Lyme Disease

Lyme disease, also known as borreliosis, is a relatively rare bacterial disease that is mostly found in states on the East Coast of the United States. Dogs, other animals and even people can get Lyme disease.

Lyme disease has been around since at least the 1800s and is found in many areas of the United States, though it was not discovered in dogs until 1984. While people and animals in all states have contracted the disease, most cases originate from states on the East Coast.

Lyme Disease Spread and Occurrence

Lyme disease is spread through the bite of a tick. However, the tick must remain on the person or animal for 48 hours for transfer of Lyme disease to take place. If the tick falls off or is removed from the person or animal before 48 hours have passed, then it is impossible for the disease to transfer.

In dogs, even when the transfer occurs, the disease will only transfer approximately 10 percent of the time. A few other insects have also been shown to be able to spread the disease, but there are so few of these cases that this evidence is mostly insignificant.

Lyme disease takes anywhere from two to five months after it is transferred for symptoms to show up. For this reason, it’s often difficult to figure out where or how a dog acquired the disease.

Symptoms of Lyme Disease

Lyme disease symptoms in dogs will vary depending on the particular dog, the age of the dog and the strength of the dog’s immune system. Symptoms of Lyme disease in dogs include:

  • fever of about 103F to 105F
  • lameness of the leg (may shift from leg to leg)
  • lethargy or general laziness
  • swelling of the dog’s joints.

Not all of these symptoms will occur in every case of Lyme disease, and other symptoms may also be present. If you notice these symptoms in your dog or notice any sort of routine or behavior change, make an appointment to see your veterinarian as soon as possible.

If Lyme disease is not treated, it can lead to more serious problems, such as arthritis and severe progressive renal disease. In rare cases, dogs can even die from Lyme disease, so it’s important to address the issue as soon as you notice something wrong in your dog.

Treatment Methods for Lyme Disease

In most cases, treatment for Lyme disease is simple and effective. Antibiotics will need to be given to the dog for 14 to 30 days. Usually one of these two antibiotics is given:

  • amoxicillin
  • doxycycline.

In some cases, a dog may relapse after the antibiotic period ends and may need to be on antibiotics for a much longer period of time.

If a dog experiences a great deal of pain from arthritis, pain relievers may also be prescribed by a veterinarian.

Prevention of Lyme Disease

Preventing Lyme disease has become easier over the years. The primary Lyme disease prevention methods are vaccination and tick control.

There are a few different types of vaccines available for Lyme disease. However, vaccination may not prevent occurrence of the disease, as there are many different strains of Lyme disease.

Lyme disease vaccination can begin when a puppy is 12 weeks old. Two doses a few weeks apart are given initially, and then the vaccine is recommended yearly. However, due to over-vaccination problems and possible vaccine reactions, Lyme disease vaccines are generally only recommended for dogs that live in areas where Lyme disease is prevalent.

Tick prevention is now very simple. Once-monthly treatments such as Advantix allow pet owners to administer a small amount of liquid to the skin between the shoulder blades. Tick control also prevents a number of other diseases.