How To Prevent and Treat Lyme Disease in Dogs
Tick season is nearly upon us, and if you have a dog you should know about how to prevent and treat Lyme disease.
Lyme disease is an infectious disease that concerns a great many people, especially those who live in the Northeast United States, yet dogs also are in danger of contracting this tick-borne illness. According to a new report by Banfield Pet Hospital’s State of Pet Health 2014 Report, the prevalence of the infection associated with the bacteria that causes Lyme disease in dogs rose 21 percent since 2009.
Based on data collected from nearly 2.3 million dogs seen in Banfield centers during 2013, one in 130 dogs was found to have the bacteria that cause Lyme disease, although the figure was as serious as one in 15 in one state (New Hampshire). To help protect the health of your dog (and your health as well), here are some tips on what to do to help prevent this disease in your four-legged companion and what to do if your dog contracts the illness.
Take preventive measures
To help prevent your dog from developing Lyme disease, you should
- Check her fur every day for ticks and more than once daily if she is outside often. The tick responsible for transmitting the disease (Borrelia burgdorferi) is a slow feeder, which means the infection usually does not affect the host animal (and that includes people) until the insect has been attached to the dog for at least 18 hours. Remove any ticks you see on your dog (see the video)
- Use a tick control product or repellent. Usually a combination flea and tick product is recommended since both pests appear about the same time of year. Ask your veterinarian which product is best for your dog, be it a collar, liquid (usually applied behind the neck), or oral medication
- Talk to your vet about the Lyme disease vaccine, which is not suitable for every dog
- Help control ticks in your yard and around your home by keeping your grass short, weeds under control, and shrubbery trimmed
By the way, your dog cannot transmit Lyme disease to you, nor you to your dog. However, you or your dog can carry ticks into the house, where they can attach to either one of you
Recognize the symptoms
You should have your dog checked by a veterinarian as soon as possible if he experiences any of these symptoms:
- Recurring lameness in one leg that may go resolve after a few days but then reappear in the same of a different leg
- Walking with an arched back
- Problems with breathing
- Swollen and/or painful joints
- Loss of appetite
Left untreated, Lyme disease can lead to kidney damage (more common in Bernese Mountain dogs, golden retrievers, Labrador retrievers), heart disease, or nervous system damage.
Most dogs (about 90%) who test positive for the presence of the bacteria that causes Lyme disease do not experience obvious symptoms. However, treatment is still recommended (see “Start treatment”).
Get a diagnosis
- Your vet will take a history, ask about symptoms, and conduct an examination for signs of a tick bite
- He or she also will perform a complete blood count, chemical blood profile, and urinalysis
- In some cases, vets take a sample of fluid from the affected joints and analyze it for signs of the disease
- Treatment of Lyme disease typically includes a course of antibiotics such as doxycycline (the most common antibiotic prescribed for dogs) or amoxicillin. Most dogs experience resolution of symptoms within three days
- Dogs who test positive for Lyme disease but who do not appear ill should be treated anyway because it can take time for symptoms to become obvious, and early treatment is effective
- Dogs with asymptomatic Lyme disease should be treated because they can develop chronic problems in the near or far future, such as heart, kidney, or neurological disorders, especially irreversible kidney failure
Be sure to take care of your four-legged canine companion and protect him against Lyme disease or any of its potential complications. You can prevent and treat Lyme disease in dogs if you take a few sensible steps.