Lyme Disease in Dogs

Lyme disease is one of the most prevalent tick-transmitted diseases in dogs, however surprisingly it only causes symptoms in 10% of infected cases. Read on to find out the causes, symptoms, and treatment of Lyme disease so you can best protect your dog.

What is Lyme Disease?

Lyme disease is carried by the tick, Ixodes scapularis, which is sometimes known as the black-legged or deer tick. The spirochete bacteria, Borrelia burgdorferi and its cousin Borrelia mayonii, are the cause of Lyme disease. If you are wondering where the name of the disease came from? It was named after the town in which it was first reported, Lyme, Connecticut.

Where Is Lyme Disease Prevalent?

There have been cases of Lyme disease in all of the lower 48 states in the US, although about 90% of all reported cases occurred in New England.  In recent years there has also been an increase of Lyme disease in both humans and dogs, in Northern California and the Pacific Northwest.

How Do Dogs Get Lyme Disease?

Dogs are often running through long grasses and this is where the Lyme disease-carrying tick loves to hang out. Once it has attached itself to your dog, it can often, although not always, take between 36 – 48 hours to transmit the Lyme disease-causing bacteria to your pup. That’s why it’s always best to check your dog for ticks after every walk, as if you can remove the tick quickly, you will minimize the risk. The American Kennel Club offers advice on how to effectively remove a tick from your dog.

Symptoms of Lyme Disease in Dogs

Symptoms of Lyme disease in dogs sometimes don’t show up for several weeks or even up to 5 months after infection. This can make identifying what is wrong with your dog more problematic, as you may not immediately connect the symptoms with a tick bite.

Symptoms often display in the following ways. Your dog will have stiffness and pain on walking; they may avoid play, and seem to have little energy. You may also notice lameness or joint swelling.  They may lose interest in food and have a fever.

Treatment of Lyme Disease in Dogs

If you are worried about your dog’s health, the first step should always be to take him or her to the vet. They will be able to confirm whether your dog has Lyme disease or diagnose another problem.

Your vet will be able to take a blood sample and test for Lyme disease. The good news is there are now two very precise tests available that can confirm or rule out the disease, so you will know what you are dealing with.

If your dog is diagnosed with Lyme disease and shows symptoms, then treatment should begin immediately. Your vet will often prescribe antibiotics, usually, either Doxycycline or Amoxicillin, to target the disease and they may also prescribe treatment to combat your dog’s symptoms. If your dog has a fever, stiffness or lameness then a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory can be helpful.

Hydration and food intake will also be important when it comes to your dog regaining his health, so take your vet’s advice on this.

Can Lyme Disease be Transferred from a Dog to a Human?

As only 10% of dogs who test positive for the disease actually show symptoms, you might be wondering if your dog could pass the disease to you.

However, dogs are not vectors of the disease and you can only catch it directly from a tick bite. However, if you are often out hiking with your dog in the brush and long grasses, you should also check yourself regularly for ticks. You have as much chance of a tick attaching itself to you as your dog does.

Is There a Vaccination Available for My Dog?

There is a Lyme disease vaccine available for dogs and you should talk with your vet about whether it’s necessary, depending on where you live, and also whether your dog would be a suitable candidate. The vaccine might not be suitable for senior dogs or those with other health issues. Only you and your vet can weigh up the pros and cons.

Prevention Is Always Best

Because the Lyme disease bacterium often takes some time to pass from the tick to a host, the best thing you can do is to stay vigilant and to check your dog for ticks regularly.




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