Lyme disease is one of the most common tick-borne diseases in the world. Today, our Laguna Woods vets discuss the causes, signs, and treatment of Lyme disease in dogs.
Lyme Disease in Dogs
Lyme disease is also referred to as Lyme borreliosis, a bacterial illness that certain species of infected ticks can transmit to humans, dogs, and other animals.
Since ticks don’t fly or jump, they make contact with their host by lurking on the tips of long grass or bush, then quickly grabbing onto your dog when he walks by. He then crawls onto his body to look for a place to bite.
An infected tick carries the spiral-shaped bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi, then bites a dog or person, transmitting the virus through the bloodstream.
Once the bacteria have entered the bloodstream, they can spread to various parts of the body, causing problems with specific areas or organs, such as joints, as well as general illness. After a tick has been attached to a dog for 24 to 48 hours, the disease can be transmitted.
Ticks That Carry Lyme Disease
Lyme disease is found in every state, but the risk of infection varies. Although recent changes in deforestation and migrating bird and deer populations have impacted these statistics, the vast majority of cases (95 percent) are from the Upper Midwest, Northeast, and Pacific. Farm fields, wooded areas, shrubs, and long grass are the most common habitats for ticks.
Signs of Lyme Disease in Dogs
When it comes to Lyme disease, dogs are often asymptomatic (meaning they’re able to carry the disease without showing symptoms). However, here are some common signs of Lyme disease in dogs:
- Swollen joints
- General discomfort or malaise
- Lack of appetite and depression
- Sensitivity to touch
- Generalized stiffness
- Lameness due to inflamed joints
- Difficulty breathing (emergency)
If your dog is showing signs of Lyme disease, make an appointment with your veterinarian. Lyme disease symptoms in dogs can progress to kidney failure and, in severe cases, death if left untreated. Untreated Lyme disease can have serious neurological and cardiovascular consequences.
Diagnosing Lyme Disease
If your veterinarian suspects your dog has Lyme disease, they will take a complete medical history and perform several diagnostic tests. These tests include blood tests (Quant C6 tests and C6 tests), X-rays, a fecal exam, and a urinalysis. Fluid from the affected joints can also be taken and analyzed.
Treating Lyme Disease Dogs
Lyme disease in dogs is usually treated with an antibiotic course that lasts four weeks or longer (an antibiotic Doxycycline is typically the first-choice option). If your dog appears to be in a lot of pain, your veterinarian may recommend anti-inflammatory medication to help with joint pain.
Dogs Recovering From Lyme Disease
Provided the disease is detected and treated effectively early enough, with the course of antibiotics signs of Lyme disease typically resolve within the first 3 days.
However, the organism that causes Lyme disease is very good at hiding and while treatment is typically successful in eliminating clinical signs, dogs that test positive for Lyme disease will remain positive for years, if not forever. If your dog tests positive but is not sick, your veterinarian will tell you whether they recommend treating it at that time.
Though most dogs with Lyme disease develop arthritis, the "silent killer" is the Lyme organism and antibodies produced after infection, which can harm the kidney filter. The effects of this type of disease on the kidneys are often overlooked until it is too late. If your veterinarian discovers that the kidneys have been harmed, they can be treated and monitored before serious renal problems develop.
Preventing Lyme Disease in Dogs
It's a good idea to check your dog (and yourself) for ticks once you get home if you've been walking through areas where ticks might be hiding. Tick removal isn't as easy as you might think. If you find a tick on your dog, contact your veterinarian for instructions on how to remove it safely.
We also recommend checking your own body for ticks. Lyme disease is much more severe in humans than in dogs. If you discover a tick has latched onto your skin, contact your doctor for advice on removing the tick.
It’s important to note that your dog does not pose a risk to you or your family; however, you are at risk if you spend time in the same outdoor environment as your dog and are around infected ticks.
Also, keep up on tick and parasite prevention year-round, and speak with your vet about vaccinating your dog against Lyme. Avoid brushing against shrubs or walking through long grass while on walks, and check your dog every day for ticks.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. Please make an appointment with your vet for an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition.