Lyme disease was recognized in the U.S. human population in 1975. In the subsequent years, veterinarians discovered that this parasitic disease also affected dogs. During the 1980s, the incidences of human and canine Lyme disease cases increased dramatically. It is now recognized as one of the most common canine diseases caused by a parasite.
Lyme disease is caused by a corkscrew-shaped bacterium called borrelia burgdorferi. Deer ticks carry the bacterium and spread it by biting and feeding on a dog. As the tick feeds on the pup the bacterium works its way up into the tick's saliva and into the dog. Prolonged exposure to ticks naturally increases the risk of infection. The incubation period may be two to five months before symptoms appear. The disease is more prevalent in the Northeast, Upper Midwest and West Coast states.
Lameness and signs of severe pain could indicate Lyme disease as it brings on arthritis in dogs. Limb joints may feel hot and swollen. Fever, loss of appetite and depression accompany the inflammation. Veterinary diagnosis and treatment for Lyme disease is essential. Dogs respond well to treatment with antibiotics and anti-inflammatory drugs. Preventive measures include grooming and tick control. A canine vaccination also is available, according to the veterinary department at Cornell University.
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