What is Lyme Disease?
In 1975, doctors discovered Lyme disease in people living in Old Lyme, Conn. Since then weíve learned that animals also can contract Lyme disease, which is now one of the largest growing infectious diseases in the world - found in every state and most countries.

Lyme disease is caused by bacteria that are spread to humans and animals by bloodsucking ticks. These bacteria travel through the bloodstream, affecting the joints, lymph nodes, heart, kidneys, and nervous system. Symptoms of the disease can occur quickly or cause lingering problems over months and even years.

How is Lyme Disease Spread?

Deer ticks, which are most prevalent in the Northeast United States and the Pacific coast states, are the major carrier of Lyme disease.  These tiny parasites are difficult to see with the naked eye and can easily hide on people and animals.

For the bacteria to spread to the victim, ticks must remain attached for up to 48 hours, which is why itís so important to detect them early. It is unlikely that your Pet will spread ticks to you; once attached, ticks enjoy one meal.

Other ticks also can carry the bacteria, and ticks themselves are spread by many different animals, including birds that may transport them long distances. Ticks also spread such diseases as Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and ehrlichiosis, a disease that affects the blood cells. When it comes to ticks, donít take any chances!

What to Watch For

  • If you find a tick on your Pet, watch for these signs of Lyme disease:
  • Fever. Your Petís abdomen feels overly warm to the touch.
  • Depression. Your Pet is lethargic.
  • Lack of appetite.
  • Lameness. This sign is one of the most common; your Pet limps or has swollen and painful joints.
  • ďBullís eyeĒ rash. This rash is a strong clue that the bacteria has been transmitted, but keep in mind that hair may disguise the rash on your Pet.
If you see any of these signs, take your Pet in for an appointment immediately!

Veterinary Care

Veterinarians usually rule out other diseases first by performing, for example, a complete blood count (CBC); blood and urine profiles to check organ function; X-rays; or tests on fluid samples from swollen joints. Serologic tests are used to detect specific proteins in the blood.

If possible, save the tick in a jar of alcohol and bring it to your veterinarian. Identifying the type of tick may help doctors diagnose the problem. If your Pet exhibits signs of Lyme disease, itís comforting to know that these tests are included or discounted in Banfield, The Pet Hospital, Wellness Plans.

Several antibiotics are effective against Lyme disease, but individual responses differ. For example, some animals and people have relapses despite antibiotic treatment. Occasionally, hospitalization, fluid therapy, and arthritis or fever medications may be necessary.  The best way to control symptoms is with early diagnosis and treatment.

Preventive Care

To reduce your Petís chances of contracting Lyme Disease, take these precautions:

Vaccinate your Pet.  Your veterinarian will administer the initial vaccine, then a second vaccine two to three weeks later. After that, one vaccination is administered annually. Consult your veterinarian with any questions.

  • Avoid tall grassy areas, especially wooded areas inhabited by deer or field mice.
  • Keep weeds under control to limit the spread of rodents, ticks, and other parasites.
  • When outdoors, protect your Pet with an insecticide. Your doctor can help you select from a wide variety of sprays, solutions, and protective collars.
  • When you return from an outing, check every inch of your Petís skin and coat for ticks, including the underside, around the ears and tail, and between the toes. Removing any ticks within 24 hours decreases the chance of infection. A systematic tick check is one of the best preventive steps you can take.
If you find a tick, remove it immediately. Try using an alcohol swab, which may irritate the tick and cause it to loosen its grasp. Using tweezers, carefully pull the tick upward where its mouthparts contact the skin. Try not to squeeze the tick while removing it as this may enhance transmission of the bacteria. Occasionally, a small tag of your Petís outer skin will pull away with the tick.
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