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How to Defend Against Lyme Disease in Dogs and Cats

When we think of Lyme disease, most of us think, “East Coast problem,” right?

Not so. Lyme disease, a bacterial infection transmitted by ticks, is increasing in the Western US, particularly in the Southern Cascades and along the Oregon coast.

Dogs, cats, and humans (along with many other animals) can become infected with Lyme disease when they are bitten by an infected tick that has been attached to the skin for 24-36 hours.

The longer a tick is attached, the greater the chance of infection. The Lyme disease bacteria can establish a long-term infection that affects the heart, kidneys, joints, and brain.

Signs of Infection

Signs of infection include fever, lethargy, lameness, stiffness, pain, vomiting, and diarrhea – signs shared by several other diseases.

How to Prevent Lyme Disease in Dogs and Cats | AtlanticVetSeattle.com
It is important to note that the typical “bulls-eye” rash that commonly effects people with Lyme disease is uncommon in dogs.

Treatment for Lyme Disease

Lyme disease is still relatively rare in the Pacific Northwest, but is increasingly showing up on local veterinarians’ “diagnostic radar” of possibilities when a pet presents with the clinical signs of the disease.

Fortunately, new diagnostic tests are available that help us determine infection more quickly. If treated early with appropriate antibiotics, Lyme disease in pets can cured. If treatment is delayed, however, the disease frequently progresses to severe kidney or liver failure and death.

Defending Against Lyme Disease

The first line of defense against Lyme disease and any other tick-borne disease is a rigorous tick control program.

  1. Consider one of the new tick preventives for pets, such as one of the chewables for dogs (Simparica or Bravector) or topicals for cats (Bravecto or Catego).
  2. Keep pets away from potentially tick-infested areas (tall grass, low brush, and wooded areas) if possible.
  3. Conduct a daily tick inspection of yourself and your pet after traversing these areas.

What to do if You Find a Tick

  1. If you do find a tick on yourself or your dog, the tick should be safely removed with tweezers as soon as possible, pulling straight back to make sure the tick is completely removed; otherwise, tick mouth parts can remain embedded and infection is still possible.
  2. The bite area, your hands, and the tweezers should be disinfected.
  3. Save the tick in zippered sandwich bag for identification and possible testing.

If you are uncertain how to safely remove a tick from your pet, please contact us and we will make a same-day appointment to remove the tick from your pet.

Lyme Vaccines

Better Lyme vaccines are now available for dogs travelling to Lyme disease endemic areas – the Midwest, Northeast, Mid-Atlantic region, and Florida.

The Lyme vaccine does not provide complete protection against the disease, but is still worth considering for dogs travelling to high-risk areas.

  • We recommend beginning the Lyme vaccine series 7-8 weeks prior to your trip.
  • Dogs 12 weeks of age or older should initially receive two vaccines 2-4 weeks apart, then an annual booster thereafter if they travel back to or remain in the high-risk area.

Learn more about Lyme disease in dogs

Learn more about Lyme disease in cats 

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Atlantic Veterinary Hospital in Seattle serves the following neighborhoods: Mt. Baker, Columbia City, Beacon Hill, Rainier Valley, Seward Park, Capitol Hill, Leschi, Central District, Madison Valley, International District, and Georgetown.