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
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.
Project dedicated to support and help to improve Veterinary Medicine. Sharing information and raising discussions in the veterinary community.