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Lyme Disease in Dogs: Treatment & Cure

Ticks are external parasites that can carry diseases. If an infected tick bites your pet, it can pass along serious conditions such as Lyme disease. Today, our Killen vets discuss the dangers of ticks and how to diagnose and treat Lyme disease in dogs.

What is Lyme disease in dogs?

Lyme disease is a real problem across North America. Dogs contract Lyme disease through the bite of an infected tick. Ticks, including those carrying Lyme, are often found in wooded and grassy areas, including farm fields and forests. 

Ticks don't fly or jump. They find their prey by resting on the tips of grasses, shrubs, and leaves with their front legs outstretched, waiting for direct contact with animals or people. Once contact is made, they go through the fur and burrow into the skin.

While Lyme disease is not contagious, ticks carrying it can move to a new host, such as a family member or other pets.

Symptoms of Lyme Disease in Dogs

Dogs often carry Lyme disease without showing any symptoms (asymptomatic). That said, other dogs can suffer from a range of painful symptoms. If your dog has contracted Lyme disease, they may show one or more of the following symptoms.

  • Lameness
  • Stiffness
  • High fever
  • Sensitivity to touch
  • Swollen inflamed joints
  • General lethargy or discomfort
  • Decreased appetite and depression 
  • Breathing difficulties

If you notice any of the symptoms listed above you should contact your vet right away to schedule an examination.

When left untreated, Lyme disease in dogs can be serious or even life-threatening. Untreated, the condition can lead to kidney failure, serious heart problems, and neurological issues in dogs.

How is Lyme disease in dogs diagnosed?

If your vet believes your pet could be suffering from Lyme disease, they will review your dog's health history, perform a physical examination and conduct diagnostic tests. These tests may include blood tests (C6 Test and Quant C6 tests), urine analysis, fecal exam and x-rays. If painful joints are one of your pup's symptoms, your vet may draw fluid from the affected joints to be analyzed. 

Treatment for Lyme Disease in Dogs

When it comes to Lyme disease in dogs, the treatment usually includes antibiotics for at least four weeks. If your dog suffers from especially painful joints, the vet may also prescribe anti-inflammatory medication to help relieve your pup's pain. In many cases, this treatment will resolve any symptoms of Lyme disease the dog is experiencing. However, the infection may persist, and prolonged medication may be needed.

Your vet may also recommend additional treatments or therapies to help relieve any other symptoms that your dog is experiencing.

Can I treat my dog for Lyme disease at home?

As mentioned above, Lyme disease treatment in dogs includes antibiotics. The veterinarian prescribes this medication, but you will need to administer it at home on a set schedule.

Does Lyme disease in dogs have a cure?

When discussing Lyme disease in dogs, many pet parents ask if it can be cured. While the chance of a full recovery is very high with early treatment, dogs who are diagnosed and treated late may not be so lucky. Dogs that begin treatment once the condition is advanced may complete their course of doxycycline and still show positive antibody levels when tested. Despite treatment, the infection can hide in the body for years, often resulting in future health problems. Early diagnosis may make treatment more effective.

The most serious chronic health problems that can result from Lyme disease include kidney, heart, or neurologic problems - irreversible kidney failure called glomerulonephritis is the most common. Kidney failure can reduce a pet's quality of life and their lifespan. If your dog is experiencing any long-term effects from Lyme disease, your veterinarian may refer your pup to an internal medicine specialist for advanced diagnosis and treatment. 

How can I protect my pup against Lyme disease?

The best prevention against Lyme disease is to protect your dog against ticks with annual preventive medication. You should also check your pet's skin when you get home after a walk. Removing ticks as quickly as possible is an important step in reducing the risk of disease transmission.

That said, removing ticks isn't as straightforward as you may think. Contact your vet for instructions on removing ticks from your dog properly. (Your vet may request that you keep the tick for testing).

Remember – Lyme disease is much more severe in humans than it is in dogs! If you walk in areas with long grass or shrubs, be sure to check your skin regularly for ticks. If you find one latched onto your skin, contact your doctor for advice on removing it. Lyme disease in humans can cause a host of painful chronic symptoms.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

If you believe that your dog was bitten by a tick, please contact our veterinary team in Killen today.

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Center Star Veterinary Services offers walk-in veterinary services. Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Killen companion animals. Get in touch today to learn more about our services.

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