, should understand the truth about Lyme disease. Here is what you need to know.
What is Lyme disease?
Lyme disease is a bacterial illness that can affect humans as well as animals. The bacteria are called Borrelia burgdorferi and are carried inside certain species of ticks. In the United States, it is the blacklegged tick (also known as the deer tick) that is responsible for the spread of disease.
When these ticks bite an animal or human, some of the bacteria enters their bloodstream. Once in the blood, the bacteria can travel around the host’s body, affecting specific organs or parts of the body and how they function, or causing general illness.
Lyme disease isn’t passed the moment a tick bites your pet
One of the biggest misconceptions about tick-borne diseases, including Lyme disease, is that the moment your pet is bitten, they become infected with the illness. However, this is not true. Studies have shown that typically, at least 36 to 48 hours of feeding is required for the Lyme disease bacteria to be transmitted to the host. This means that prompt removal of a tick could prevent your pet from being infected.
Lyme disease is more prevalent in certain areas
Some parts of the United States pose a greater risk of developing Lyme disease than others. This is because the disease is spread by a certain type of tick that is significantly more likely to be found in specific areas, including the north-eastern, mid-Atlantic and north-central U.S. If you live in these areas, our vet should speak to you about the importance of a preventative program.
Symptoms of Lyme disease
Diagnosing Lyme disease is not always easy. This is primarily because it can take several months for the symptoms to manifest, meaning that you may not make the association between a tick bite and the effects that you are seeing. When the symptoms do become apparent, they can be fairly generalized which again, can make the condition difficult to diagnose. Some of the signs that you can look out for include:
- Extreme lethargy
- Loss of appetite
- Swollen joints
- Enlarged lymph nodes
Lyme disease is preventable
The good news is that it is possible to prevent your pet from being affected by tick bites. There are a wide range of preventative medications and treatments available, meaning that it is even easier than before to find something that is suitable for protecting your pet. Some of the different preventatives that are available include:
- Spot-on treatments
- Oral medications
- Collars that emit a tick repellent/destroyer
There are also a number of products available that are designed to help protect your home from ticks, many of which also combine flea prevention too. These are both convenient and cost-effective.
If you live in an area of the United States where there is a higher risk of developing Lyme disease, our vet may also speak to you about the Lyme disease vaccine. This is not recommended for all animals but has shown to be very helpful in combating the condition. If you opt to have your furbaby vaccinated, you must adhere to the strict schedule of appointments, much the same as is required for topical preventatives.
If you spot a tick, you should remove it immediately
If you don’t check your pet every day, you don’t know how long a tick has been feeding for. For this reason, it is recommended that ticks are removed the moment that they are spotted. Removing a tick is easy – it just requires a little care. Using clean tweezers or a ‘tick twister’, grasp it firmly behind the head and pull gently. Don’t twist or yank. The aim is to get the tick out whole if you can. If the head remains embedded in the skin, the mouth parts should fall out themselves within a couple of day. Ticks should be flushed down the toilet or drowned in alcohol so that they cannot reanimate, and no contaminated blood can affect you or your pet.
If you would like more information about Lyme disease, including how to prevent it, please do not hesitate to contact us and speak to our friendly and knowledgeable veterinary team.