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A beautiful, yellow-eyed cat receiving treatment. Doug Hall feeding a well-loved client.

Paws For Thought- Article 10

10th June 2019

Lyme disease


Following on from our article in March about the risks associated with Ticks, we wanted to go into more detail regarding a disease that is transmitted by ticks and affects not only animals but also humans. Although very rarely found in dogs and cats in the U.K, Lyme disease is a serious infectious disease that can cause a fever, lethargy and lameness. Lyme disease is not zoonotic, so it cannot be passed from animal to human.


How is Lyme disease spread?

Ticks are the vector for this disease, particularly the species Ixodes ricinus (sheep tick). Generally, a tick will have to be attached and feeding for 48hrs on a host before the disease is contracted. Lyme disease is not caused by the tick itself, but by something it carries- called Borrelia burgdorferi.


What should you look out for?

In humans, a 'bullseye' like reaction at the site of the tick bite is classically the first sign noted that may suggest that Lyme disease has been contracted.

In dogs (and occasionally cats), we do not always see a tick bite reaction, but progressive lameness affecting more than one leg, a fever and sometimes enlarged lymph nodes may warrant further investigation into possible Lyme disease.


Can Lyme disease be treated?

Antibiotic treatment is usually indicated, and depending on the nature of the symptoms, anti-inflammatory pain relief can help. Sometimes despite treatment, we don't always see an elimination of the disease and we can see symptoms returning at a later date. Occasionally with ongoing issues, we can see that the kidneys are affected.


Preventing Lyme disease

We recommend using a tick protection protocol to try and reduce the risk of your pet being bitten by a tick. Even though this risk of Lyme disease is low, ticks can be vectors for other diseases, and also can cause painful bite reactions.

If you do notice a tick, it should be removed as soon as possible, either by twisting it with a “Tick-O-Tom” or booking an appointment for one of our vets or nurses to remove it. This should be done as soon as it is noticed, and ideally before 48hrs of attachment.

If you have found a tick, are worried about a specific tick bite reaction or have noticed any changes in your animals’ demeanour, please do ring us for advice at Cape Veterinary Clinic on 01483 538990.


Catherine Hannah BVSc MRCVS

References: BSAVA, PetMD, NHS website.