Preventing Lyme Disease in Pets

 

You might breathe a sigh of relief when mosquito season is over, but fall has a different pest problem in Canada: ticks. While young ticks are prevalent in spring, adult ticks are most active in the autumn. Ticks, including deer ticks, are on the rise in Alberta in particular, with up to 20% of ticks screened in the province testing positive for Lyme disease.

Lyme disease is a zoonotic disease, which means it can be contracted by both humans and pets.

The best way to prevent Lyme disease is to prevent the ticks from biting your pet in the first place. Speak to your vet about preventative products such as pills or topical products that may be beneficial to your pet if you spend a lot of time outdoors. The options available to you and your pet will depend on your area, your pet’s health, and other factors. Be aware that products marketed for one kind of animal are not safe for others – i.e., if you purchase a preventative product for a dog, do not give a smaller dosage to your cat. Always consult a veterinarian before treating your pet with any preventative products.

Where possible, avoid tall grass and marshy areas when walking with your pet. Dogs, cats, and horses should be checked for ticks when they have been in contact with long grass and wooded areas like hiking trails or overgrown yards. Ticks tend to attach themselves to animals around their eyes or will hitch a ride on their coats. To check for a tick bite, thoroughly run your hands through an animal’s fur or hair. A bite will feel like a small lump on the animal’s skin.

Lyme disease can cause issues like lameness, lethargy, fever, painful joints, and even kidney failure in pets. It may take up to 5 months for any of these symptoms to appear if your pet has been bitten by a tick, so if your pet begins to show any of these signs or you feel a tick bite on your pet’s skin – regardless of the time of year – contact your vet immediately.

Lyme disease cannot be spread from one pet to another through contact with an infected animal. However, because people and their pets are often together when a pet is infected, it is important that any diagnosis of Lyme Disease in a human or a pet triggers testing for other family members, whether they have two legs or four.