Canine Lyme Disease

Canine lyme disease is an infectious illness carried by ticks. It's caused by a type of bacteria known as Borrelia burgdorferi. The disease is carried by deer ticks, and is most common in the eastern coastal states.

Transmission of Lyme Disease

Canine Lyme disease is carried by deer ticks. The disease spreads when the infected tick bites its host, whether that host be a dog, a deer, a human or another animal. However, the tick must feed from its host for 48 hours before the bacteria has time to spread. If the tick becomes detached before 48 hours have passed, the bacteria cannot spread to the dog.

In fact, research indicates that dog's aren't extremely susceptible to Lyme disease. Canine Lyme disease strikes about ten percent of dogs exposed to B. burgodorferi.

Infected dogs may pose a risk to their families, but only because their ticks may spread the disease to humans in the household.

Symptoms of Lyme Disease in Canines

Canine Lyme disease usually occurs about two to five months after dogs are exposed to the bacteria. Symptoms of Lyme disease in dogs are different from the symptoms of Lyme disease in humans. The most common symptoms of Lyme disease in dogs are:

  • A fever of 103-105 degrees F
  • Intermittent lameness that may appear to travel from one leg to another
  • Swelling of the joints and lymph glands
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite

Complications of canine Lyme disease can include kidney failure, heart disease and damage to the nervous system.

Diagnosis and Treatment of Lyme Disease in Dogs

A blood test can diagnose Lyme disease in dogs. However, a positive blood test does not necessarily mean your dog has Lyme disease. The blood tests detects antibodies to the illness. Many dogs are exposed to the bacteria that cause Lyme disease, but manage to fight it off on their own; therefore, a positive test means only that your dog has been exposed to B. burgodorferi at some point in the past.

In order to diagnose an active case of canine Lyme disease, your vet will rely on the results of the blood tests, your dog's history of tick exposure, your dog's symptoms and your dog's response to antibiotic treatment. Dogs suffering from Lyme disease should respond to treatment within 48 hours.

Vets treat Lyme disease with antibiotic medication. Tetracyclines or penicillin-based medications like amoxicillin. Treatment typically lasts from 14 to 30 days. Some dogs, however, may need medication for longer and, in rare cases, infection becomes chronic.

Preventing Lyme Disease in Dogs

Lyme disease in dogs can be prevented with the use of a vaccine. Even dogs who have already been exposed to the Lyme disease bacteria are still at risk for infection and should be vaccinated.

Controlling ticks on your dog can also go a long way toward preventing canine Lyme disease. Use a monthly topical flea and tick repellent to ensure that your dog remains free of ticks. If you don't use such a repellent, check your dog daily for ticks. Remove ticks by smothering them with a drop of vegetable oil, plucking them off your dog with tweezers, and dropping them into a jar of soapy water.