Lyme disease is a serious disease caused by the spirochete bacterium, Borrelia burgdorferi. Certain ticks are hosts to this bacteria, primarily the deer tick, or Ixodes scapularis, also known as the black-legged tick. The disease affects animals and humans. It is much more difficult to diagnose in dogs than people. Unfortunately, the disease can recur, either from a new tick or from a previous infection.
Lyme Disease Symptoms
In humans, a characteristic bull's-eye-shaped rash often develops within three to 30 days, making the disease more simple to diagnose in the early stages. This telltale rash isn't always visible on your dog, however. Your dog's behavior is often one of the first changes. Dogs often start walking with a limp, which may change from leg to leg. They may act as though they're walking on eggshells, according to VCA Animal Hospitals. Dogs with lameness, swelling of the joints and fever are common symptoms and vets will often suspect Lyme disease in these cases. The pain is often severe in dogs who show these symptoms. They often walk with a hunched back and joints are painful to the touch.
Unfortunately, Lyme disease symptoms are often easily missed or come and go. For example, the limping and lameness often comes on suddenly and then seemingly disappear for quite some time. Weeks or months later, the pain and limping may recur.
Lyme Disease Testing
According to Dr. Allen Schoen, Lyme disease is nicknamed "the great imitator." Symptoms of this painful and sometimes-fatal disease are common of many other diseases and conditions. Because of this, it is imperative to take your dog to the vet for Lyme disease testing. Two blood tests are administered: an antibody test and a polymerase chain reaction test, which is a DNA test. Administering the two tests is important because the first test may have a false negative. The second test should be ran from a sample of fluid from an affected joint.
Lyme Disease Treatment
Because the disease is caused by a bacterium, antibiotics are effective in treatment. Fortunately, dogs with recurring Lyme disease episodes are much more responsive to antibiotic treatment than humans in chronic stages of the disease. Recurring Lyme disease may be the result of reinfestation by an infected tick or from a relapse in the original infection. Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, Baker Institute for Animal Health, states that antibiotic treatments in the same doses as for the original infection are quite effective for recurring Lyme disease in dogs.
Lyme Disease Precautions
Lyme disease is prevalent in endemic areas. Dogs, however, are less likely to develop the clinical disease than humans. Keeping your dog on an effective flea-and-tick preventive helps eliminate the possibility of contracting the disease. A Lyme disease vaccination is available through your veterinarian; however, the vaccine has come under scrutiny due to possible side effects and efficacy. If your dog has a tick, remove it by grabbing it close to the dog's skin with tweezers and firmly pull it straight out. The key is to remove the tick's head and mouthparts. If you and your dog are avid outdoor adventurers, keep him close while out and always check him after walks or romps through woodsy or grassy areas. You may need to alter her behavior or routine if she frequently is allowed to roam through these types of areas.
With a professional background in gardening, landscapes, pests and natural ecosystems, Jasey Kelly has been sharing her knowledge through writing since 2009 and has served as an expert writer in these fields. Kelly's background also includes childcare, and animal rescue and care.