Lyme disease is one of the most common tick-transmitted diseases in the world. In today's blog, our Winston-Salem vets explain some symptoms of Lyme disease in dogs, and what to do if you think your pup may have Lyme disease.
What is Lyme Disease?
Lyme disease is an infectious disease that can affect dogs, humans and other animals. Lyme is caused by bacteria called Borrelia which is commonly carried and transmitted by deer ticks (also called blacklegged ticks). The deer ticks become infected by feeding on infected mice, birds, deer, and other animals carrying Lyme. That tick will then pass the infection along when it bites another animal.
Where do ticks carrying Lyme Disease live?
Lyme disease has been diagnosed in dogs across all states, however infection rates vary with the highest number of cases typically being reported in the Northeast, Upper Midwest, and the Pacific coast.
Ticks do not fly or jump but instead rest on the tips of grasses, shrubs, and leaves with their first legs outstretched waiting for direct contact with animals or people in order to latch on to their new host. As such, ticks are most often found in areas of long grass, brush land, farm fields, or forested areas.
Whenever you walk your dog through areas where ticks may be lurking, it is a good idea to check your dog (and yourself) for ticks once you get home. If you spot a tick on your pet contact your vet for instruction on how to safely remove the parasite from your dog's skin. (Lyme disease is much more severe in humans than some other animals! Contact your doctor for advice on removing ticks if you discover that a tick has latched on to your body.)
What are the symptoms of Lyme disease in dogs?
While some dogs can carry Lyme disease without showing symptoms, the most common signs of Lyme disease in dogs include:
- Generalized stiffness
- Lameness due to inflamed joints
- Swollen joints
- General malaise or discomfort
- Lack of appetite and depression
- Sensitivity to touch
- Difficulty breathing
Symptoms of Lyme disease in dogs can progress to kidney failure and be fatal in some severe cases. Serious cardiac and neurological effects may also result from Lyme disease infection.
How is Lyme disease in dogs diagnosed?
Make an appointment to see your vet if you think your dog may have Lyme disease. If your vet believes that your dog could have Lyme disease they will review a full medical history of your dog, then perform a number of tests which may include, blood tests (typically the C6 Test and Quant C6 tests), urine analysis, a fecal exam and x-rays. In some cases, fluid may also be drawn from your dog's affected joints to be tested.
How is Lyme disease in dogs treated?
Dogs diagnosed with Lyme disease will typically be treated with a course of antibiotics for a minimum of 4 weeks, but possibly longer if the infection lingers. If your dog seems to be especially sore it's possible that your vet may also prescribe anti-inflammatory medication to ease the pain.
Can I prevent my dog from getting Lyme disease?
The easiest way to help prevent your dog from contracting Lyme disease is by keeping them on a tick prevention medication year round.
Other ways to help protect your dog from Lyme disease include, vaccinating your dog against Lyme, avoiding long grass or brush while on walks, check your dog daily for ticks and learn how to safely remove them from your pet.