Lyme disease is a tick-borne illness that affects both humans and pets across the United States. Today, our Leighton vets discuss the signs, treatment, and prevention of Lyme disease in dogs.
What Is Lyme Disease in Dogs?
Lyme disease in dogs has been diagnosed in every state, but infection rates differ from one to the next. The United States Upper Midwest, Pacific Coast, and Northeast regions have the highest rates of Lyme disease in dogs.
Lyme disease is contracted by dogs when they are bitten by an infected tick. Ticks of all kinds, including those that carry Lyme disease, are most commonly found in wooded and grassy areas, such as farm fields.
Ticks aren't able to fly or jump. Instead, they hunt for prey by resting with their front legs outstretched on the tips of grasses, shrubs, and leaves, waiting for direct contact with animals or people. The tick simply grabs hold and latches on as your dog brushes by.
Signs of Lyme Disease in Dogs
Lyme disease is commonly carried by dogs who show no symptoms. Other dogs, on the other hand, may experience a variety of painful or unpleasant symptoms. Symptoms of Lyme disease in dogs include
- Lameness due to inflamed joints
- Generalized stiffness
- Sensitivity to touch
- Swollen joints
- General malaise or discomfort
- Lack of appetite and depression
- Difficulty breathing
If your dog exhibits any of the symptoms listed above, visit your veterinarian. Lyme disease, if left untreated, can lead to kidney failure and even death in severe cases. An untreated Lyme disease infection can have serious cardiac and neurological consequences.
Diagnosing Lyme Disease in Dogs
If your veterinarian suspects that your dog has Lyme disease, they will review a complete medical history of your dog's health, discuss with you many instances in which your dog may have come into contact with ticks, and examine your dog's body for ticks.
Your vet will also perform a series of diagnostic tests, including blood tests (C6 test & Quant C6 test), urine analysis, fecal exam, and X-rays. If one of your dog's symptoms is painful joints, your vet may draw fluid from the affected joints to be analyzed.
Treating Lyme Disease in Dogs
Lyme disease in dogs is typically treated with a four-week or longer course of antibiotics. Anti-inflammatory medication may be prescribed to pets with particularly painful joints to help relieve pain.
Preventing Lyme Disease
The best cure for Lyme disease in dogs is prevention!
Keep your dog on a tick prevention medication year-round, and talk to your vet about getting your dog vaccinated against Lyme disease. It's also a good idea to avoid walking through long grass or brushing up against shrubs and to check your dog for ticks daily.
It's a good idea to check your dog for ticks when you get home if you've been walking through areas where ticks may be present. Tick removal, on the other hand, isn't as simple as you might think. For instructions on how to properly remove ticks from your dog, contact your veterinarian. (Your veterinarian may ask you to keep the tick for testing purposes.)
Lyme disease in humans is far more severe than it is in dogs! If you go for a walk in an area with long grass or shrubs, make sure to check your skin for ticks regularly. If you find a tick attached to your skin, talk to your doctor about how to get rid of it.
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 visit your vet.