Chronic Lyme DIsease in Dogs

Chronic lyme disease is a condition caused by Borrelia burgdorferi, a bacteria transmitted by ticks. As this condition is not easy to diagnose and treat, it is important for the owners to be aware of the risks of a tick bite. There is a vaccine for the prevention of lyme disease and there are various tick repellant products.

Symptoms of Chronic Lyme Disease in Dogs

The symptoms of Lyme disease occur some time after the tick bite, usually 2 to 5 months. Most common symptoms are:

  • Fever
  • Sudden lameness; the lameness episodes can last 3 to 4 days and then disappear for weeks
  • Swelling of the joints
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Myositis (inflammation of muscles)
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Depression
  • Meningitis
  • Light sensitivity

Diagnosis of Chronic Lyme Disease in Dogs

Diagnosing chronic lyme disease is quite difficult and the veterinarian will need help from the owner in order to correlate the blood tests results with the history of tick exposure and the symptoms.

Standard blood tests can determine if there are antibodies produced by the body in response to Borrelia burgdorferi, but these antibodies only indicate that the dog has been exposed to the bacteria. However, only 10% of dogs exposed to the bacteria become infected. The antibodies could also be a result of vaccination.

The C6 antibody test, which can be performed in any veterinarian's office, can determine whether the antibodies have been produced as a result of recent vaccination.

Treatment of Chronic Lyme Disease in Dogs

The treatment of chronic lyme disease in dogs consists of antibiotics. Most commonly, doxycycline or amoxicillin are used. Your veterinarian might prescribe a minimum cure of 14 days to 30 days but sometimes the organism will not be free of the bacteria in 30 days and relapse when antibiotics are stopped, case in which your dog needs a longer antibiotics treatment.

If the dog also has joint pain, pain relievers may also be prescribed.

Prevention if Chronic Lyme Disease in Dogs

If you live in areas where the lyme disease is a problem, you can vaccinate your dog against it. Vaccination can be performed after the age of 12 weeks. Usually, your veterinarian will recommend 2 doses of vaccine given 3 weeks apart and a booster one year after that. As vaccination poses problems itself, you should first discuss with your veterinarian whether she recommends it.

Daily grooming of your dog could also help, as you can remove ticks before they transmit the disease. A tick has to remain attached to the dog's body for one or two days in order for the disease to be transmitted.

Tick repellent products are also available. Consult with a veterinarian about the different tick prevention products that are available, as they can be an effective way to prevent the disease.