Canine Lyme Disease Treatment

Canine lyme disease is acquired from infected ticks like the ixodes scappularis and ixodes pacificus. Both ticks carry the bacteria borrelia burgdorferi that causes lyme disease. Although lyme disease is not a life threatening condition, it often causes chronic conditions if left untreated. Cardiac and neurological systems in particular are also likely to be affected. Since the disease is transmitted through the deer tick, pets living in areas where tick infestation is present are more susceptible to the condition.

Transmission of Lyme Disease

The most common carrier of lyme disease is the white-footed mouse. It passes on the infection to the deer tick. Infected ticks are then capable of transmitting the bacteria to dogs by feeding on the pet’s blood. Ticks also prevent the blood from clotting by transmitting certain enzymes into the pet’s body. Infected ticks that continue to exist on the dog’s body over 2 days are capable of passing on the disease to pets.

Symptoms of Lyme Disease:

  • Inflamed joints
  • Difficulty walking
  • Discomfort while sitting or standing
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Lethargy
  • Fever
  • Lack of appetite
  • Urinary problems

Diagnosis and Treatment of Canine Lyme Disease

The symptoms of lyme disease are often confused with canine arthritis. In order to determine if the pet is suffering from lyme disease, the vet will perform a preliminary physical examination and consider the pet’s risk of previous exposure to ticks. The most conclusive test is a blood test that detects the presence of borrelia burgdorferi bacteria in the blood. However, pet owners should inform the vet if the dog has been previously administered the lyme disease vaccine. In addition to the blood tests, the vet will conduct a urine analysis test and a complete blood profile test to rule out other conditions. Radiographs of the bones or joints will also enable the vet to differentiate canine arthritis from lyme disease.

Treatment of Canine Lyme Disease

Dogs suffering from lyme disease are treated with antibiotic medication. Although, several antibiotics exist, the vet will prescribe antibiotics that are formulated with a tetracycline or penicillin base. Antibiotics should be administered routinely and shouldn’t be discontinued even if the symptoms of lyme disease disappear, as re-lapse is common if the bacteria are not completely killed. Common antibiotic medication such as amoxicillin and doxycycline are usually prescribed as a course for 30 days. The vet may also use antimicrobial therapy in combination with antibiotics to destroy the bacteria. Pets that suffer from pain and discomfort due to joint inflammation are prescribed anti-inflammatory drugs. The role of steroids in the treatment of lyme disease is not yet established. However, pets suffering from advanced lyme disease accompanied by cardiac problems require additional medication.

Effectiveness of Treatment

Most pets respond positively to antibiotic medication. However, some pets may develop chronic conditions that require treatment for life. In addition to medication, pets should be kept in a warm and comfortable home environment. Pet owners should also follow adequate tick control measures to prevent re-infection.

There are several vaccines available for lyme disease. Care takers should discuss with the vet, risks and benefits of vaccinating pets, particularly those living in areas where lyme disease is prevalent.