Lyme Disease in Dogs- What You Need to Know!
16 May, 2017
Summer is approaching and the flea and tick season is rampant. While you are with your dogs’ either walking, hiking, or at the beach, there is always a chance that they will get bitten by a flea or tick. And ticks can carry a number of illnesses, including Lyme disease which can affect dogs and humans. Lyme disease can cause tiredness, fever and joint pain in your dogs.
What is Lyme disease?
Lyme disease is an infection that causes arthritis and lameness and is transmitted to dogs (and some cats) through the bite of infected ticks. If it is untreated, Lyme disease in dogs can cause heart, kidney, and neurological problems. Lyme disease is a zoonotic disease, which means it can be spread from animals to humans. Lyme disease can be transmitted if an infected tick from a dog bites a human. Cats can get Lyme Disease but it is very rare and the symptoms are just like those in dogs.
Lyme disease is more common in certain areas of the United States, including the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, and upper Midwest.
Symptoms of Lyme disease
Some of the symptoms may not appear for several months after a dog is infected with Lyme disease. And some infected dogs don’t always show the symptoms. The signs of infection can typically include the following:
Your dog is very tired and stops exercising, fever, joint pain, loss of appetite, symptoms seem to get better and then re-appear later.
The diagnosis of Lyme disease
Lyme disease is usually diagnosed based on a medical history that includes the possibility of tick exposure, the above symptoms and/or the results of diagnostic testing.
Many veterinarians test for Lyme disease using an in-hospital SNAP test. SNAP tests are a group of quick, convenient, blood tests that can be performed at your veterinarian’s office.
SNAP testing is very accurate and a good way to identify dogs that may be infected. SNAP testing is also very convenient because it uses a very small amount of blood and takes only a few minutes to perform.
Depending on the results, your veterinarian may recommend additional testing to follow up a test result or look for other evidence of illness related to heartworm disease or one of the tick-borne infections.
Treatment of Lyme disease
Treatment of Lyme disease usually consists of antibiotics and (if necessary) other medications to temporarily help control joint pain and other symptoms. Some dogs show significant improvement after only a few days of antibiotics, but most veterinarians now recommend a 28- to 30-day course of treatment. Relapses can occur so always monitor your dogs’ carefully for signs of illness.
Prevention of Lyme disease
Periodic testing is a good way to see if your dog has been infected by Lyme disease. Even dogs that wear year-round tick control products and don’t spend a lot of time outside are at risk for exposure to tick-borne diseases. Testing helps identify dogs that need treatment or an adjustment in the type of tick control being used.
There is a Lyme disease vaccine, but it is not necessarily recommended for all dogs. Ask your veterinarian about the risk of Lyme disease where you live and whether the Lyme vaccine is recommended for your dog.
And, some other quick tips that can also help protect dogs from Lyme disease exposure:
Check dogs (and humans) frequently for ticks. They should be removed right away.
Use a reliable method of tick control (several spot-on products kill and repel ticks).
If possible, avoid tall grass or wooded areas where ticks are likely to hide.
As always, if you watch for the signs, use tick-prevention year round, and keep up with your annual veterinarian visits, you and your dogs should be OK.
If you find a tick on your dog or cat, take a look at this article on how you can get rid of ticks on your dogs or cats