Identifying Lyme Disease in Dogs

If you and your dog love to explore the great outdoors, you need to be aware of the risk posed to your dog by Lyme disease, a bacterial infection that can affect both humans and dogs. Those warm summer months that are made for long walks along wooded trails or rural fields bring out a tiny species of tick that can bite and transmit the causative bacteria Borrelia Burgdorferi, without you or your dog knowing. 

In this concise article, we will take a look at the key symptoms and signs of Lyme disease in your dog. It is a tricky infection that is often hard to detect, but if missed can have serious consequences for the long-term health of your pet. 

Woodlands in the south of England are notorious for ticks!

Recognizing Lyme disease in your dog is not easy.

Detecting Lyme disease in dogs is controversial because the typical dog exposed to the bacteria is an asymptomatic healthy dog, and evidence of exposure to B. burgdorferi does not necessarily indicate illness. 

A missed diagnosis can be serious.

This does not mean that Lyme disease should be overlooked. It is capable of causing severe kidney disease and lameness in your dog. The Ixodes ticks that transmit B, Burgdorfei are also increasing in prevalence across the United States and Canada, increasing the potential for your dog to be bitten.  

To avoid overdiagnosis and overtreatment of Lyme disease, one of the leading veterinary professional bodies,  the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine (ACVIM), has reached a consensus on the diagnosis and management of canine Lyme disease

As a dog owner, here’s what you need to know:

  • Symptomatic Lyme disease appears to be a disease of puppies and young dogs.

Lyme disease was first detected in young puppies under 3 months of age. Clinical studies that have investigated Lyme disease have shown that puppies predominantly develop symptoms while an older healthy dog will tend to remain asymptomatic. 

  • Key symptoms to look out for are fever, poor appetite, and an often self-limiting episode of lameness. 

The immune response produced by B. Burgdoferi infection produces inflammation of the dog’s joints, which makes them lame for a period. Later investigations of the joints of affected dogs have shown evidence of arthritis. This typically resolves, but the episodes of lameness can be repeated. 

  • Protein loss in the urine can be a sign of kidney involvement and should be excluded if your dog tests positive for Lyme disease.

Inflammatory damage to a dog’s kidneys from the disease makes them leaky, leading to the protein that is needed for growth being lost in the urine. This is a serious problem and means that an affected dog will need prolonged treatment and a carefully supported recovery.

  • B. Burgdoferi can be treated by a course of the antibiotic Doxycycline.

The antibiotic course for Lyme disease in dogs involves a daily dose of antibiotics for at least one month.

  • Dietary support can make all the difference

The infection and associated inflammatory disease can take their toll on a young active dog. If the dog is also losing protein in the urine, it will have a greater demand for protein in its dog food to replace the losses and sustain normal growth. Choosing a carefully formulated dog food will provide a recovering dog with the targeted nutrition they need.

Happy and healthy summer walks with your pet dog in Devon

In conclusion

As an owner, it is important to be aware of tick-borne infections such as Lyme disease as they can do serious harm to your pet. Prevention is always better than cure. Tick control involves avoiding areas where ticks are likely to be present and checking your dog for ticks after walks. There are also topical tick repellents and collars that may be combined for added protection.  

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