Lyme disease is transmitted by ticks and commonly seen in dogs (and people) across the US. Though many dogs that carry Lyme are asymptomatic, others will suffer from debilitating symptoms. Here, our Greensboro vets explain the causes, symptoms and treatment for Lyme disease in dogs.
How do dogs get Lyme disease?
When infected ticks bite dogs, they can pass along Lyme disease. Ticks with Lyme disease are often found in grassy, wooded areas such as tall grass at the side of roads and farm fields.
Ticks do not jump or fly, but find their prey by resting on the tips of shrubs, leaves and grasses with their front legs stretched, waiting to make direct contact with a person or animal. When an animal (e.g. your dog) trots past, the tick will simply take hold.
Lyme disease in dogs occurs in pups throughout the states. However, infection rates vary between states. Most Lyme disease symptoms in dogs are reported in the Pacific coast, Northeast regions and upper Midwest regions in the United States.
What are symptoms of Lyme disease in dogs?
Many dogs who have Lyme disease won’t display symptoms. Others may suffer a number of painful symptoms. If your dog is suffering from Lyme disease, you may notice some of these:
- Lameness (due to inflamed joints)
- Swollen joints
- Generalized stiffness
- General malaise or discomfort
- Sensitivity to touch
- Difficulty breathing
- Lack of appetite
If you see any of the symptoms above in your pet, contact your vet to schedule an exam. If left untreated, Lyme disease can advance and progress to kidney failure. In severe cases, it can threaten your dog’s life. In some dogs, an untreated Lyme disease infection can lead to serious neurological conditions and cardiac issues.
These symptoms can also result from a number of serious health conditions that may or may not be Lyme disease. If your dog exhibits any of these symptoms, we strongly recommend veterinary care.
How is Lyme disease diagnosed in dogs?
Your vet will need your dog’s full medical history and will review your dog’s recent activities with you, including any instances when he may have come into contact with infected ticks. A full physical exam will be completed as your vet looks for ticks on your dog’s body, a number of tests will be performed.
These tests may include blood tests (Quant C6 tests and C6 test) x-rays, fecal exam and urine analysis. If your dog’s joints are in pain, fluid may be drawn from the affected joints so it can be tested.
How is Lyme disease treated in dogs?
The typical treatment for Lyme disease in dogs is a month-long course of antibiotics. If your dog has painful joints, your vet may prescribe an anti-inflammatory medication to help manage the pain.
How can I prevent my dog from getting Lyme disease?
One of the best ways to help prevent your dog from getting Lyme disease is to have him on tick prevention medication year-round. If you live in an area where infections are common, ask your vet about vaccinating your dog against Lyme disease.
Also, do your best to avoid areas where ticks are likely to live, such as areas with long grass, or brushing against shrubs while walking your dog. Whenever your dog has been strolling through areas where ticks may lurk, check your pet for ticks as soon as you get home.
If you see a tick on your pooch, contact your vet for instructions on how to safely remove the tick from your dog’s skin. It is imperative that ticks are removed correctly to avoid leaving bacteria behind, which may cause disease.
You should also examine your own skin for ticks. Lyme disease is much more severe in humans than in dogs. If you discover a tick on your skin, contact your doctor for advice on removal.
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.
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