What You Should Know About Lyme Disease Prevention, Diagnosis and Treatment for Your Dog

Lyme disease in dogs is one of the most common tick-transmitted diseases in the world, but it only causes symptoms in 10 percent of effected dogs. When infection leads to Lyme disease in dogs, you may see recurrent lameness due to inflammation of the joints, and a general feeling of malaise. Depression and a lack of appetite may also be present. If the disease progresses, more serious complications include damage to the kidneys, and rarely, heart or nervous system issues. So as tick season approaches, what can you do to protect your dog and to be aware if your dog is infected with Lyme disease?

Preventing Lyme Disease In Your Dog

If possible, avoid allowing your dog to roam in environments where ticks may be. Thick underbrush and wooded areas are prime places for ticks, although they can be right in your own back yard. You can check with your veterinarian for a recommendation for a yard repellent that is animal-friendly. Check your dog’s coat and skin daily, and remove ticks by hand. There are also a wide variety of prescription flea and tick collars, topical and oral products on the market that can kill and repel ticks. As with any prescription medications, always use under a veterinarian’s supervision and according to the label’s directions. Lyme vaccines are available; however, their use is a bit controversial. Your vet can assist you in deciding which products may be the best options for your dog.

Signs Your Dog May Have Lyme Disease

Besides the symptoms mentioned above, other signs to look for are:

*    Stiff walk with an arched back

*    Sensitivity to touch

*    Difficulty breathing

*    Fever, lack of appetite, and depression

*    Superficial lymph nodes close to the site of the tick bite may possibly be swollen

*    Heart abnormalities are reported, but are rare

*    Nervous system complications, which are also rare

Many dogs who develop Lyme disease have recurrent lameness due to inflammation of the joints. The lameness due to joint inflammation may only last three to four days but recurs days to weeks later either in the same leg or other legs. This is known as ‘shifting-leg lameness,’ with one or more joints swollen, warm, and painful. Eventually, kidney failure may set in as the dog begins to exhibit signs like vomiting, diarrhea, lack of appetite, weight loss, increased urination and thirst, and abnormal fluid buildups.

Diagnosing Lyme Disease in Your Dog

If you suspect your dog may have Lyme disease from any signs exhibited, a visit to your vet is needed as soon as possible. Your vet may run a combination of blood chemistry tests, a complete blood cell count, a urinalysis, fecal examinations, X-rays, and tests specific to diagnosing Lyme disease.

Treating Lyme Disease in Your Dog

Should your dog be diagnosed with Lyme disease, he will be treated as an outpatient, unless his condition is deemed unstable. Doxycycline is the most common antibiotic that is prescribed for Lyme disease, but other drug regimens are also effective.

Treatment usually lasts at least a month, but in some cases, longer treatment may be needed. Your vet may also prescribe an anti-inflammatory if your dog is in pain or uncomfortable.

Due to the nature of Lyme disease, antibiotic treatment does not always completely eliminate infection from the transmitted bacteria. Symptoms may resolve, but then return at a later date, and the development of kidney disease in the future, unfortunately, is always a possibility. But proper use of antibiotics reduces the likelihood of chronic complications.

The better you know your dog and their normal behavior, the better you will be at noticing any change in them. Lyme disease is an infection that is best caught early and treated under your vet’s supervision to ensure you have many more happy years with your pup.

For information of the best way to remove a tick, visit akc.org and search ‘tick removal.’


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