You may have heard a lot about Lyme disease, but might be unsure as to exactly what it is and how to protect your pet against it. Caused by certain bacteria-carrying ticks, that can feed off both humans and animals, Lyme disease occurs in the U.S. most predominantly in the Midwest, the Atlantic Coast States, and on the Pacific Coast. It is also found worldwide.
Regions of the world where the disease commonly occurs, are known as endemic regions, and it’s estimated that as many as three in every four dogs living in these areas are exposed to Lyme disease-carrying ticks. Thankfully, only a small number of these animals ever develop any signs of the illness.
It’s important to note that you can’t get Lyme disease directly from your pet, and that an infected tick needs to feed off your pet for at least a 24-hour period in order to transmit Lyme disease bacteria to an animal that’s susceptible. This is why rapid removal of ticks is always recommended. It’s a very good idea to incorporate a tick check into your daily routine if you’re worried about their potential presence.
Lyme disease in dogs
The most commonly seen sign that your pet has Lyme disease is arthritis, symptoms include:
- Joint swelling
- Sudden lameness
Other signs of Lyme disease include:
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Stiff walk with arched back
- Sensitivity to touch
- Breathing problems
- Loss of appetite
In the most severe of cases, the condition can cause your dog’s kidneys to fail, and even death, although this is very uncommon.
If you, or your vet suspect that your dog may have Lyme disease, there a few ways to make a diagnosis. These include:
- Whether you live in an endemic area
- Signs of arthritis
- Favorable response to treatment
- Blood test – there is a blood test available that will allow your vet to check for Lyme disease, however, a dog that’s been exposed to the Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria that causes the disease will test positive even if he shows no signs of the illness.
Also, throughout the earlier stages of the disease the blood test may not always show a positive result, and sometimes a dog that’s been vaccinated against the disease will have a positive test result too, even though he doesn’t have it.
Lyme disease usually responds well to treatment with antibiotics.
There are various ways you can keep your dog as safe as possible from Lyme disease. These include –
- Checking your pet daily for ticks
- Removing any ticks immediately
- Cut the grass in your yard on a regular basis, so ticks have nowhere to live
- Use tick preventatives / repellents on your pet
It’s impossible to keep ticks entirely away from your pet, so if Rover picks a few up, try not to worry, and just remove them immediately. If you’re in any doubt about the best method of removal, have a chat with your vet.