Lyme disease is a debilitating illness that can cause serious issues for your pet. If they test positive, you probably have numerous questions about their condition. Our team at Wales Animal Clinic wants to help ease your mind by answering some common questions about Lyme disease.

Question: How was my pet infected with Lyme disease, and what signs indicate the condition?

Answer: Lyme disease is transmitted by black-legged ticks (i.e., deer ticks). When these parasites attach to your pet and remain for more than 24 hours, they can pass along a bacteria called Borrelia burgdorferi. Signs of the disease may take two to five months to appear and could include fever, lethargy, swollen lymph nodes, and joint pain and swelling. Not all infected animals show signs.

Q: How is my pet diagnosed with Lyme disease?

A: A quick in-house blood test can be performed, but these tests cannot detect early infection. If your pet is showing signs of Lyme disease, their blood can be sent to a lab to perform a Lyme Multiplex assay. This test measures antibodies that are directed against specific proteins on the surface of B. burgdorferi at three different stages of the bacterial life cycle. This assay can indicate whether your pet has been recently infected or is chronically infected.

Q: If my pet has a positive Lyme Multiplex assay, should they be treated for Lyme disease?

A: If your pet is showing signs of Lyme disease, and they test positive, they should be treated. If your pet is not showing signs, but they test positive for Lyme disease, our veterinary professionals will discuss the potential risks and benefits of treatment. If treatment is not started, you will be advised to carefully monitor your pet for signs indicating the disease.

Q: How will my pet be treated for Lyme disease?

A: Lyme disease usually responds to a particular class of antibiotics. Your pet will typically be treated for at least four weeks. If your pet is chronically infected, a longer antibiotic course may be necessary. Ending the treatment before the recommended regimen has been completed can result in your pet having a relapse.

Q: How will I know if the treatment cleared up my pet’s infection?

A: Once your pet finishes their antibiotics, another Lyme Multiplex assay can be performed to see if their antibody levels are decreasing. These levels should begin to decrease about six to eight weeks after treatment. In chronic cases, the levels may not start to decrease until three months after treatment.

Q: Once my pet is clear of the Lyme infection, can they become reinfected?

A: Yes. Pets infected by Lyme disease do not gain immunity by being infected. If another tick carrying B. burgdorferi bites them, they can be reinfected.

Q: How can I prevent my pet from getting Lyme disease?

A: Check your pet any time they have been outdoors. Ticks can attach anywhere on your pet, but they like dark, moist spots. Common places to look for ticks include your pet’s armpit, groin, ears, under their tail, and under their collar. The tick has to stay attached for at least 24 hours to transmit Lyme disease so removal before this time prevents infection. A Lyme disease vaccine is also available for dogs. While the vaccine is not 100 percent effective, the inoculation does offer protection. Boosters are needed once a year.

Q: Should I request treatment for my pet if they are bitten by a tick?

A: No. Not every tick carries B. burgdorferi, and treatment would only increase the chances of antimicrobial resistance. Antibodies can be detected in infected animals as early as three to four weeks after infection. A Lyme Multiplex assay can be performed on your pet at that time, and treatment can be started if our veterinary professionals determine that is the best course.

Q: Can I catch Lyme disease from my dog?

A: No. Lyme disease requires the tick to act as an intermediary host. Neither you nor other pets can be infected by Lyme disease by being in contact with your affected pet. However, if your pet was exposed to a tick carrying B. burgdorferi, you likely were also in the area where the tick attached to your pet. Always check yourself for the presence of ticks after being outdoors. 

Q: If I am infected by Lyme disease, what signs will I have?

A: Human signs are similar to those seen in pets. You may experience fever, lethargy, a headache, and muscle and joint pain. A bull’s-eye rash may also appear at the site where the tick bit you. See your family physician as soon as possible if you believe you may have Lyme disease.

Q: How can I protect myself from Lyme disease?

A: Avoid areas where ticks are found, and cover your arms, legs, head, and feet when you are outdoors. Tuck your pants in your socks when walking through grass or wooded areas, and wear light-colored clothing. Use insect repellent, and check for ticks any time you are outdoors. 

Lyme disease is a serious problem if you or your pet become infected. Take precautions to keep both of you safe. If you suspect your pet has Lyme disease, or if you would like to get your dog vaccinated, do not hesitate to contact our team at Wales Animal Clinic to schedule an appointment.