Your pet is a part of your family, and as such demands the same care and consideration any other member of your family deserves. When your pet becomes injured or ill, it can take an emotional toll on both them and you, which means that most pet owners are very interested in preventative care. Especially as regards highly damaging illnesses, like Lyme disease.
Lyme disease is an inflammatory disease that is caused by the Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria and is transmitted by ticks. It can cause inflammation of the joints, which leads to recurrent lameness, lack of appetite, depression, kidney damage and sometimes even heart or nervous system disease. Unfortunately, only about five to ten percent of dogs who are affected by Lyme disease suffer from clearly recognizable signs and symptoms. Pet owners would do well to understand this disease, and what actions one can take to help prevent it.
Signs of Lyme Disease
One of the most common signs of Lyme disease is the recurrent lameness caused by joint inflammation. A pet may be suddenly and inexplicably lame in one leg for three to four days, only to recover and walk naturally for several days or weeks before suddenly becoming lame in the same or a different leg. In general, their joints may be warm to the touch, as well as swollen and painful. Additionally, a pet suffering from Lyme disease may have a stiff walk with an arched back, general sensitivity to touch, difficulty breathing, a fever, lack of appetite, depression, swelling near the infecting bite, heart abnormalities and nervous system complications.
More severe effects of Lyme disease include an inflammation of the kidneys, which can lead to kidney dysfunction and kidney failure, wherein the pet may begin to exhibit signs like vomiting, diarrhea, lack of appetite, weight loss, increased urination, insatiable thirst and abnormal fluid buildups.
Preventing and Treating Lyme Disease
Lyme disease is normally treated through the administration of antibiotics for a four week period, sometimes longer, and improvement of joint inflammation is normally seen within three to five days of beginning treatment. However, antibiotic treatment is not always able to completely eliminate all infection associated with the bacteria and disease, which means that symptoms may appear to resolve only to reappear again at a later date. Additional treatment can be provided, but obviously the best solution is preventative measures that ensure a pet doesn’t contract the disease in the first place.
Lyme disease is spread through the bite of infected deer ticks, which normally remain attached for two to three days while feeding. Checking your pet’s coat and skin for ticks every day, and removing them by hand where necessary, can help reduce the possibility of their contracting Lyme disease. In order to check for ticks on your pet, start at their head and run your hands slowly over their entire body, combing through their hair with your fingers and making full contact with their skin. Be sure to check under their collar, between their toes and under their legs. At the same time, look for ticks in the dark, hidden areas of their body, including under their tail, around their groin and anus and in their ears. If your pet is constantly shaking their head and scratching at their ears but a visual inspection reveals nothing, you should have their veterinarian do a more thorough check.
Ticks normally feel like a small pea attached to your pet’s skin. If you come across one, resist the urge to pull it off, as their head can detach and remain buried in their skin, causing irritation and damage. Use disposable gloves or a paper towel for the removal process, and grasp the tick by the head with tweezers. Pull the tick out gently and slowly, without squeezing its body or twisting and turning the tweezers. Place the intact tick into a small container of rubbing alcohol in order to kill it, and then dispose of it in the garbage. You should then clean your pet’s skin with disinfectant and antibiotic ointment to help reduce irritation.
Tick removal may be a bit uncomfortable for both pet and owner, but Lyme disease is far worse. Taking the time to check for ticks regularly can lead to a far happier and healthier life for you both.