Lyme disease is a prevalent tick-borne illness worldwide. Our veterinarians at Diamond Bar provide detailed information on the causes, symptoms, and treatment of this disease in dogs.
What is Lyme disease in dogs?
Lyme disease, also known as Lyme borreliosis, is a bacterial illness that can be transmitted to humans, dogs, and other animals by certain species of infected ticks. These ticks don't fly or jump, but instead lurk on the tips of long grass or bushes, waiting to grab onto their host as they walk by.
Once attached to the host, the tick crawls on their body to find a place to bite. If the tick is infected, it carries the spiral-shaped bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi and can transmit the virus through the bloodstream.
This can lead to problems in specific areas or organs, including joints, as well as general illness. It's important to note that the disease can be transmitted after a tick has been attached to a dog for 24 to 48 hours.
Where are ticks carrying Lyme disease found?
Lyme disease can be contracted in any state, but the risk of infection varies depending on the region. The majority of cases (95%) are reported in the Upper Midwest, Northeast, and Pacific regions. However, deforestation and the migration of birds and deer have impacted these statistics in recent years. Ticks are commonly found in farm fields, wooded areas, shrubs, and long grass.
What are the symptoms 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
- Lack of appetite and depression
- General discomfort or malaise
- Generalized stiffness
- Lameness due to inflamed joints
- Sensitivity to touch
- Difficulty breathing (a veterinary medical emergency)
If your dog displays Lyme disease symptoms, contact your vet to schedule an examination. Left untreated, signs of Lyme disease in dogs can progress to kidney failure and even be fatal in severe cases. Serious neurological impacts and cardiac effects may also take place due to untreated Lyme disease.
How is Lyme disease diagnosed in dogs?
If your dog is suspected of having Lyme disease, the veterinarian will gather a comprehensive medical history and conduct a series of tests, which may include blood tests such as Quant C6 and C6 tests, x-rays, a fecal exam, and a urine analysis. Additionally, fluid from affected joints may be collected and analyzed.
How is Lyme disease treated in dogs?
Treatment for Lyme disease in dogs usually involves a course of antibiotics which will last for 4 weeks or longer (the antibiotic Doxycycline is typically a first-choice option). If your pooch seems to be experiencing a lot of pain, your vet may also prescribe anti-inflammatory medication to help alleviate joint pain.
Can my dog recover from Lyme disease?
If Lyme disease is caught early and treated with antibiotics, symptoms usually disappear within the first three days. However, the organism responsible for Lyme disease can be tricky to detect, and dogs who test positive may remain positive for years or indefinitely, although treatment typically eliminates noticeable signs. If your dog tests positive but seems healthy, your veterinarian will advise you on whether to start treatment.
While most dogs with Lyme disease develop arthritis, the real danger lies in the Lyme organism and the antibodies it produces, which can damage the kidneys' filters. Unfortunately, this form of the disease may go unnoticed until it's too late. If your vet suspects kidney damage, they can be treated and monitored to avoid severe renal problems.
It's also essential to regularly check yourself and your dog for ticks once you return home. Removing ticks can be complicated, so contact your veterinarian for safe removal instructions if you find one on your pooch.
We also recommend checking your own body for ticks since Lyme disease can be more severe in humans than in dogs. If you find a tick on your skin, contact your doctor for advice on how to remove it safely. It's worth noting that your dog doesn't pose a threat to you or your family, but if you spend time outdoors with your dog and come into contact with infected ticks, you're at risk.
To prevent tick and parasite problems year-round, keep up with tick prevention and parasite prevention, and talk to your vet about vaccinating your dog against Lyme. Avoid brushing against shrubs or walking through tall grass 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. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.