Lyme Disease in Dogs, Symptoms & How Lyme Is Treated

Lyme disease is a tick-transmitted disease commonly seen in dogs (and people) across the US. Although many dogs carry Lyme without displaying symptoms, other dogs suffer from a range of debilitating symptoms. Here, our Bartlett vets explain the causes, symptoms, and treatment for Lyme disease in dogs.

How do dogs get Lyme disease?

Dogs contract Lyme disease through the bite of an infected tick. Ticks carrying Lyme are most often found in wooded and grassy areas including farm fields and tall grass at the side of roads. Ticks cannot fly or jump. Ticks find their prey by resting on the tips of grasses, shrubs, and leaves with their front legs outstretched waiting for direct contact with an animal or person. As your dog brushes past, the tick will simply grab hold and latch on. 

Lyme disease is seen in dogs across all states, however infection rates vary from one state to another. The majority of cases of Lyme disease in dogs are reported in the Upper Midwest, Pacific coast and Northeast regions of the US.

What are the signs and symptoms of Lyme disease?

Many dogs are able to contract Lyme disease and not show any symptoms at all. Other dogs can suffer from a range of painful symptoms. If your dog is suffering from the effects of Lyme disease you may notice some of the following symptoms.

  • Lameness (due to inflamed joints)
  • Generalized stiffness
  • Fever
  • Sensitivity to touch
  • Swollen joints
  • General malaise or discomfort
  • Lack of appetite and depression 
  • Difficulty breathing

If your pet is suffering from any of the symptoms listed above, contact your vet to book an examination. If left untreated, Lyme disease could progress to kidney failure and in severe cases can even be life-threatening. In some dogs serious cardiac and neurological effects can also result from an untreated Lyme disease infection.

Important Note: The symptoms above can be the result of a number of serious health conditions including Lyme disease. If your dog shows any of these symptoms, veterinary care is strongly recommended.

How is Lyme disease diagnosed in dogs?

To diagnose Lyme disease, your vet will take a full medical history of your dog health, discuss with you any instances when your dog may have come into contact with infected ticks, examine your pet's body for ticks, then perform a number of tests which may include, blood tests (C6 Test and Quant C6 tests), urine analysis, fecal exam and x-rays. If your dog has painful joints, your vet may draw fluid from the affected joints to be analysed. 

How is Lyme disease treated in dogs?

A course of antibiotics lasting for at least a month is the typical treatment for Lyme disease in dogs. For dog's suffering from painful joints, an anti-inflammatory medication may also be prescribed to help manage pain.

How can I prevent my dog from getting Lyme disease?

One of the best ways to help prevent your dog from contracting Lyme disease is to keep your pet on a tick prevention medication year round. If you live in an area with a high number of infections, speak to your vet about vaccinating your dog against Lyme.

It may also be a good idea to avoid walking through long grass with your pup, or brushing against shrubs while on walks. 

Whenever your dog has been walking through areas where ticks may be lurking, be sure to check your pet for ticks as soon as you get home. If you spot a tick on your pup contact your vet for instructions on how to safely remove the tick from your dog's skin. It is essential to remove ticks properly to avoid leaving disease causing bacterial behind.

It's also a good idea to check your own skin for ticks. Lyme disease is much more severe in humans than it is in dogs! Contact your doctor for advice on removing ticks if you discover that a tick has latched onto your skin.

If your pet is displaying symptoms of Lyme disease contact our vets at Hillcrest Animal Hospital in Bartlett to schedule an examination for your dog. Tick Prevention is part of our annual Wellness Plans. Choose the Wellness Plan that's right for your pet

Lyme Disease in Dogs - Signs, Symptoms and Treatments, Memphis Vet

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