Lyme Disease in Dogs
Lyme disease in dogs and other animals comes from bacteria carried by ticks. Ticks can carry the bacteria at all stages of their lives. They transmit the bacteria when they latch onto an animal to feed.
Ticks prefer to feed on deer, rodents, and other mammals that live in their environments. They will, however, attach to dogs, animals, and other mammals that enter wooded areas.
Areas with high rates of Lyme disease include New England, the upper Midwest, and the West Coast.
Symptoms of Lyme Disease in Dogs
Lyme disease can create a variety of symptoms. Early signs of Lyme disease in dogs include:
- Loss of appetite
- Lameness or lethargy
- Swollen joints
- Swollen lymph nodes
If left untreated, Lyme disease can cause severe damage to the heart, kidney, and nervous system. Many owners do not notice symptoms of Lyme disease until their dogs experience kidney problems. Unfortunately, the condition is often fatal once it reaches this stage.
When Lyme disease affects the nervous system, it may cause seizures or facial paralysis.
Diagnosing Lyme Disease in Dogs
Veterinary researchers have not developed a test to confirm Lyme disease in dogs. Instead, veterinarians diagnose dogs by observing their symptoms. If the dog shows symptoms of Lyme disease and has recently been in an environment where ticks live, the vet will likely begin treatment.
Blood tests do not offer reliable diagnoses for Lyme disease since it can take up to six weeks for the body to make antibodies that fight the disease. Doctors may, however, use blood tests to rule out other health conditions.
Treatment Options for Lyme Disease in Dogs
Lyme disease in dogs is treated with antibiotics. Veterinarians usually prescribe four weeks of antibiotics to treat the condition. Veterinarians may also use complementary treatments when Lyme disease has affected other parts of the body.
Most dogs rebound quickly when they receive early treatment. In some cases, though, dogs can experience lifelong joint pain. Depending on the joint pain’s frequency, owners may help their dogs pain relievers.
Preventing Lyme Disease in Dogs
Since Lyme disease in dogs can lead to life-threatening conditions, owners should take precautions that prevent the infection.
Owners can help prevent Lyme disease in dogs by:
- Using a tick-control product, such as medications or collars that repel the insects.
- Talking to veterinarians about vaccinations before visiting areas with large tick populations.
- Checking dogs regularly, especially after they have spent time in the woods or tall grass.
- Brushing dogs regularly during spring, summer, and fall.
- Using tweezers to remove ticks as soon as they are noticed, making sure to remove the head as well as the body.
Preventing Lyme disease in dogs requires vigilance, especially for owners that live in or visit wooded areas. Prevention, however, is far better than treating Lyme disease. Even when treatments kill the bacteria, symptoms may linger for the rest of the dog’s life.