Lyme disease is a chronic, debilitating disease that can infect dogs, cats and humans. It’s caused by a spirochete called Borrelia burgdorferi and is spread by ticks, primarily the sheep tick, Ixodes ricinus. Animals become infected following a bite from an infected nymph or adult.
Posted: 29 May 2019
At this time of year, ticks can become a real problem for pet owners. Both dogs and cats are frequently bitten, with serious health complications if the tick is carrying disease.
In most cases, a diagnosis can be made based on the evidence of a tick bite, plus the clinical signs of shifting lameness, pyrexia and lymphadenopathy. A definitive diagnosis of Lyme’s disease can sometimes be difficult to make, though blood tests may detect antibodies 4 to 6 weeks after the initial infection.
When presented with a case of suspected Lyme’s disease, it’s wise to treat the animal early. Antibiotics, such as tetracyclines, doxycycline or penicillin derivatives are all effective. A minimum of 7 days treatment is advised, with some cases requiring 2 or more weeks, especially those with persistent signs. It may also be necessary to give additional support to organ systems if they’ve been affected. Whist most cases recover well and have an excellent prognosis, some will experience lifelong joint pain. Infection in some animals may continue despite the use of antibiotics and may need further investigation.
The key to preventing Lyme disease is to tackle the ticks that transmit the disease. We need to be vigilant and act to both prevent tick bites and remove them.
The main tick that carries the infective agent Borrelia is the sheep tick, Ixodes ricinus. These ticks are mainly a problem during the warm wet months of the year and are most often found during the spring and autumn.
During the high-risk times of year, owners should check their pet daily to reduce the risk of infection.
There are a number of products licensed in the UK for tick control on dogs and cats. 3 examples of popular treatments are;
1. Spot on treatments – they usually contain one of the following ingredients;
2. Tablets – chewable tablets containing fluralaner. They’re safe and effective.
3. Collars – there are some very effective collars available as well, which have the active ingredients impregnated into the material of the collar. The ingredients are usually one of the following