Sadly, Lyme Disease is now found in all 50 states. It is considered a common infectious disease in the Northeast but don’t fool yourself if you live elsewhere, this problem has spread and most likely will continue to. The disease is transmitted to pets and humans by ticks. And although it is not a common disease in cats, they can get it and more importantly, they can bring ticks into your home that may transmit Lyme disease to you.
The very best way to prevent Lyme Disease is to take preventative measures to lessen the chance of your pet picking up ticks and contracting the disease. This includes staying away from tick-infested areas, check yourself and your pet for ticks, removing any ticks you find, and if you live in an area with a high Lyme rate using preventative medications that will kill ticks (and fleas) before they transmit the disease to your pet (or you). There are several canine vaccines to prevent Lyme disease; it’s a good idea to discuss their pros and cons with your vet.
Some dogs show clinical symptoms of illness when infected with Lyme, and others don’t, so there is some debate on whether you should treat dogs that are not showing symptoms. This is something you should discuss with your veterinarian if your dog tests positive for this disease. Symptoms of Lyme are lameness, lack of appetite, fever, a stiff walk, joint pain, and general malaise. More severe complications can include damage to your dog’s organs.
Diagnosis will include blood work. If your pet tests positive for Lyme, then most likely they will need antibiotics. Most dogs recover fully. This is not a zoonotic disease, which means that your pet can’t give you the disease if they have it, but you can get Lyme if a tick comes into your home on your dog or cat and then bites you.
Even if the incidence of Lyme is low where you live, be aware that there are many other diseases transmitted by ticks. To keep your pets and family safe have a heart to heart with your vet, and then you’ll have the information you need to decide what measures you need to take to protect everyone.
Lyme Disease is high in our area and we have twice noted to clients to have their dogs checked both who later tested positive. It was the sudden stiff gaits that alerted us. With many of you traveling to New York and Pennsylvania with almost double our incident rates, please speak to your vet and take all precautions when traveling.
Lastly, I would like to pay tribute to one of the leading founders of transgender rights Leslie Feinberg www.lesliefeinberg.net who died of the disease in upstate New York in 2014.
I grew up amongst Jazz royalty, but when I first met Leslie at Lambda books in Washington DC in the mid-90s, I was so star struck, then owner Jane Troxell had to literally pinch me. To know Leslie’s story and her strength to fight and stand in who she was in that time was so rare and so powerful it transformed my thinking around trans and butch stereotypes and blindsided me on the importance of honoring yourself.
If you have never read her memoir Stone Butch Blues, click this link to automatically download your free PDF copy: Stone-Butch-Blues-by-Leslie-Feinberg.pdf