Lyme disease, also known as Lyme borreliosis, is one of the most common tick-associated bacterial illnesses in the world. It is often transmitted by certain species of infected ticks to dogs, humans, and other animals.
In this article we shall discuss Lyme disease in dogs and the main symptoms, and we shall move on to talk about how to treat and prevent this disease in your pooch.
What is Lyme disease in dogs?
Dogs contract Lyme disease when they walk near long grasses or thick bushes infested by ticks carrying the spiral-shaped bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi.
Many species of ticks can cause Lyme disease, but the most common type of tick associated with this condition is the Deer Tick, also called the Black-Legged Tick.
Once the dog’s body makes contact with the tops of tick-infested grasses, the tick crawls on to their body and look for a place to bite and transmit the bacterium through the bloodstream.
After gaining access to the dog’s bloodstream, the bacteria moves to different parts of their body and cause problems in their organs and joints.
However, it can take up to 24-48 hours for the tick to transmit the bacteria that causes Lyme disease in dogs.
What are the main symptoms of Lyme disease in dogs?Dogs are often asymptomatic when they have Lyme disease. They can carry the disease for long without showing any clear symptoms. But here are some common signs associated with Lyme disease in pooches:
- Lack of appetite and depression
- Swollen joints
- Generalized stiffness
- Sensitivity to touch
- General discomfort or malaise
- Difficulty breathing
- Lameness due to inflated joints
- Bruising or unexplained bleeding
If you notice any of these signs above, do not hesitate to contact your vet to schedule a time for proper examination. These signs of Lyme disease can progress to kidney failure if left untreated, and it can be fatal in some cases.
In severe cases, Lyme disease can cause serious cardiac effects and neurological impacts. It may lead to facial paralysis and seizure disorders.
How is Lyme disease in dogs diagnosed?
Your veterinarian will consider the signs and symptoms expressed by the dog, as well as their history and blood work.
For example, if a dog lives in an area with high incidences of Lyme disease, a vet doctor may automatically suspect this disease to be the cause of fever and lameness in a dog.
However, blood samples are often take to confirm the diagnosis. The blood test checks for tick antibodies other possible causes of your dog’s symptoms.
In some cases, the veterinarian may recommend joint taps to examine the fluids in a dog’s joint.
Treatment options available for Lyme disease in dogsA vet doctor usually combines medical therapy and supportive care to treat dogs with Lyme disease. Usually, a 4 to 6 weeks course of antibiotics are prescribed to treat dogs that show clinical signs of this disease, and those that show a high antibody level. Doxycycline is the most common antibiotics used to treat Lyme disease.
Most times, owners get to see improvements within a few days. But a second round of antibiotics is often required as the infection may scale through the first course of treatment.
However, several cases of Lyme disease require an additional therapy to treat the affect heart, kidney, or nerves. Also, supportive care like intravenous fluid is also administered.
After completing antibiotic therapy to know if treatment has been successful, re-examination of the blood is also done within six months.
The veterinary community often debate whether dogs should be treated if they have Lyme disease but are asymptomatic and have low antibody level. Well, your veterinarian will often discuss the available treatment options so your dog can get the best treatment plan.
But keep in mind that Lyme disease can stay in a dog’s body even after taking a course of antibiotics. Sometimes, the disease can flare up when the dog’s immune system is weak or suppressed, such as during a period of stress. However, the same antibiotic can be administered to tackle repeated occurrences of Lyme disease. The lingering infection is not a result of antibiotic resistance.
Dogs that show painful symptoms like lameness may be given pain medications such as steroids and NSAIDs to help manage their condition. Some restricting exercise also helps but owners have to keep a close check to ensure their dog is comfortable and calm.
Can you catch Lyme disease from your dog?
Dog owners may get infected with Lyme disease, but not directly from their pooch. Lyme disease cannot be transmitted from dog to person or from one pet to another.
So you can only get Lyme disease through tick bites. However, a carrier tick may get attached to your dog’s fur, gain access into your home, and may get attached to you and cause infection.
If your dog is diagnosed with Lyme disease, you have probably exposed them to an outdoor environment, and you may be at risk of getting infected when the tick bites you.
So it is a good idea to speak your veterinarian or physician to know if you should test your family members and your other pets.
How can you prevent your dog from getting Lyme disease?Here are some simple measures to help protect your dog from contracting Lyme disease:
- Check your dog and yourself every day for ticks, especially after taking a long walk through a grassy terrain or the woods. Inspect your dog’s feet, especially their nose, between their toes, around eyes, ear, under their tail, and near their anus.
- As soon as you find a tick on your dog’s body, remove them using a pair of tine tweezers. You can also consult your veterinarian if you’re unable to remove the ticks.
- You can try veterinary-approved tick and flea preparations to prevent ticks from jumping on your dog. You can consult your veterinarian for the right option for your dog.
- Get your dog vaccinated. This could protect your dog from getting Lyme disease. However, ensure you discuss with your vet to know the appropriate option for your dog.
- Keep grass mowed to the lowest level and refrain from walking in grassy patches of an endemic tick region or area.
- Remember Lyme disease can be more severe in humans than in dogs. So be sure to check your own skin properly after taking a long walk through the woods or areas with long grass or shrubs. Remove ticks immediately if you find one latched onto your skin. You may speak with your doctor to get advice on removing ticks. Lyme disease can cause a host of painful chronic symptoms in human.
ConclusionLyme disease is common in dogs and it transmitted via ticks carrying the pathogenic bacterium, Borrelia burgdorferi. This disease can cause lameness, kidney failure and lameness in your dogs. Although there are treatment options available to tackle the disease if it is not too severe, prevention is always the best way to keep your pooch from this disease.
Always ensure you keep a close check on your dog and reduce their exposure to areas where they might pick a tick. You should also stay up-to-date on Lyme vaccination and monthly preventatives.