Lyme disease is seen in people and pets across North America. Transmitted by ticks, in people this disease often leads to chronic symptoms such as joint pain. Today, our Maury County vets discuss the signs and treatment of Lyme disease in dogs.
What Is Lyme Disease in Dogs?
While Lyme disease has been diagnosed in both dogs and people across the United States, rates of infection vary from one state to another. In the Upper Midwest, Pacific Coast, and northeast regions of the United States, the highest number of cases of Lyme disease in dogs is reported.
If an infected tick bites a dog, the dog can contract Lyme disease. Ticks, including those carrying Lyme, are most often waiting in grassy and wooded areas such as farm fields and forests.
Though ticks don't jump or fly, they do find their prey by resting on the tips of shrubs, grasses and leaves with their front legs outstretched and waiting for direct contact with animals or people. A tick often grabs hold of an animal's fur and latches on as it brushes past.
Lyme disease is not contagious between dogs or people. That said, an infected tick that's been on one dog can make its way to another dog or a person, spreading the disease.
Signs of Lyme Disease in Dogs
Dogs often carry Lyme disease without showing any symptoms at all (asymptomatic). However, other dogs may experience a range of painful symptoms. If your dog has contracted Lyme disease, they may exhibit one or more of these symptoms.
- Difficulty breathing
- Decreased appetite and depression
- Swollen, inflamed joints
- Sensitivity to touch
- High fever
- General lethargy or discomfort
If you notice your dog suffering from any of the symptoms above, contact your vet to book an examination.
Left untreated, the effects of Lyme disease in dogs can be serious or even life-threatening. The condition may lead to serious heart problems, neurological issues, and kidney failure in dogs.
How Lyme Disease is Diagnosed in Dogs
If your vet believes that your pet could be suffering from Lyme disease they will review a full medical history of your dog's health, discuss with you any instances when your dog may have come into contact with ticks, examine your pet's body for ticks, then perform several diagnostic tests which may include, blood tests (C6 Test and Quant C6 tests), urine analysis, fecal exam, and X-rays. If painful joints are one of your pup's symptoms, your vet may draw fluid from the affected joints to be analyzed.
Treating Lyme Disease in Dogs
The typical treatment for Lyme disease in dogs is a course of an antibiotic called doxycycline for at least four weeks. If your dog is suffering from especially painful joints, the vet may also prescribe anti-inflammatory medication to help relieve your pup's pain. In many cases this treatment will resolve any symptoms of Lyme disease the dog is experiencing, however in some cases, the infection will persist and prolonged medication may be needed.
Your veterinarian may have specific recommendations for how to treat Lyme disease in dogs. For example, treatment may also include other therapies targeted specifically at any symptoms your dog may be experiencing.
Unfortunately, when it comes to Lyme disease in dogs and making efforts to cure it, antibiotic treatment is not always 100% effective. Some dogs that are treated for months with doxycycline still show positive antibody levels in the future. Despite treatment, it is possible for the infection to hide in the body for years often resulting in future health problems. Early diagnosis and treatment may make treatment more effective.
The most serious chronic health problems that can result from Lyme disease include kidney, heart, or neurologic problems - irreversible kidney failure called glomerulonephritis is the most common. Kidney failure can reduce a pet's quality of life and lifespan.
Preventing Lyme Disease in Dogs
One way to help prevent your dog from contracting Lyme disease is to keep your pet on a tick prevention medication year-round and speak to your vet about vaccinating your dog against Lyme.
Whenever your dog has been walking through areas where ticks may be hiding, it is a good idea to check your pet's skin when you get home. It's important to remove ticks as quickly as possible to reduce the risk of disease transmission.
That said, removing ticks isn't as straightforward as you may think. Contact your vet for instructions on how to properly remove ticks from your dog. (Your vet may request that you keep the tick for testing).
Remember - Lyme disease is much more severe in humans than it is in dogs! If you walk in areas with long grass or shrubs be sure to check your skin regularly for ticks. Contact your doctor for advice on removing ticks if you find one latched onto your skin. Lyme disease in humans can cause a host of painful chronic symptoms.
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.