Lyme Disease in Dogs - Symptoms and Treatment for Dog Lyme Disease

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corgi dog held by man while woman applies tick preventive medication

corgi dog held by man while woman applies tick preventive medication

What is Lyme disease in dogs?

Lyme disease is a bacterial infection caused by Borrelia burgdorferi, which is transmitted through ticks, particularly deer ticks. When a tick bites a dog, the bacterium can travel through the bloodstream to different organs, commonly damaging the joints or kidneys. These ticks are prevalent in the Midwest, Eastern United States, and Canada. It is worth noting that Lyme disease is not only limited to dogs, but it can also infect humans through the bite of the same tick that infected the dog. Therefore, both dog owners and their pets must take preventative measures against tick bites to avoid contracting Lyme disease.

Causes of Lyme disease in dogs

veterinarian with gloves on removing tick from brown and white dog

Lyme disease is transmitted through the bite of an infected tick. As a precautionary measure, it is crucial to exercise caution when entering grassy or wooded areas where ticks are abundant. These ticks harbor Borrelia burgdorferi, and when they bite a host such as a dog or human, the bacteria enter the bloodstream through their saliva, leading to an infection. This type of infection is more prevalent during the late spring and summer months when tick activity is at its peak. If bitten by a tick, it is important to seek medical attention promptly as the infection can take hold within 24 to 48 hours.

Symptoms of Lyme disease in dogs

Lyme disease is a condition that affects both humans and dogs, but the early signs of the disease can vary between the two species. Humans can easily recognize the disease through swelling at the site of the tick bite, whereas in dogs, this may not be the case. Redness and bites can often go unnoticed, making it difficult to identify the disease in dogs in its early stages.

Most dog owners typically become aware of the disease when they notice their pet experiencing a fever or a lack of appetite. Dogs with Lyme disease can also experience lameness, which may affect one leg and then spread to the others. In some cases, the lameness symptoms may come and go. This condition can cause swelling of the leg joints and result in arthritis as well.

Other symptoms that may indicate Lyme disease in dogs include swollen lymph nodes, vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss, polyuria, and oliguria. It is important to monitor your dog for these symptoms after a walk in tall grass or during the peak seasons for tick activity.

What is the risk of Lyme disease in dogs

Lyme disease is a condition that can severely impact a dog's quality of life, and in severe cases, it can even be life-threatening. Although it is not a common occurrence, Lyme disease has the potential to cause kidney damage. The disease is known to cause glomerulonephritis, a condition that leads to inflammation and reduced function of the glomeruli within the kidneys. This makes it incredibly dangerous since the kidneys cannot function properly, leading to problems with urination and the inability to excrete toxins from the body. If your dog experiences any of these symptoms after traveling or walking in areas that are known to have ticks, it is important to suspect Lyme disease and seek veterinary care immediately.

Home treatment for Lyme disease in dogs

While there aren't many home remedies available to treat Lyme disease, it's important to observe the clinical symptoms. If you notice symptoms such as gait abnormality, loss of energy, or fever, it's advisable to seek treatment from a veterinarian as soon as possible.

Diagnosing Lyme disease in dogs

When visiting the veterinarian suspecting Lyme disease, the veterinarian will likely inquire whether the dog has been on a trip or recent areas you took your dog on a walk. Once the veterinarian has gathered enough information, tests will be conducted to diagnose Lyme disease.

  • Antibody titer test

    To diagnose Lyme disease, an antibody titer test can be conducted which involves a blood test to check for the presence of antibodies to Borrelia bacteria responsible for the disease. If antibodies are present in the blood, it indicates exposure to the bacteria. However, if the test is conducted within 4 weeks of a tick bite, there is a chance of obtaining a false negative result since antibodies may not have formed yet.

  • QC6 Test

    A numerical representation of the concentration of antibodies in the blood, known as the QC6 test, can be conducted. If the antibody concentration is 30 IU/ml or higher and clear clinical symptoms are present, Lyme disease can be confirmed, and treatment is initiated. Afterward, additional tests may be performed to determine if Lyme disease is causing other diseases in your dog.

  • Leg radiograph

    A radiograph of the leg can roughly determine the presence of arthritis.

  • Synovial fluid test

    Synovial fluid is extracted with a syringe and viewed through a slide to check for signs of inflammation.

  • Blood chemistry test

    Blood tests can be performed to check the health of the dog’s kidneys.

  • Urine test

    By analyzing the dog's urine, problems with the kidneys can be confirmed.

Treatment for Lyme disease in dogs and its prognosis

Lyme disease, caused by the bacterium Borrelia, is typically treated using antibiotics like Doxycycline, Amoxicillin, and Azithromycin, which are prescribed for about four weeks. However, additional medications may be necessary if the disease has resulted in arthritis or kidney disease. In cases of arthritis, pain relievers like NSAIDs may be prescribed to manage discomfort. In more severe cases of kidney disease, fluid therapy can be employed to stimulate the excretion of toxins through urine.

Preventing Lyme disease in dogs

brown dog with black collar on with preventives applied to the back of her neck

To prevent Lyme disease in dogs, it is crucial to avoid exposure to ticks. These parasites are typically found in grassy or wooded areas, so it is important to be cautious when venturing into such environments. To minimize the risk of tick bites, it is advisable to avoid entering these areas during the spring or summer months when tick populations are at their peak. Additionally, if you reside in an area where Lyme disease-carrying ticks are prevalent, or if you plan to travel to such an area, it is highly recommended that you get vaccinated. By taking these precautions, you can help safeguard your pet’s health and well-being.

Find out more about your dog’s symptoms and diseases on the Buddydoc app!

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The Buddydoc library is filled with everything you’d want to know about each symptom and disease your pet may experience. If you would like to find out more about the causes, signs, treatments, preventions, and more for your dog’s disease. Try out the Buddydoc app and search for your pet’s symptoms or diseases in the Buddydoc library.

Scan or click the image below to download the Buddydoc app now and begin giving your pet the best care possible!