Should I be Worried About Lyme Disease in My Dogs

It's tick season in many parts of the United States (Spring to early fall) and therefore it's the time we receive the most questions about a worrisome bacterial infection called Lyme disease.

Most of the questions we receive are from dog owners, but Lyme disease can also effect other species including cats and people.

How is Lyme Disease Spread?
Lyme disease is caused by the Borrelia Burgdorferi bacteria and in the USA it's spread by the deer tick  (also known as the blacklegged tick) and a small group of other ticks closely related to the deer tick. Ticks become infected with the bacteria when they suck blood from infected small mammals such as mice and an infected tick may spread the bacteria when it bites your dog.

Dogs that spend a lot of time outdoors, especially in the woods or bushland run the highest risk of becoming infected with Lyme disease but ticks can be carried into yards on other animals, and so dogs are at risk anywhere ticks might be found.

Lyme disease is seen right across the USA but is most common along the Pacific Coast, North Eastern USA, and in the Midwest so if you're in any of those areas, please take particular care.

Its important to be aware that infected animals won't necessarily display the symptoms of Lyme disease.

How do I know if my dog has Lyme Disease?
Only your veterinarian can make a proper diagnosis of Lyme disease, but symptoms of Lyme disease can include:

  • lameness
  • lethargy
  • swollen lymph nodes
  • fever
  • decreased appetite
  • swollen, painful joints 
  • depression
  • vomiting
  • loss of appetite, and increased thirst and urination
If you suspect your dog is exhibiting any of these symptoms, consult your veterinarian as soon as possible.
Lyme disease can cause kidney disease in dogs, which is serious, although symptoms such as behavioral changes, seizures and heart complications, which are sometimes seen in humans with the disease, are uncommon in dogs with Lyme disease.

How is Lyme Disease in Dogs Treated?
Your veterinarian will advise you what to do if you're dog is believed to have Lyme disease. Vets treat dogs with Lyme disease with a course of antibiotics which will usually produces a rapid improvement in symptoms.
If your dog is identified as having kidney disease, a longer course of antibiotics along with additional medications is usually necessary.

How do I Prevent my dog from getting Lyme Disease?
Tick control is the first and most important step for dog owners wishing to protect their dog from Lyme disease and other tick born diseases. Combine this with regularly checking your dog daily for ticks and removing them as soon as possible.

Products that prevent ticks such as monthly parasite preventatives (e.g., Frontline Plus, Revolution, K9 Advantix  or tick collars (e.g., Preventic) are highly recommended.

Isn't their a Vaccine for Lyme Disease in Dogs?
Vaccination against Lyme disease is something that should be discussed with your veterinarian. There are differing views on whether routine vaccination against Lyme disease is useful, and at this time, many veterinary experts to not recommend it.

However, vaccination before exposure can help prevent dogs from getting Lyme disease and also prevent them from becoming a carrier of the the bacteria. For more information on the pros and cons of vaccination, read this helpful brochure from the American Veterinary Medicine Association .

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