Dog Lyme Disease

We received a request from a Pet Assure blog reader to delve into Lyme disease in dogs. Thank you for another great question. Keep them coming!

Do you enjoy taking your dog for walks through wooded areas or high grasses? Well, those areas are popular places to pick up a tick or two. While ticks are all-around icky critters for humans, they can also give your furry friend Lyme disease.

Lyme disease is caused by the Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria, which is transmitted by slow-feeding, hard-shelled deer ticks. These ticks are small creatures that have eight legs, and are reddish brown in color. They only grow to be about the size of the head of a pin, which is pretty small! The disease typically occurs after the tick has been attached for over 18 hours. This is why it is so important to thoroughly comb through your pet’s fur, as I describe later on.

The most common symptom of canine Lyme disease is recurrent lameness due to inflamed, or swollen, joints. Other symptoms include:

  • Lack of appetite
  • Depression
  • Stiff walk with an arched back
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Fever

In breeds such as Labrador retrievers, Golden retrievers and Bernese Mountain dogs, Lyme disease can also result in damage to the kidneys. In rare cases, it could also result in heart or nervous system disease.

To determine if your pet has been bitten by a tick, comb your fingers through its fur after being in woody areas. If you find any ticks already attached, pull it off of your animal’s skin. It is best to try to get all the legs off, as those can help spread the infection. Make a note of your find on a calendar. If you begin to notice your pet having the symptoms listed above, take your dog to the veterinarian and share the information you have. He/she will run a complete blood profile, and then use the profile to look for the presence of bacteria, parasites and fungi in the bloodstream.

If your pet does have Lyme disease, your vet is likely to recommend treatment with different types of antibiotics for about four weeks. It is important to keep your animal warm and dry during the treatment period. While most dogs do improve, some may have long-term joint pain even when the disease is fully out of their systems.

For more information on Lyme disease and prevention, consult with your veterinarian or local animal hospital. And while you’re checking your pet for ticks, check yourself as well.

Thanks for our reader for sending in this question. What’s your question about disease and your pet? Use the comment section below to send it in to us.

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