Lyme Disease in Dogs: Effects, Prognosis, and Prevention

Lyme Disease in Dogs: Effects, Prognosis, and Prevention

Lyme disease is one of the most common tick-born diseases in the world. Here, our West Chester vets walk you through the prognosis, effects, and prevention of this common disease.

What is Lyme disease in dogs?

Lyme disease is one of the most common tick-borne illnesses in the world. It is a bacterial illness that certain kinds of ticks can transfer to people and animals they bite.

Ticks don't fly or jump. Instead, they crawl to the tips of long grass or the edge of bushes' low-lying leaves and wait for a person or animal to brush past them. The tick then crawls around trying to find a good place to bite.

If a tick carries the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi and bites a dog or person, they will become infected as the bacteria enters their bloodstream.

Once the bacteria has entered the bloodstream, it can travel throughout the body, causing problems in specific organs such as joint pain, as well as general illness. A tick usually has to be attached to a dog between 24 and 48 hours for the pup to become infected/

Where are ticks carrying Lyme disease found?

Although Lyme disease can be spread in any state, the vast majority of cases are found in the Northeast, the Midwest, and the Pacific Coast. Ticks are most often found in long grasses, wooded areas with thick undergrowth, and places like farm fields.

What is the prognosis of Lyme disease in dogs?

Dogs with Lyme disease are often able to carry the disease in their body without showing any symptoms. However, there are a number of common symptoms to look out for as the disease progresses in dogs:

  • Sensitivity to touch
  • General discomfort or malaise
  • Generalized stiffness
  • Fever
  • Swollen joints
  • Lameness due to inflamed joints
  • Difficulty breathing (this is considered a medical emergency)

If your dog is showing any symptoms of Lyme disease, contact your vet to get them examined.

Lyme disease is treatable, but if unnoticed can cause kidney failure or even be fatal. Untreated Lyme disease can also cause long-lasting cardiac and neurological issues.

How is Lyme disease diagnosed in dogs?

Often Lyme disease is treated by your vet through a month-long course of antibiotics. Often to go-to antibiotic is Doxycycline. If your dog is experiencing particularly painful or stiff joints, anti-inflammatory medication may be prescribed as well.

Can my dog recover from Lyme disease?

If you are able to detect the disease early, symptoms should disappear within the first 3 days of your pup's treatment.

However, while treatment is usually very effective at eliminating signs of Lyme disease, dogs with Lyme disease can remain positive for the rest of their lives. If your dog tests positive for Lyme disease but is not showing any symptoms, your vet may not recommend treatment. 

Most dogs infected with Lyme disease will eventually develop arthritis.

However, potentially serious kidney issues can result from a dog carrying Lyme disease. It is easy for these problems to go unnoticed until it is too late. If your vet identified that your dogs kidneys have been affected by Lyme disease, they will be able to monitor and treat the condition before more serious problems arise.

How do I Prevent Lyme Disease in Dogs?

After your dog walks through areas with long grass or thick underbrush where ticks might be hiding, it is a good idea to check them (and yourself too!) for ticks. Removing ticks can be a tricky process, if you spot a tick on your dog, contact your vet for detailed instructions.

Lyme disease is much more serious in humans than dogs, so it is doubly important that you check yourself for ticks too.

You dog cannot give you Lyme disease, they are not a risk to you or your family. However, if they bring an infected tick into your home, it might be able to transmit the disease to you.

Finally, make sure you follow good tick prevention practices all year long. Avoid areas with tall grass or brushing through undergrowth.  Ask your vet about vaccinating your dog against Lyme and check your dog for ticks every time you take them outside. 

For more information about Lyme disease and tick prevention, contact our knowledgeable veterinary team at West Chester Veterinary Medical Center.

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