A dog stands next to a person holding a tick.

People who have been affected by Lyme disease know what a devastating condition it can be. With one in 500 pets in Kansas testing positive for it, Blue Valley Animal Hospital wants our clients to be aware that it affects animals as well. 

While Lyme Disease in pets is on the rise, there is no need to feel helpless. Learn how being a proactive pet owner can help prevent this tick-borne disease.

Lyme Disease Basics

Lyme disease is a tick-borne disease that has a very similar mode of action in both pets and people, The offending bacteria, Borellia burgdorferi, resides in the digestive system of an Ixodes tick, waiting to be transmitted while a tick feeds on a host animal. 

As the tick attaches to its host and begins a blood meal, it regurgitates the bacteria into the host’s connective tissues. This process isn’t instantaneous. Rather, the tick must be attached for several hours before disease transmission can occur. 

Once the Borellia bacteria is in the host’s tissues, it begins to disseminate in the body. It may be fought off by the immune system or it may take up residence in a place far from the original bite such as a joint, the heart, or the kidneys. 

Many dogs affected by Lyme disease will remain subclinical without any signs of disease. Pets who do develop disease, though, are commonly affected by:

  • Lethargy
  • Fever
  • Lameness
  • Enlarged lymph nodes
  • Decreased appetite

These symptoms may not occur for some time after exposure, and they can wax and wane. 

Other disease processes can certainly have similar symptoms, though, and it is always important to call us if your pet is not well so that we can appropriately diagnose the issue. 

Preventing Problems

Thankfully, we have some pretty good defenses against tick:. 

Avoid the issues—While it’s not possible to avoid ticks entirely, knowing where they live can be helpful. Anywhere that deer reside is going to be a prime location for these six-legged monsters. Avoiding tall grasses and forest edges, especially during the spring and fall, can help. 

Remove pests promptly—Remember how ticks need to be attached for several hours before Lyme disease transmission can occur? Doing frequent tick checks, especially after being in high risk areas can help you to find and remove ticks promptly. Don’t forget to look in places like the armpits, ears, and paws. 

Prevent, prevent, prevent—We have some pretty safe and effective options for tick prevention these days. Please ask us about what parasite prevention plan would be best for your pet. We recommend using prevention year round as ticks are active in some life stages almost all of the year. 

Vaccinate where appropriate—Vaccination against Lyme disease can be effective and should definitely be considered for high-risk pets who are good candidates for the vaccine. This does not replace the need for prevention, though, as there are more tick-borne diseases than Lyme disease to consider. The vaccine may not offer protection against all strains. 

Thankfully, Lyme disease in pets is often treatable. With good disease screening and prevention, we are typically able to help pets with antibiotics. Untreated, though, it can be quite serious or even fatal. 

Tick-borne diseases are no fun, but every day we are getting better at doing battle with them. Call us at (913) 681‑2818 to learn more about preventive options