You take your dog out for walks in the park or along wooded trails because we all know that outdoor exercise is good for us. But there can be dangers lurking in the woods. In many parts of the country, Lyme disease, which can be detrimental to the health of both humans and dogs, is widespread. The tick-borne illness is common in the Spring and Summer months when ticks emerge and seek out the blood of animals, yet symptoms may not appear for several months. Educating yourself about the risks, prevention, symptoms, and treatment of Lyme disease will help you to reduce the chances of your dog contracting the disease. Here are The Top 9 Things You Need to Know About Lyme Disease in Dogs.
9. What is Lyme Disease?
Lyme disease is an illness caused by the Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria. The bacteria spreads to humans, dogs, and other animals through tick bites. Lyme disease is so common in some areas of the country—such as the New England states and the upper Midwest states—that as many as 75% of the dogs living in that area test positive for Lyme disease. The majority of those dogs, however, are asymptomatic—they show no signs or symptoms of the disease even though they test positive for it.
8. How is Lyme Disease Spread?
Lyme disease belongs to a group of diseases known as zoonosis, meaning that they spread from one animal to another via a third party. In the case of Lyme disease, the bacteria that causes the illness is spread from deer, mice, raccoons, and other animals to dogs through tick bites. Deer ticks and black-legged ticks are the main culprits. The ticks bite the deer and extract a small quantity of blood. When they then bite a dog, the bacteria are spread. The ticks are uninfected. Researchers have found that the saliva of the tick suppresses the disease in the insect even as it facilitates the spread of the disease. In order to pass the Lyme disease on to your dog, the infected tick must stay attached to the dog for at least 48 hours.
7. How Is Lyme Disease Diagnosed?
In the past, veterinarians relied on a blood test to diagnose Lyme disease in a dog. In recent years, however, two new tests have replaced the older diagnostic tool. They are called the C6 Test and the Quant C6 Test. The C6 Test, which is accurate as early as three or four weeks after the tick bite, indicates the presence of antibodies that the dog’s immune system produces to fight the C6 protein, a protein that is only found in the Borrelia bacteria. If the dog has the C6 protein in its body, then this means that he has been infected with the bacteria that causes Lyme disease and his natural immune system has produced weapons to fight it off. If your dog tests positive for Lyme disease with the C6 Test, your veterinarian may recommend doing the Quant C6 Test. This test determines how high the levels of antibodies are. This information will help your vet to make treatment decisions for your dog.
6. Can a Dog Test Positive For Lyme Disease, But Not Have Symptoms?
Yes. In fact, this happens quite often. Typically, less than 10% of dogs that test positive for Lyme disease ever develop symptoms. There is an ongoing debate among veterinarians whether the remaining 90% of dogs—the asymptomatic ones—should be treated even though they are not clinically ill. The Quant C6 Test can indicate how recent the infection occurred and how active the bacteria are. This information can help your veterinarian make recommendations about treatments.
5. What Are Preventative Measures I Can Take?
If you can stop tick bites, then you can stop the spread of Lyme disease. The best preventative measure is to be diligent about checking for ticks on your dog. Because the tick must be attached to the dog for at least two days before Lyme disease is transmitted, you can prevent the infection of Lyme disease by simply removing ticks before the 48 hours are up. You can drastically reduce the chance of Lyme disease infection by inspecting your dog on a daily basis, looking for ticks. If you find a tick that has embedded itself into your dog’s flesh, then you can either ask you vet to remove it or do it yourself. Since it is important to remove the tick as soon as possible, you may find it best if you remove the tick on your own. Using a pair of tweezers, grasp the tick closely to the dog’s skin and pull straight out. Be careful not to twist the tick or you may dislodge the tick’s body from its head, leaving the head intact to continue pumping the bacteria into the dog. In addition to routine tick checks, you should use an effective flea and tick program, such as Frontline, K9 Advantix, or NexGuard, for example.
4. What Are the Symptoms of Lyme Disease in Dogs?
Dogs that do become clinically ill with Lyme disease exhibit loss of appetite, fatigue and lethargy, joint pain and mobility issues, fever and enlarged lymph nodes. In fact, lameness is the most common symptom of Lyme disease. The mobility issue typically comes on suddenly. One or more joints can be impacted, and those joints are swollen with fluid. A less-common symptom of Lyme disease is sudden kidney failure. The symptoms of Lyme disease don’t present right away. On average, it takes between two and five months for the Lyme disease to show up after the dog it bitten by the tick.
3. How is Lyme Disease Treated?
Antibiotics are the best treatment approach for Lyme disease. There are several different antibiotics, in fact, that have been shown to be effective for treating the disease, including amoxicillin and doxycycline, the two most commonly prescribed meds for Lyme disease. The infected dogs are given a 30-day supply of antibiotics even though most dogs have some relief from the symptoms after just a few days on the antibiotics. Even if the symptoms disappear, it is important for your dog to finish the treatment course to completely kill the bacteria.
2. Can I Get Lyme Disease From My Dog?
A tick must bite you in order for you to contract Lyme disease. If your dog tests positive for Lyme disease, then you don’t have to worry about contracting the illness from your dog. For the bacteria that causes Lyme disease to pass from one animal to another, a third-party vector is needed to serve as the go-between.
1. Can I Vaccinate My Dog Against Lyme Disease?
Fortunately, there are several Lyme disease vaccines on the market to help prevent your dog from getting Lyme disease. You should discuss the different vaccines with your veterinarian to
determine the best one for your dog. Your vet will probably test your dog for Lyme disease first before deciding on which vaccine to use.
Lyme disease is a serious illness that impacts dogs living in regions where deer ticks are prevalent. The lameness, pain, and lethargy caused by Lyme disease in dogs can be as scary to see as the creepy-crawly ticks that carry the disease. The more you can learn about the disease, the more information you will have to prevent Lyme disease or combat the bacteria that causes it. Knowing the answers to The Top 9 Things You Need to Know About Lyme Disease in Dogs will help you to protect your four-legged best friend and keep him healthy while you both enjoy your time with nature.