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Top 5 Myths about Lyme Disease In Pets

Tall grasses and shrubs protect you from the scorching sun in your backyard oasis, but what lurks within the vegetation? Hiding under leaves and crawling up long grass and brush stems is an eight-legged menace—a tick. We most commonly see black-legged ticks, American dog ticks, lone star ticks, and brown dog ticks. According to the Companion Animal Parasite Council, Texas is a hotspot for ehrlichiosis, a common tick-borne disease in the south. Lyme disease is also slowly spreading, because its carrier covers a wider hunting ground. Many misconceptions surround ticks and Lyme disease, the most common disease they spread, so let’s clear up a few untruths.

Myth: All ticks carry Lyme disease.

Truth: Most people think of Lyme disease when they think of ticks. While the disease is one of the most common tick-borne illnesses, only black-legged ticks (commonly known as deer ticks) carry the bacterium that causes Lyme disease. The black-legged tick spreads Lyme throughout the northeastern, Mid-Atlantic, and north-central United States. On the Pacific coast, the western black-legged tick spreads the disease. In our area, the deer tick is responsible for spreading Lyme disease.

Myth: Lyme disease causes a bullseye rash in pets, too.

Truth: In pets, Lyme disease rarely causes the standard bullseye rash associated with tick-borne illnesses. The common signs you’ll see if your pet has contracted Lyme disease include:
  • Fever
  • Lethargy
  • Lameness, with possible shifting from leg to leg
  • Swollen, painful joints
  • Loss of appetite
  • Swollen lymph nodes

Myth: Cats can get Lyme disease as easily as dogs.

Truth: Even cats who spend much of their time outdoors and have a higher tick exposure rarely become infected with Lyme disease. That does not mean we can forget tick prevention for our feline friends. Ticks transmit other diseases, and cats can carry ticks into your home where they can infect others.

Myth: Lyme disease is not a serious concern.

Truth: While standard Lyme disease is a frustrating, chronic issue whose flare-ups can be difficult to manage, it’s not usually fatal. However, Lyme disease can result in permanent damage to the kidneys that, if not caught early, leads to the progression of kidney disease. This manifestation of the disease can be clinically silent. Routine monitoring of urine to look for evidence of damage is essential. When early signs do occur, they include lethargy and increased thirst and urination.

Myth: Ticks transmit disease as soon as they bite.

Truth: Unlike mosquitoes, which transmit immature heartworms immediately when they bite, ticks take hours to transmit rickettsial diseases, depending on the disease organism. Lyme disease transmission can take 48 hours. Early detection is critical to prevent the spread of disease, so check your pet regularly for ticks.Does the thought of your pet contracting Lyme disease concern you? Be sure to ask your family veterinarian about year-round tick and flea protection. If your pet contracts a tick-borne illness and your veterinarian recommends specialty care, call our hospital.

May 5