Can Dogs Get Lyme Disease?
Canines can and do get Lyme borreliosis, which is the scientific name for Lyme disease. In fact, Lyme disease can be contracted not only by dogs but by humans and other animal species as well.
How is Lyme Disease Transmitted?
Lyme disease is a tick-borne bacterial infection that can be transmitted to dogs through a bite from a deer tick. Although not every tick bite will lead to a dog developing the disease, a minority of dogs do contract the disease from a tick bite. After attaching itself to the dog, the infection may begin to develop two days later.
After the tick bite, the bacteria that causes Lyme disease (Borrelia burgdorferi) travels through the dog’s bloodstream to different regions of the body. Most notably, the kidneys and the joints of the bones are common targets for the bacteria to manifest.
In knowing what is Lyme disease in dogs and what it can look like, dog owners can better care for their dog and its health. Owners can get their dog the necessary care if they suspect the disease may be the culprit of any unusual symptoms that are arising in their dog.
Where Are Ticks Most Common?
Generally, ticks make their home on bushes, plants, or grass blades in areas with dense vegetational growth. Ticks are unable to jump, so they simply lie in wait for prey to brush against them. Once an unsuspecting human or animal brushes past their home, the tick can latch on.
Lyme disease is most prevalent in states along the West Coast, such as California and Oregon. The regions along the Northeast coast and those in the Midwest also see significant volumes of cases in dogs. Any breed of dog—from the Yorkshire Terrier to the Weimaraner—can contract the disease.
Do Dog Ticks Carry Lyme Disease?
No, American dog ticks do not carry Lyme disease. Deer ticks are the only type of tick that carries the Borrelia burgdorferi bacterium.
Can I Become Infected If My Dog Has Lyme Disease?
Once a dog becomes infected with Lyme disease, it cannot pass it to humans or other animals. Therefore, it is not a contagious disease. The only way a human or animal could become infected is directly through a tick bite.
However, it is important that, if a dog has contracted the disease, any other people or animals living in the same environment as the dog be checked out. The infected dog could have easily carried in other ticks with it.
Symptoms and Six Indicators of Lyme Disease
The signs of Lyme disease are usually quite distinguishable. In fact, there are six specific signs that dog owners refer to in discerning whether or not their dog has developed the disease. The six indicators that have come to be associated with Lyme disease in dogs are:
- Noticeable decrease in energy levels
- Reduction in appetite
- Fluctuating fever
- Swollen bone joints
- Lameness in the limbs
- Discomfort and stiffness
The lameness, in particular, is especially prevalent in cases of the disease. It usually comes back in bouts every so often. This occurs due to the joints being swollen and painful to use. Severe kidney problems can also result from Lyme disease. Thus, it is vitally important that the dog is brought to the vet for examination if the disease is suspected. This disease can worsen significantly and spread to other body parts if left untreated.
What Does a Positive Test for Lyme Disease and No Symptoms Mean?
It is important to remember that if a dog tested positive for Lyme disease but has no symptoms, then they are in the majority. Only about 10% of dogs actually develop symptoms. A positive test for the disease with the absence of symptoms simply means that the dog was exposed to the disease, but the disease is inactive.
What If My Dog Has Lyme Disease and Is Limping?
It is common for a dog that has been diagnosed with Lyme disease to limp. Weakness in the limbs is one of the most common side effects of the disease due to swelling in these areas.
How Effective Is the Lyme Disease Dog Vaccine?
To protect canines each year, a moderately effective Lyme disease vaccine for dogs is recommended. Generally, dogs should receive the vaccine each year to sustain optimal immunity against the disease. Not every dog is able to receive the vaccine for one reason or another, so it is crucial to always receive approval from the dog’s vet before proceeding with any vaccine. In addition, treating a dog with regular doses of flea and tick medicine can help prevent the disease.
Vaccine Side Effects
After the Lyme disease vaccine is administered, it is important to keep an eye on the dog for any adverse reactions. In almost every case, the vaccine is received well by the dog with only minimal discomfort where the needle was inserted. Some minor drowsiness may also be seen.
However, if symptoms such as diarrhea, vomiting, or rapid swelling in the body is seen following the vaccination, the dog should be rushed to the vet. Additionally, if the dog is still seeing the minor symptoms after three days, a vet should be notified.
Treating Lyme Disease in Dogs
In nearly every diagnosis of Lyme disease in dogs, the treatment involves a round of antibiotics due to its efficacy in combating bacterial infections. The antibiotics may be given up to a month to ensure the bacteria are completely eliminated. The most frequently used antibiotic is doxycycline treatment. Some vets may also use amoxicillin or azithromycin alongside or in lieu of doxycycline.
How Long Can a Dog Live with Lyme Disease?
Dogs rarely ever succumb to Lyme disease. The only dogs that are at a high risk of death are those dealing with kidney complications combined with a myriad of other health issues brought on by the disease. The disease is known to spread throughout the body, so if this is left unchecked and uncared for, it can be detrimental to the dog’s well-being. However, most dogs recover fully with an antibiotic regimen implemented and supervised by their vet.