Learn how Lyme disease transmission occurs.
All Lyme disease is transmitted via tick bite. While your pet cannot directly give you Lyme disease, they can bring ticks into your yard and home.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Lyme disease transmission is on the rise. While many people may wonder if Lyme disease is contagious, the answer is no: both humans and pets can only contract the disease from an infected tick's bite.
While your dog or cat cannot give you Lyme Disease directly, if your pet brings an infected tick into your home, the tick could also bite you and give you Lyme disease. Ticks are more attracted to areas with animals, so owning a pet may bring more ticks to your yard.
Symptoms of Lyme Disease in Dogs or Cats
Ticks burrow themselves into the skin of humans and pets. Typically, a tick has to be attached for a minimum of 24 hours in order to transmit Lyme disease, so checking your dog for ticks after outings will help lower the chance of infection.
If you do suspect that your pet may have been bitten by a tick and could have Lyme disease, watch for the following symptoms:
- Loss of appetite
- Stiff or swollen joints
- On and off lameness
Most dogs that have Lyme disease never show symptoms and the ones that do have symptoms typically won't do so until several months after the initial tick bite. This can often make it challenging to diagnose, because the tick will be long gone by then.
In order to confirm that your dog has Lyme disease, their veterinarian will perform a blood test. If the test is positive, your vet may recommend antibiotics or other therapies depending on the dog's health status.
Tick Prevention for Your Pet
While Lyme disease transmission is possible in cats, it does not seem to have the same type of effects on cats and is much less common. Dogs regularly go outside and often love exploring, so they likely will be more at risk for tick bites and Lyme disease transmission than indoor pets.
Ticks prefer tall grass, so keep your lawn trimmed short and clear of leaf litter. Treating your own lawn will help reduce the risk of ticks, but it's unfortunately impossible to treat all areas where you might take your dog for exercise and socialization, such as a public dog park. So try to keep your dog out of uncut grass and check them regularly for ticks — if you find one, remove it completely as soon as possible.
Monthly topicals, chewables or flea and tick collars can treat and control ticks, as well as fleas and other pests. Make sure to speak to your dog's veterinarian about which treatment option is most ideal for your pet.
Lyme disease can be a serious illness in both pets and humans. While there is no reason to worry that Lyme disease is contagious, it's important to stay vigilant about tick exposure to you and your pet.