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Lyme Disease

What is Lyme disease?

  • a bacterial disease spread by ticks
  • usually involves a skin rash and joint pain (arthritis)
  • occurs worldwide and throughout the U.S.
  • the highest number of cases are in the upper-Midwest

What animals can get Lyme Disease?

  • dogs, horses, sometimes cattle
  • white-tailed deer, mice, chipmunks, gray squirrels, opossums, and raccoons can also be infected

How can my animal get infected?

  • Lyme disease is a vector disease which means it is spread through the bite of an infected tick
  • wild mammals (especially small rodents and deer) can carry the bacteria in nature
  • ticks get infected by feeding on infected wildlife (bloodmeal)
  • infected ticks can spread the bacteria to other animals (pets) and humans

How does the disease affect the animal?

  • wild mammals usually show no signs of illness
  • in dogs, signs of disease can take up to 2 to 5 months to appear
  • lameness and joint pain (arthritis) may be seen
  • knees and elbows are most affected
  • lameness may shift from leg to leg or occur “off and on” (intermittent)
  • dogs may also have a fever
  • the disease usually resolves on its own/some cases may last long-term
  • rarely, the bacteria may affect the kidneys or heart, which may result in death
  • in cattle and horses, signs of disease are rarely seen but involve lameness or stiffness

Lyme disease info graphic

Can I be infected?

  • yes, through a bite of an infected tick
  • the tick must be attached at least 24h to transmit the bacteria
  • immature ticks are the primary source of transmission of Lyme disease in humans because they are generally smaller and thus harder to see
  • in humans, disease vary from no illness to severe disease
  • symptoms start 1 to 2 weeks after infection, a small red bump may develop at the bite site which can then spread into a large circular “bulls-eye” type rash
  • not all people get the rash
  • other symptoms may include fever, body aches, stiff neck and headache
  • the second stage of the disease occurs weeks to months later and involves pain in one or more joints, most common is the knee
  • pain will occur off and on and the joint may be swollen. This can continue for years.
  • in rare cases, the bacteria may spread to the brain or heart

Who to contact if I suspect Lyme Disease?

  • for your animal – contact your veterinarian
  • for humans – contact a physician

How to protect my animal from Lyme disease?

  • tick prevention medications!
  • keep your pet out of wooded areas and away from wildlife
  • do regular tick checks and remove any ticks if found (wear gloves)
  • for dogs living in high-risk areas, there is a vaccine available

How to protect myself from Lyme Disease?

  • avoid tick prone areas (wooded areas, leaf litter, high brush)
  • if tick prone areas are unavoidable then wear long sleeves, long pants, closed toed shoes
  • always wear gloves when touching and removing ticks. Always wash your hands afterward.

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