Each year, Avets’ internal medicine department treats a number of dogs with Lyme disease in the spring, summer, and fall months. Lyme disease can cause significant illness and death if infection is not prevented. Do you know how to protect your furry friend from this warm-weather threat?
Lyme disease is a bacterial infection caused by Borrelia burgdorferi that is transmitted to humans and animals by a tick bite. Deer, mice, and other small mammals harbor the bacteria, which is picked up by Ixodes ticks—also known as black-legged ticks, or deer ticks—when they feed on an infected animal. Ticks can transmit the bacteria to other animals and humans when they bite. Only dogs, horses, and humans typically develop significant disease. Cats may rarely develop mild symptoms.
Lyme disease is found nationwide, with the highest incidence in regions with large tick populations. The New England states, upper Midwest region, and Pacific coast states have the greatest number of diagnosed cases in humans and dogs. Pennsylvania has one of the highest rates of reported cases, with 13 percent of tested dogs having a positive result in 2018.
Humans infected with Lyme disease often develop a bulls-eye rash, but this is not typically observed in infected dogs. Lyme disease targets the joints, causing chronic arthritis. The most common clinical sign in dogs is sudden lameness, but other symptoms may also be observed:
Severe cases may progress to kidney failure and death.
A blood test performed in your veterinarian’s office can detect exposure to Borrelia burgdorferi, but may not accurately differentiate between past exposure, vaccination, and current infection. A dog who receives a positive test may require more in-depth testing performed by a diagnostic laboratory.
Lyme disease treatment includes antibiotics to kill the Borrelia bacteria. Antibiotics are typically administered for four weeks or longer. Low-level infection may persist after treatment and can cause recurrence of clinical signs that requires additional treatment. Our internal medicine department is experienced in treating Lyme disease and can work with your family veterinarian to formulate a treatment protocol for your dog.
Protect your canine companion from Lyme disease exposure by preventing contact with ticks with these tactics:
If you have questions about Lyme disease, contact us today.