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Lyme Disease Awareness Month

April is know at Lyme Disease Awareness Month, and for good reason. Today it is the most common vector-borne (transmitted by insects) disease occurring in people and probably in dogs in the United States. 1975 is the year that lyme disease first came to researchers attention, due to baffling cases of rheumatoid arthritis affecting children in Lyme, Connecticut. Then in 1982, Borrelia burgdorferi, a bacteria that is transmitted by slow feeding deer ticks, was determined to be the cause of the outbreak. In 1985, the first lyme disease case was found to have infected a dog, and since then, the occurrence of the disease has continued to increase exponentially. While dogs are usually the ones that get infected the most, infections have also been found in horses, cattle, and cats. 

Lyme disease can be found anywhere in the U.S., but is most common in the upper Midwest states, the Atlantic seaboard and Pacific coast states. Regions of the country that lyme disease is commonly found in are called endemic regions. 75% of dogs that live in endemic regions are exposed to infected ticks. Still, the chances of a dog showing signs of the disease are small. 

For those that are diagnosed, they often show signs of arthritis due to the pressure that the disease can cause on their joints. Stiff walking, difficulty breathing, sensitive to touch, fever, and lack of appetite are also signs of the disease. In severe cases, the infection can cause kidney failure. The good news for dogs is that signs of heart and nervous system abnormalities seen in infected humans are not often seen in animals.    

More good news is that there are antibiotics that can treat Lyme disease once they are diagnosed. 14 days minimum should be given for the antibiotics to do their work, but a vet may suggest a longer amount of time such as 30 days instead. Even then, in some studies pets still couldn’t completely heal when the antibiotics were finished. A pet may not be able to completely get rid of B. burgdorferi, but to pet owners relief, the chances of them showing signs again are slim. If a pet is diagnosed with Lyme disease, the chances that they will respond positively to the antibiotic is high. 

With the help of tick control products, the chances of a pet being diagnosed with the disease decrease. Other ways of keeping a pet safe include bringing a pet where there is more grass or sandy area instead of woods. If a pet parent does bring a pet into a wooded area, make sure they don’t walk through talk grass, or that they stay on a parth. And after a walk, a tick inspection is always recommended, the sooner one is found, the better chances of it not causing other problems. If one is found, pet parents should keep in mind to not touch it but to put on a pair of gloves and to remove the tick with tweezers to get it out from under the pets skin.

For more information on lyme disease and how it affects animals, visit the Center for Disease Control and Prevention