Lyme disease is a common tick-transmitted disease seen in people and pets across the US. While many dogs carry Lyme without showing symptoms, other dogs can suffer from a range of side effects due to this disease. Today, our Memphis vets explain the causes, symptoms, and treatment for Lyme disease in dogs.
Where is my dog likely to encounter ticks carrying Lyme disease?
Lyme disease in dogs has been diagnosed across all states, however infection rates vary from one state to another. The highest numbers of Lyme disease in dogs are reported in the Upper Midwest, Pacific coast and Northeast regions of the United States.
Dogs contract Lyme disease by being bitten by an infected tick. Ticks of all kinds, including those carrying Lyme are most often found in wooded and grassy areas including farm fields. Ticks don't fly or jump. Instead, they find their prey by resting on the tips of grasses, shrubs, and leaves with their front legs outstretched waiting for direct contact with animals or people. As your dog brushes past, the tick simply grabs hold and latches on.
What are the signs of Lyme disease in dogs?
Many dogs are able to carry Lyme disease without showing symptoms. Nonetheless, other dogs can suffer from a range of painful or uncomfortable symptoms. If your dog is suffering from the effects of Lyme disease you may notice one or more of the following symptoms.
- Lameness due to inflamed joints
- Generalized stiffness
- Sensitivity to touch
- Swollen joints
- General malaise or discomfort
- Lack of appetite and depression
- Difficulty breathing
If you notice that your pup is suffering from any of the symptoms listed above, contact your vet to book an examination. Left untreated, Lyme disease can progress to kidney failure and can even be fatal in severe cases. Serious cardiac and neurological effects may also result from an untreated Lyme disease infection.
Important Note: Even if Lyme is not the cause of your dog's discomfort, these symptoms may also be the result of a number of other serious health conditions that require veterinary attention.
How do vets diagnose Lyme disease in dogs?
If your pet is suspected of having Lyme disease, your veterinarian will review a full medical history of your dog 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 a number of tests which may include, blood tests (C6 Test and Quant C6 tests), urine analysis, x-rays and a fecal exam. If your pup is also suffering from painful joints, your vet may draw fluid from the affected joints to be analysed.
Can Lyme disease in dogs be treated?
Pets that are diagnosed with Lyme disease will typically be treated with a course of antibiotics lasting for approximately a month. If your pooch is suffering from especially painful joints, your vet may also prescribe anti-inflammatory medication to help ease their discomfort.
Is there a way to prevent Lyme disease in dogs?
One of the best ways 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. Also avoid walking through long grass or brushing against shrubs while on walks, and check your dog daily for ticks.
Any time that your dog has been walking through areas where ticks may be lurking, it is a good idea to check your pet for ticks as soon as you get home. That said, removing ticks isn't as straight forward as you may think. If you spot a tick on your pup contact your vet for instructions on how to safely remove the tick from your dog's skin.
We also recommend checking your own skin for ticks. Lyme disease is much more severe in humans than it is in dogs! Contact your doctor for advice on removing ticks if you discover that a tick has latched on to your skin.