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Lyme Disease in Dogs: Treatment & Cure

External parasites can cause a variety of serious conditions, many of which are largely preventable with routine vaccines. Today, our Little Rock vets talk about Lyme disease in dogs, the symptoms and treatment, as well as how to prevent it.

What is Lyme disease in dogs?

Lyme disease, also known as Lyme borreliosis, is a bacterial illness transmitted by infected ticks to humans, dogs, and other animals.

Ticks do not fly or jump, so they make contact with their hosts by lurking on the tips of long grass or bush and quickly grabbing onto your dog as he walks by. He then crawls onto his body, looking for a spot to bite.

An infected tick carries the spiral-shaped bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi and then bites a dog or person, transmitting the virus via the bloodstream.

Once in the bloodstream, the bacteria can spread throughout the body, causing problems with specific areas or organs, such as joints, as well as general illness. The disease can spread after a tick has been attached to a dog for 24 to 48 hours.

Where are ticks carrying Lyme disease found?

Lyme disease occurs in all states, but the risk of infection varies. The vast majority of cases (95%) come from the Upper Midwest, the Northeast, and the Pacific, though recent changes in deforestation and migrating bird and deer populations have influenced these figures. Ticks are commonly found in farm fields, wooded areas, shrubs, and tall grass.

What are the symptoms of Lyme disease in dogs?

Dogs often don't show any signs of Lyme disease. Even so, the dogs who do, commonly show symptoms like:

  • Fever
  • Swollen joints
  • Lack of appetite and depression
  • General discomfort or malaise
  • Generalized stiffness
  • Lameness due to inflamed joints
  • Sensitivity to touch
  • Difficulty breathing (a veterinary medical emergency)

If your dog is displaying symptoms of Lyme disease, contact your vet to schedule an examination. Left untreated, signs of Lyme disease in dogs can progress to kidney failure and even be fatal in severe cases. Serious neurological impacts and cardiac effects may also take place due to untreated Lyme disease.

How is Lyme disease diagnosed in dogs?

If your veterinarian suspects your dog has Lyme disease, they will take your dog's complete medical history and perform several tests, which may include blood tests (Quant C6 tests) and C6 tests (X-rays, fecal exam, and urinalysis). Fluid may also be drawn from the affected joints for analysis.

How to treat Lyme disease in dogs?

Lyme disease in dogs is typically treated with a four-week or longer course of antibiotics. If your dog appears to be in a lot of pain, your veterinarian may prescribe anti-inflammatory medication.

Is there a cure for Lyme disease in dogs?

Lyme disease symptoms typically resolve within the first three days if detected and treated effectively early enough with antibiotics.

However, the organism that causes Lyme disease is extremely adept at hiding, and while treatment is usually effective in eliminating clinical signs, dogs that test positive for Lyme disease will remain positive for years, if not forever. If your dog tests positive but is not sick, your veterinarian will advise you on whether to treat it at that time.

Though most dogs infected with Lyme disease develop arthritis, the ‘silent killer’ is the Lyme organism and antibodies produced following exposure, which can damage the kidney filter. The effects of this type of disease on the kidneys can go unnoticed until it's too late. If your veterinarian determines that your dog’s kidneys have been affected, they should be treated and monitored before severe renal problems develop.

Preventing Lyme Disease in Dogs

Whenever your dog has been walking through areas where ticks may hide, it’s a good idea to check your pet (and yourself) for ticks once you arrive home. Removing ticks isn’t as simple as you might think. If you spot a tick on your pooch, contact your veterinarian for instructions on how to safely remove the tick from your dog’s skin.

We also recommend checking your own body for ticks. Lyme disease is much more severe in humans than in dogs. If you discover a tick has latched onto your skin, contact your doctor for advice on removing the tick.

It’s important to note that your dog does not pose a risk to you or your family; however, you are at risk if you spend time in the same outdoor environment as your dog and are around infected ticks.

Also, keep up on tick prevention and parasite prevention year-round, and speak with your vet about vaccinating your dog against Lyme. Avoid brushing against shrubs or walking through long grass while on walks, and check your dog every day for ticks.

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.

If your dog is showing signs of Lyme disease or has been bitten by a tick, contact our vets in Little Rock to schedule an examination.

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