Lyme disease is caused by the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi and is characterized by acute and sometimes chronic fever, lethargy, arthritis, swollen lymph nodes, and swollen joints. Some pets develop meningitis, kidney disease, and myocarditis, which can be fatal. Symptoms of the infection can often take 2 to 6 months to develop after exposure. A tick you noticed months ago could be making your pet sick today. More than 95% of the time the tick goes unnoticed.
Lyme disease is a tick-borne disease carried by both the Eastern and Western black-legged ticks (deer tick) and requires 48 hours of attachment and feeding in order to be transmitted. These ticks are very small and often go undetected on our pets. A tick that does not attach to your pet could also put those in your household at risk. Recent data suggests 1 out of 16 dogs in the U.S. test positive for Lyme disease. Last year, 1 out of 31 dogs in Guilford County tested positive for Lyme disease! These ticks are increasing the span of their geographical habitats every year and are actively feeding throughout the fall and winter months in North Carolina, all of which is increasing the risk and prevalence of Lyme disease in people and in animals. Lyme disease is now the most common vector borne disease in humans in the United States.
What Do We Recommend at Adams Farm Animal Hospital?
Fortunately, we have a vaccine to protect dogs from this disease and we recommend vaccinating outdoor dogs, dogs that travel (especially to New England and the upper Midwest), camp, hunt, swim or are otherwise exposed to ticks. Just because you have never seen a tick on your pet does not mean they are not at risk. The initial vaccine series involves two Lyme boosters given 3 weeks apart followed by annual boosters. Dogs that fit this description should also be protected against another potentially fatal disease caused by the leptospirosis bacteria. This bacteria is shed in the urine of rodents, wild animals, and livestock and is prevalent not only in rural areas, but also in suburbia. It can cause fatal liver and kidney failure and is largely prevented by leptospirosis vaccination. It can be given with the Lyme vaccine according to the same schedule. Our doctors do advise, however, that these vaccinations be given at a different time than our other core vaccinations in order to maximize their benefit.
In addition to vaccination against Lyme disease we also recommend that your pet stay on a flea and tick preventative such as Bravecto or Nexgard all year long. In addition to Lyme disease your pet may also be at risk for Ehrlichiosis, Anaplasmosis, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and other tick-borne diseases. Unfortunately there are no vaccinations that protect against these illnesses, but tick protection may help. In NC there are four or more tick species that feed on your pets and at least one of these ticks is actively feeding every month of the year. While Lyme disease has not been reported in cats, there is a highly fatal disease called Cytauxzoonosis that is transmitted by ticks. Outdoor cats should be on products that protect against heartworm disease, intestinal parasites, ear mites, fleas and ticks. Year-round tick control along with vaccination is the best way to prevent the spread of Lyme disease. We’re happy to address any concerns you may have around tick-borne diseases.