Yes, your dog and (much less likely) cat can get Lyme disease if bitten by a tick carrying the Lyme bacteria, Borrelia burgdorferi. Horses and cattle can get the disease too. While many mammals are invulnerable to the bacteria, these family animals often play both host to and victim of Lyme disease.* Check your pets as often as you would family members. Check daily if you live in an area infested with ticks.
*Studies have shown that dogs in regions where Lyme is endemic are highly likely to test positive for the antibodies (indicating exposure to Lyme) without manifesting symptoms.
How to Protect Your Pets
Tick-check and wash. Pets who roam freely in the woods are more likely to pick up ticks. Be sure to perform daily tick checks and remove any and all ticks. Washing your pet frequently can help remove ticks you can’t see.
Minimize exposure. Fencing systems can help confine a pet in an area where the animal is less likely to pick up ticks or where other tick control measures have been implemented. Do not allow your pet to roam freely in tick-infested areas.
Vaccinate. There are Lyme vaccinations available for animals. Check with your vet. Vaccination early (prior to tick exposure) will provide better protection. But vaccination even after treatment can help reduce future infection. Be sure to use the right medication for your animal. DO NOT use a dog vaccine or tick repellent intended for dogs on a cat.
For more information about recognizing Lyme symptoms in your pet, also see Pet Infections.
Image courtesy of Sherry Cagan