Many people think that Lyme Disease is a condition that only affects humans. Unfortunately, this is not the case for our beloved canine best friends. Dogs are also vulnerable to this serious health condition if they are not otherwise protected. As conscientious and compassionate owners, it is our responsibility to ensure that our dogs receive the preventative care that they need to keep Lyme Disease, as well as other infectious diseases, at bay.
What causes Lyme Disease?
Lyme Disease is a tick-borne infection. This means that the bacteria that cause the disease are carried by ticks – a small, wingless parasite that can be found living in tall grasses, thick brush, woods, and marshland. It is primarily spread by one specific tick – the black-legged tick (also known as the deer tick).
Ticks lie in wait for their next meal, latching on as your dog brushes past. Once aboard, the tick will bury itself deep within his fur and bite down to consume his blood. As it feeds, the tick will transfer the Lyme Disease bacteria, Borrelia burgdorferi, into your dog’s bloodstream. These bacteria will travel around his body, and cause problems in his major organs as well as triggering overall illness.
Lyme Disease can occur anywhere in the U.S., but it is more common in some areas than others, and in particular in the Northeast, the Midwest, and the Pacific Coast.
Symptoms of Lyme Disease in dogs
One of the biggest challenges in diagnosing sickness in pets is that virtually all animals, including dogs, have a natural desire to try and mask any signs that they may be feeling unwell. This is so that they do not appear vulnerable to any predators that may be nearby. While your canine companion will understand that he is not under threat, the impulse to hide illness may override his symptoms for some time.
One of the other difficulties with diagnosing Lyme Disease is that the symptoms associated with the condition are fairly generalized and may come and go. In many cases, the signs may not become apparent until several months after your dog has been infected. When symptoms do appear, they may include:
Recurrent lameness in one or varying legs
Joints that seem swollen, warm or painful
Vomiting and diarrhea
Loss of appetite
Walking with an arched back
Sensitive to touch
Lethargy and depression
If your dog exhibits a combination of the symptoms listed above, you should seek an appointment with our veterinarian so that your animal can be properly examined.
Diagnosing Lyme Disease in dogs
Lyme Disease can only be diagnosed by a qualified and experienced veterinarian. The process to obtain a diagnosis will involve a combination of information-gathering and testing. Some of the assessments that you can expect your dog to need to include blood chemistry panels, a full blood count, fecal testing, a urinalysis, and x-rays. These can help to rule out other causes as well as confirm that Lyme Disease is the cause of your dog’s symptoms. Other, more specific tests to check for the presence of Lyme Disease are also available.
Can Lyme Disease be treated?
Successful treatment of Lyme Disease is heavily reliant on early detection of the condition. The sooner that a diagnosis is obtained and treatment is started, the better the outcome is likely to be. In most cases, your vet will prescribe your dog with a course of antibiotic medication. This usually lasts for 4 weeks, but may be extended if your veterinarian feels that it is most beneficial for your pet. Doxycyline is the most commonly prescribed antibiotic, but if it is not suitable for your furbaby, alternatives are available.
Depending on the severity of your pet’s condition, other therapies may also be recommended to run concurrently. These might include anti-inflammatory drugs and pain medications. These, along with your dog’s antibiotics, should be taken exactly as directed for them to be most effective.
Although Lyme Disease can be treated, we strongly recommend that owners invest in prevention rather than rely on a cure. Fortunately, there are a wide variety of tick preventatives now available, and if administered properly, these are highly effective in preventing ticks. Speak to your veterinarian today about tick prevention for your dog.
If you would like further advice and support regarding Lyme Disease in dogs, call Noblesville Pet Wellness Clinic today at 317-830-0034