top of page

Lyme Disease

What are the signs of Lyme disease?

The most common signs of Lyme disease include fever, lethargy, decreased appetite, lameness, and swollen joints. The lameness associated with this disease may change in severity and may shift between limbs. Sometimes Lyme disease can cause damage to the kidneys leading to decreased renal function. While people infected with Lyme disease can develop a bull’s-eye rash, this usually does not occur in animals.


How is Lyme disease diagnosed?

Lyme disease can be detected by performing a blood test. The test for canines is available in our clinic and the results are usually available in about 10 minutes. The test for cats and horses is sent out to a lab and the results are usually available in 3-4 days.


What is the treatment for Lyme disease?

Because Lyme disease is caused by bacteria, it can be treated with an antibiotic. The infected animal is usually treated for at least 4 weeks. Sometimes a single course of antibiotics does not completely eradicate the organism. Relapses can occur or sometimes pets can be reinfected through additional tick bites. When a pet has a relapse, we recommend repeating the antibiotic treatment and may even recommend a different antibiotic. Due to the potential chronic nature of Lyme disease, we strongly recommend preventative measures.


The antibiotic dosage is calculated based on body weight, and since the average horse is around 1000lb, antibiotic treatment can be extremely expensive. Consequently, we strongly recommend preventative measures to protect your horse from tick bites.


How can I prevent Lyme Disease?

Lyme disease is transmitted through the bite of an infected tick, so preventing tick bites is the first line of defense against Lyme disease. We recommend that all dogs and cats that could be exposed to ticks be on a flea and tick preventative during the tick season. Typically, this is from April-November for our area, but should include any time that the temperature is consistently above freezing.


One of the best ways to prevent tick bites in horses is to limit tick-friendly environments. Ticks prefer brushy and forested areas with shade and higher humidity. Keeping pastures mowed and removing brush, scrub, and fallen trees will limit the areas that ticks inhabit. There are sprays available that can be applied to the edges of pastures to decrease tick populations if mowing the area is not feasible. Be sure to fence horses away from treated areas and follow label directions. There are some topical sprays available that can be applied before trail rides or other times your horse may be at an increased risk of tick exposure. Vectra 3D is a canine flea and tick preventative that can be applied to horses for long term tick and fly control. Please ask us for more information if you are interested in this product.


What do I do if I find a tick on my pet?

If you find a tick that is attached to your pet, we recommend that you bring your pet to us to remove it as soon as possible. Removing the complete tick including the head can be difficult. If the head or mouthparts of the tick are left in the skin, your pet may develop a swelling or sore around the area. However, if it is not possible to bring your pet to the vet, then you can remove the tick yourself. The following section contains instructions on safely removing a tick, as provided by the CDC. Avoid myths for removing ticks such as painting the tick with nail polish or alcohol or burning off the tick. Your goal is to remove the tick as quickly as possible with minimal injury to your pet.

How to remove a tick

  1. Use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible.

  2. Pull upward with steady, even pressure (as shown in diagram on tick prevention page). DO NOT twist or jerk the tick; this can cause the mouth-parts to break off and remain in the skin. If this happens, remove the mouth-parts with tweezers. If you are unable to remove the mouth easily with clean tweezers, leave it alone and let the skin heal.

  3. After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol, an iodine scrub, or soap and water. Also be sure to contact your veterinarian to let them know about the tick found on your pet.

Is there a vaccine for Lyme disease?

There is a vaccine available for dogs that protects against Lyme disease. We recommend this vaccine for any dogs that are at risk of tick exposure in addition to the use of a flea and tick preventative. Dogs that are receiving this vaccine for the first time will require a booster in 3-4 weeks to be fully protected. Your dog should then be vaccinated on an annual basis to maintain protective immunity. Vaccines are not yet available for cats or horses.

Can I get Lyme disease from my pet?

The Lyme disease bacteria are only infective through the bite of a tick.  While you cannot directly become infected from your pet, if your pet is infected then it means that there are deer ticks in your area that are capable of transmitting Lyme disease. You should take care to check yourself for ticks whenever you have been in an area in which ticks could be found. If you find a tick on yourself, you should contact your family physician.

What is Lyme Disease?

Lyme disease is caused by spirochete bacteria called Borrelia burgdorferi and is spread through the bite of an infected tick. Lyme disease has been diagnosed in dogs, cats, horses, and people. Lyme disease is only carried by a certain type of tick called the black-legged tick or deer tick (Ixodes scapularis). It is of growing concern for veterinarians and pet owners because the geographic range of the deer tick has been increasing every year and more cases of Lyme disease are being diagnosed, especially in dogs.

Is my pet at risk for Lyme disease?

Dogs are the most common pet to be diagnosed with Lyme disease. Since the disease is only spread through the bite of an infected tick, those dogs that frequent areas where ticks are found are at greatest risk of contracting Lyme disease. Deer ticks are most commonly found in forested areas, near bodies of water, and in areas with long grass, such as fields and ditches. The greatest time of the year for tick activity is in the spring, summer, and fall, although ticks can be present any time of the year that the temperature is above freezing.

Range of Ixodes scapularis
bottom of page