Chronic Lyme Disease Prognosis for Dogs

Chronic Lyme disease in dogs occurs when the borreliosis bacteria transmitted through the bite of a deer tick causes an infection that progresses unchecked. Developing from an initial skin lesion, which may or may not resemble the bull's-eye of a target, Lyme disease can eventually spread to all parts of your dog's body. As a result, you must ensure that Lyme disease is aggressively treated, no matter the stage at which you first notice symptoms in your dog. Treatment may include a battery of strong antibiotics, painkillers, anti-inflammation drugs and hospitalization. With proper treatment, your dog's symptoms of chronic Lyme disease may diminish or disappear. Without treatment, your dog could suffer paralysis and even death.

Lyme Disease Progresses in Stages

The first stage is the bite. Dogs love to romp in fields and underbrush, where deer ticks thrive. Bites can occur any time your dog is set free to roam in overgrown areas. Immediately upon your dog's return home, examine him for ticks embedded in the skin. Infection turns into Lyme disease within 24 to 48 hours of the initial bite, so intervening as early as possible to remove ticks goes a long way in preventing a full-fledged case of chronic Lyme disease. Removing a tick is a specialized task, so ask your vet for instructions on this procedure in advance of your having to perform it on your own. If possible, if your dog is bitten, take him promptly to the vet to remove any and all ticks properly, and to begin monitoring your dog's infection.

Early Lyme Disease Has Few Symptoms

Whether you notice and remove a tick or not, always be on the lookout for subtle signs of malaise that come and go, signaling that your dog may have contracted Lyme disease. Do not wait for symptoms to either disappear or worsen to seek medical attention for your dog. Take your dog to the vet if you notice the following symptoms manifesting to any degree:

  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • A limp
  • Swollen lymph nodes

If necessary, your vet may administer one or two rounds of antibiotics, most often Amoxicillan, with the desired outcome of eradication of the disease in your dog.

Stronger Treatment Required as Lyme Disease Advances

If unnoticed or untreated, Lyme disease can cause a chronic and worsening bacterial infection that spreads throughout your dog's body, resulting in constant pain, debilitation, paralysis and possibly death. If the disease is caught in mid-stage, your vet may proscribe the antibiotic Doxycycline (which cannot be given to puppies). If symptoms do not abate, or your vet suspects the disease has entered the advanced stage, he or she may administer the antibiotic Ceftriaxone intravenously, monitoring carefully for side effects like cardiac or neurological damage, as well as pain and inflammation at the injection site. Other side effects of Ceftriaxone include the following:

  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Gallbladder problems

Some Dogs Never Completely Recover

Veterinarians believe that a chronic Lyme disease infection may remain in the body in dormant form, making it critically necessary for dog owners to remain constantly vigilant for recurring symptoms in the case of another flare-up. Dogs that do not receive treatment soon enough, or enough treatment as the disease advances, may become permanently disabled or die from asphyxiation when the infection impairs the respiratory system.

Due to the severity of the disease and the intense suffering that chronic Lyme disease causes, some owners avoid letting their dogs frequent areas where deer ticks may live. Your vet may also recommend a variety of tick repellants.