A vet removes a tick from yellow lab.

If you’ve got an adventurous dog or cat that loves exploring the great outdoors, it’s important to protect your pet from Lyme disease—a tick-borne illness that poses a year-round threat to pets (and people!) in Georgia’s mild climate. At Clairmont Animal Hospital, we want to help you keep your cats, dogs, and family members safe by sharing what we know about preventing and treating Lyme disease in pets.

What is Lyme Disease?

Lyme disease is a zoonotic illness, meaning both animals and people can be affected by it. It is caused by a bacterium called Borrelia burgdorferi, carried and transmitted primarily by deer ticks. While you cannot “catch” Lyme disease from an infected pet, your cat or dog can bring infected ticks into the house, where these ticks could potentially infect other pets or people.

Symptoms of Lyme Disease

Symptoms can mimic other illnesses and may not surface for several months after a tick bite, making it somewhat tricky to connect the dots. Both canine Lyme disease and feline Lyme disease cause the following reactions:

  • Fever
  • Lethargy
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Lack of appetite
  • Lameness
  • Serious kidney complications
  • Vomiting
  • Edema (swelling caused by fluid retention)

Diagnosing Lyme Disease

If your cat or dog has been bitten by a tick, and/or your pet presents with symptoms consistent with Lyme disease, we can make a diagnosis with a blood test. Some pets will not test positive for Lyme disease for two-to-eight weeks after being bitten by a tick. If your pet’s history and symptoms point to the possibility of Lyme disease and the first test is negative, we can repeat the test in four weeks just to be sure. 

Treating Lyme Disease in Pets

Treating Lyme disease in cats or Lyme disease in dogs involves administering antibiotics, and sometimes we will recommend a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory or other pain management if the pet seems to be experiencing acute pain. 

Preventing Lyme Disease in Pets

Staying vigilant with preventive measures is the best way to minimize your pet’s risk of contracting Lyme disease. Be sure to take the following precautions: 

  • Stay on track with annual wellness exams so we can keep your pet up to date with vaccines and preventives.
  • Administer veterinarian-recommended parasite control year-round. 
  • Check your pet’s coat every day, particularly after hiking or spending time in tick-infested areas, such as wooded areas, tall grasses and brush, and marshy areas.
  • Ask us if the Lyme disease vaccine is right for your dog. There is no Lyme disease vaccine for cats. 
  • Learn how to properly remove a tick from your pet. It takes ticks at least 12 hours to start transmitting Lyme disease to a bitten pet, and it must stay attached for 48 hours to completely transmit Lyme disease. 

Please contact us at (404) 633-6163 if you have more questions about Lyme disease or to schedule an appointment.