Lyme disease or lyme borreliosis is an infectious disease that affects both humans and pets, particularly dogs, and in some cases, cats. In the United States, most of the Lyme disease cases are caused by the bacteria Borrelia burgdorfeii senus lato. This bacterium is carried by the Ixodes dammini ticks that thrive in woodlands and grasslands. They commonly feed on sheep, horses, rodents and deer and are now attaching themselves to humans, cats and dogs. In Europe, the disease is caused by Borrelia afzelii and Borrelia garinii.
Dogs infected by these bacteria will exhibit loss of appetite, lethargy and will have fever. Lameness can occur at the same time, followed by the enlargement of the lymph nodes. Without treatment, it can even lead to heart disease and kidney complications. The symptoms can occur two months after a dog or a cat has been bitten by a tick that is carrying this bacterium. Cats are said to appear zombie-like, with low-grade fever, general fatigue and stiffness and will have some locomotion problems.
Human intervention is needed to prevent Lyme disease in pets, and here are some of the steps you can take to keep your cats and dogs healthy.
- Have your pets inspected by a vet especially when you suspect that a tick has bitten your pet. There is a vaccine available to treat Lyme disease in dogs but there is none yet for cats.
- If you live near grassland and woodland where ticks are usually present, have your yard and surrounding areas treated with an approved acaricide. You can do this yourself by closely following the instructions on the product label or seek the help of a professional pest control service provider.
- If you take your pet for a walk in parks and areas where deer are known to live, make sure that you have your pet inspected as it may be possible that some ticks have attached to your pet or may have actually bitten your pet. Bacteria will be transmitted ten to twelve hours after the tick has been feeding on your pet’s blood.
- Vets recommend that you keep your cats indoors to prevent Lyme disease. You can also place a tick collar on your cat. Make sure that the tick collar is especially made for cats as those for dogs may be toxic to your cat. Put a tick collar on your dog, too as the dog is more susceptible to tick infestation.
- Free-roaming cats should be checked daily for ticks. Another way to prevent Lyme disease in cats is to spray them with a parasite spray with permethrin regularly.
- Remove ticks from your pets with a pair of tweezers. Use a twisting motion when removing ticks rather than a jerking motion. Jerking them may leave the mouthparts that are buried in your pet’s skin and cause an abscess to occur.
- Bathe your dog after a walk in the park, using a medicated shampoo formulated to remove/kill ticks. Brush your dog’s fur with a wire brush to remove and expose ticks. Remove ticks that you find immediately. Avoid direct contact with the ticks. Wear rubber gloves to protect your hands. Give your dog a good brushing daily to dislodge ticks that like to hide under thick, warm fur.
Avoiding areas where ticks thrive is the best way to avoid Lyme disease in pets. Keep their required vaccinations updated and always have the vet give your pet a thorough check when you suspect that ticks have bitten your pets. You can also help your pets by learning to identify which type of ticks carry the Lyme disease bacteria.