While Lyme Disease in dogs is a rare diagnosis, the number of cases in the United States has increased over the past couple of years, making it a rising concern among the veterinarian community. Studies show that between 5-10% of dogs are diagnosed with this vector-transmitting disease each year.
Lyme Disease can be a hard illness to diagnose. An infected animal will show broad symptoms, leading to common misdiagnosis. Oftentimes, being infected by the bacteria through a tick bite can be fought off naturally, but in rare occasions, it can turn into Lyme Disease. Unless it’s a severe circumstance, Lyme disease is not fatal. The key to fighting Lyme Disease in dogs is an early diagnosis and treatment plan.
What is Lyme Disease?
Lyme Disease is caused by the Borrelia bacteria, which can be found in certain species of ticks. For the disease to be transmitted, the infected tick has to be attached to the host for 2-3 days. If the tick dies within the first 48 hours, the bacteria will not be able to spread throughout the host’s bloodstream, and cause problematic symptoms.
Just because a tick bite has infected a dog, doesn’t mean they will contract the disease. The majority of dogs that become exposed to the bacteria can fight off the infection on their own naturally, and will not suffer from any negative side effects. If a dog does become infected and cannot fight off the illness on their own, it will take 2-5 months for them to show symptoms. Unlike humans, dogs do not get a red and circular rash when infected, which makes it even harder to diagnose.
Symptoms of Lyme Disease in Dogs
Lyme disease causes several identifiable symptoms in a canine. Even if your dog is showing these primary symptoms, it’s important to proceed with further testing before self-diagnosing.
Lyme disease shares many of the same symptoms and character traits as other diseases, which raises it’s difficulty to diagnose once again. Below is a list of the most common symptoms in dogs affected with the Lyme Disease bacteria:
- Inflammation and swelling of joints
- Lameness in legs
- Shifting of weight from one leg to another
- Excessive sitting or lying down
- Difficulty in walking
- High fever between 103-105 degrees
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Polydipsia (excessive water consumption)
- Loss of appetite
- Kidney failure (extreme cases)
How is Lyme Disease diagnosed in dogs?
A simple blood test can show if a dog has been affected with the Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria. Even if a blood test shows there has been exposure to the bacteria, that does not automatically mean they have contracted Lyme Disease itself.
A dog can be exposed to the bacteria and fight off the disease naturally, but still carry the tracker for it. It’s important to list all noticeable symptoms when meeting with your vet. Your vet will review medical history, related symptoms, and blood test results to diagnose the underlying issue.
Treatment of Lyme Disease in Dogs
In most cases, a simple antibiotic of Doxycycline will be prescribed. Treatment normally lasts for four weeks, but may vary depending on the severity of the disease. If your dog is experiencing discomfort or difficulty walking, your vet may also prescribe an anti-inflammatory to relieve pain.
Within 3-4 days the medication should set in and start providing relief. If symptoms have stayed the same or worsened after a week, contact your vet to reevaluate the prognosis.
Preventing Lyme Disease in Your Dog
The best way to prevent Lyme Disease in your dog is by sticking with their yearly check-ups and treatments. If you live in an area that is in close proximity to woods or dense trees/shrubs, ask your vet for a preventable vaccination. If possible, limit your dog’s exposure to tall grassy areas or woods. Many of these ticks are found in outdoor and natural areas.
Also, give your dog a flea and tick preventative. If an infected tick bites your pet, this will kill the tick before it has the chance to stay attached for 48 hours. For optimal prevention, consult with your vet and devise a plan for your specific surrounding area.
Prevention is the first step when protecting your pet against Lyme Disease. If your dog does become infected, know how to identify the symptoms for a quick and successful recovery. Just remember, Lyme Disease in dogs can be treatable if caught early on. That is why it’s important to establish a strong relationship with your vet as soon as possible. Let your vet provide you with professional guidance. Their knowledge will help you provide your loving dog with a long and healthy life!