Lyme disease is a fairly common illness in dogs, just as it is in humans — and with both species, symptoms can take several months to appear. Here’s everything you need to know about preventing, diagnosing and treating this expensive tick-borne illness.
- What Is Lyme Disease?
- Who Can Get It?
- Dog With Lyme Disease (Video)
- How Much Does Treatment Cost?
Lyme disease is an infectious illness caused by ticks. Ticks often carry the bacteria, Borrelia burgdofei, that’s responsible for transferring Lyme disease through a bite that then gets into our bloodstream. Ticks pick up this bacteria by feeding on infected hosts, most commonly mice.
Dogs, cats and people are all at risk of developing Lyme disease. You can’t get infected by touching your pet; you can only get infected through a tick’s bite. Ticks are commonly found in all grassy, wooded or sandy areas, so avoiding them is difficult.
Is there a vaccine for Lyme disease? There was a human vaccine for Lyme disease until 2002 when it was discontinued because there wasn’t enough demand for it.
But dog and cat vaccines are still available; however, it isn’t recommended for all pets and breeds. Ask your vet about whether your pet is a prime candidate for this vaccine.
There are still other precautions you should take to avoid Lyme disease. You should check your dog for ticks after hiking or any other outdoor excursions.
- Be sure to protect yourself as well and wear a pair of gloves and long sleeves while you check your pet.
- Common areas where you can find ticks include the ears, shoulders and belly but be sure to check the rest of your dog’s body.
- Remove any ticks you find with a pair of tweezers.
- Use fine-tipped tweezers.
- Grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible.
- Pull upward with steady, even pressure.
- After removal, clean the bite area with rubbing alcohol, an iodine scrub or soap and water.
You should also try to apply some tick repellent to your dog to help deter ticks. Talk to your vet about the best repellent for ticks in your area. We have suggestions for homemade tick prevention, as well as products available on the market that help prevent ticks.
Lyme disease symptoms typically take a couple of months (or more) to appear. There are three states of Lyme disease, and your dog may show signs of any of the three states and progress to others, depending on the case.
If you notice your dog has a sudden occurrence of these symptoms, you should schedule an appointment with your vet immediately.
Acute Lyme Disease
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Acute arthritis in one or more joints
- Shifting lameness from one leg to another
- Swollen joints that may be warm to the touch
Subacute Lyme Disease
- Persistent lameness
- Inflammatory changes in the joints
Chronic Lyme Disease
- Cardiac issues (e.g., arrhythmias)
- Neurological signs
- Kidney damage
In rare cases, kidney damage can turn into Lyme nephritis, which can be fatal.
- Weight loss
- Muscle wasting
- Bad breath
- Elevated creatinine and blood urea nitrogen
- Excess fluid
The video below shows a Beagle suffering from Lyme disease. It’s heartbreaking to see a dog like this, but fortunately, his pet parent took him to the vet to get the medical care he needed. This video can help give you an idea of a dog’s symptoms who’s suffering from Lyme disease.
If you think your dog has Lyme disease, you should take your dog to the vet immediately. The vet will conduct a blood test to see if your dog tests positive for Lyme disease. If positive, your vet will prescribe antibiotics to help eliminate the bacteria from your dog’s bloodstream.
Treatment is a long process, and sometimes your vet will have to alter the prescribed antibiotic because the bacteria can become immune to certain medications.
Be sure to follow your vet’s instructions with administering any medication to your dog. Most antibiotics require the full course of medication to ensure the infection clears from the dog’s system.
A long treatment course sounds pricey, doesn’t it? Antibiotics aren’t cheap, and in some areas, a 2-week supply can cost $400 or more. Blood tests are also needed, which are about $80, and an exam fee can be $40 or more. How can you reduce these costs?
Consider pet insurance for this or any potential emergency you and your pet may happen upon. So long as it was not a pre-existing condition, pet insurance companies will pay for treatment medications, blood tests and potentially exam fees.
Are you worried that your dog has Lyme disease?