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Lyme Disease in Dogs: Treatment & Cure

Ticks are an external parasite that can carry diseases. If your pet is bitten by an infected tick they risk developing one of these potentially serious conditions such as Lyme disease. Today, our Bedford vets talk about Lyme disease in dogs including the symptoms, treatment options and if it can be cured.

What is Lyme disease in dogs?

Lyme disease is a very real problem across North America affecting both people and pets. Dogs contract Lyme disease through the bite of an infected tick. Ticks, including those carrying Lyme, are most 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 make their way through the fur and burrow into the skin.

While Lyme disease itself is not contagious, the ticks carrying the disease can move to a new host like a member of your family or other pets.

Symptoms of Lyme Disease in Dogs

Dogs often carry Lyme disease without showing any symptoms at all (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 that your pet could be suffering from Lyme disease they will review your dog's health history, perform a physical examination and conduct diagnostic tests which 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. 

What is the most common treatment for Lyme disease in dogs?

Lyme disease in dogs is typically treated with antibiotics for at least four weeks. If your dog is suffering 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, in some cases, the infection will 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.

Does Lyme disease in dogs have a cure?

Unfortunately, antibiotic treatment is not always 100% effective and is not always able to cure Lyme disease in dogs. Some dogs are treated for months with doxycycline but still show positive antibody levels when tested.  Unfortunately, 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 medication.

You should also check your pet's skin as soon as 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 how to properly remove ticks from your dog. (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. Contact your doctor for advice on removing ticks if you find one latched onto your skin. 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 are concerned that your dog may have been bitten by an infected tick or is showing signs of Lyme disease, please contact our veterinary team in Bedford today.

We're accepting new patients! Book your pet's first appointment today.

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