Lyme Disease: What Dog Lovers Need to Know

You probably know Lyme Disease is carried by ticks. Those nasty little parasites look for a warm body to attach to and feed on. Some of those ticks are infected with the bacteria that cause Lyme disease – Borrelia Burgdorferi.

However, you might not know that your dog can test positive for Lyme disease and not actually have it. Strange, right? But it’s true. According to Tufts University Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, testing positive simply means your pet tested positive for the antibodies but only about 5% of dogs actually develop the illness.

That’s good news for dog lovers!

Yet, you should be aware of the symptoms of Lyme Disease in dogs just in case your pet is one of that 5 %. It’s also a good idea to discuss the pros and cons of the Lyme vaccine you’re your veterinarian.

The other thing you’ll want to know is that some dogs will show fever and lameness within 2-3 days and with can take MONTHS before your dog shows any signs. In other words, you can pick 10 ticks off your dog in August and it can be Halloween before your dog starts showing signs of the illness. If you find ticks and your dog shows any signs of lethargy or lameness, go to vet immediately. Acute forms of Lyme are much easier to treat.

The Symptoms of Lyme Disease in Dogs

Limping -- Lyme disease can cause swollen, painful joints. This is the biggest indicator of the disease since the other symptoms are so common – as you’ll see in a minute.

If your pet starts limping or showing signs of lameness that’s important signal. In fact, you might see your dog limping on one side for a couple of days and then the pain shifts to another leg. This “shifting lameness” is a distinct sign of Lyme disease and you’ll want to report it to your veterinarian.

Joint Swelling – Swollen joints combined with limping is a good reason to contact your veterinarian and have your dog tested for Lyme disease.

Lack of Appetite -- If your dog’s appetite suddenly decreases -- especially if you have a dog who is normally very excited for food, that’s usually a sign your dog isn’t feeling well. While this symptom alone could have any number of causes, if this symptom shows up in concert with others on this list, Lyme disease may be the culprit.

Sluggish -- If your pet also seems low energy, that’s a useful signal too. Lethargy and low appetite are indicators that something is “off.”

Fever – One way to tell if your dog has a fever is to touch his nose. A healthy nose is cool and damp. A hot and dry nose is an indication of a fever.

Except for the “shifting lameness” and swollen joints, these other symptoms are generic indicators that your dog isn’t feeling well. Your veterinarian will run a blood test to determine if Lyme Disease is present.

Treatment of Lyme Disease

The good news is, Lyme Disease can be easily cleared up in your dog with a round of antibiotics. So, if your pet is affected then it’s simple enough to treat.

Your veterinarian may recommend a yearly test to evaluate your dog for the presence of Lyme disease. As mentioned earlier, some dogs will test positive but not show any symptoms. It’s up to you and your veterinarian how you’d like to proceed if your dog is one of these asymptomatic pooches.

The Best Protection is Prevention

You may think of ticks as being prevalent in the woods, and that’s true. Yet, they can even be in suburban backyards. Ticks prefer long grass and shrubbery so keep your grass cut short and shrubs trimmed back to minimize their hiding places.

For tick protection, your veterinarian may suggest a tablet that lasts 3 months called Bravecto. It kills fleas and ticks for 3 months. There are also some topicals and a few tick collars which will kill ticks.

The best prevention is avoidance. Ticks are attached to grasses and shrubs and low hanging tree limbs. When humans and animals brush against these, the ticks will attach to hair and clothing. When these areas are wet, the ticks are much more likely to attach.

You’ll also want to know that ticks can thrive year-round – especially in warmer climates like the Southeast. Ask your veterinarian for their recommendations on tick protection.

Also, give your dog a thorough check when you come in after a walk – especially, if your dog was near grass or shrubs where ticks like to hide. When it comes to your pet, ticks enjoy burrowing at the base of the tail, around the ears, and in between the paws.

Knowledge is Your Friend

With the prevalence of ticks, it’s a good idea to know what to look for and how at risk your dog is for developing the disease.

Your veterinarian will recommend a good tick prevention treatment for your dog. Ticks transfer many diseases so avoiding and preventing are the best option. Lyme disease in humans is a serious disease. If you or your family members are exposed and show any signs of rash or illness, see your doctor immediately. Treatment of the acute form of the tick-borne disease has a much higher success than treatment of the chronic form.

If you suspect your dog has Lyme disease, book an appointment with us today. 


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