How to Diagnose and Treat Lyme Disease in Dogs

  • Lyme disease in dogs caused by an organism known as a spirochaete and it is named Borrelia burgdorferi.
  • It is carried by ticks and transferred to the person or animal when bitten.
  • It is a disease that is worldwide and has been around for centuries with Chinese records providing written documentation on a disease with similar symptoms.

Causes of Lyme disease in dogs.

  • Dogs get Lyme disease if they get bitten by ticks that are infected with Borrelia burgdorferi.
  • Such ticks are called deer ticks.
  • Inspite of their name, deer ticks feed on other types of animals as well.
  • When deer ticks bite a dog or remain attached to its body for 18 hours or more, they are likely to transmit the infection to the dog as well.

Which dogs can get affected?

Though all breeds of dogs can be infected with Lyme disease, the more susceptible breeds include Bernese mountain dogs, Golden retrievers, and Labrador retrievers.
Another thing that has come to be observed is that young dogs and puppies are more prone to this infection than fully grown dogs.
Though cases of Lyme disease in dogs have been reported all over Europe and the US, Pacific coastal states, the Atlantic area and the upper Midwestern states of the US has a higher incidence.

Symptoms of Lyme disease in dogs.

The symptoms associated with Lyme disease in humans are never reported among dogs.

The joints of dogs infected by Lyme disease get swollen causing lameness of the limbs among them. some dogs which are not too severely infected develop only acute lameness, which lasts only for a few days though it may resurface after a few days or weeks in the same leg or a different leg. This peculiar feature is also called “Shifting-leg lameness”, with the previously affected leg getting back to normal before another one becomes lame.
Other symptoms of Lyme disease in dogs are:
• Kidney problems- Untreated Lyme disease can cause malfunctioning of the glomeruli (blood filters) in the kidney. Dog starts showing signs like vomiting, lack of appetite, diarrhea, weight loss, fluid retention (particularly in the abdominal area, tissues and legs), increased thirst and more frequent urination. All this culminates in complete renal failure in the affected dog.
• Pain response, especially when the affected joint is touched.
• Change in gait- The dog walks stiffly, with an arched back.
• General loss of appetite, fever, lack of interest in playing and depression.
• Abnormalities in breathing.
• In areas adjoining the tick bite, the superficial lymph nodes get swollen.
• Though not a regular feature, heart abnormalities have also been reported.
• Rarely, complications of the nervous system may also be seen.

Diagnosis

The most commonly used test for Lyme disease in dogs is the Idexx SNAP® 3Dx®. The veterinarian can carry out this test in his own office on a drop of blood taken from the infected dog. Besides checking for the presence of Lyme disease, this test also tells about the presence of heartworms and other tick-borne diseases in the dog, though a positive result does not confirm Lyme disease infection.
If, however, the test result is positive, a second test (called the Quantitative C6 assay) will have to be conducted to confirm the presence of Lyme disease. This more advanced test tells in detail about the level of antibodies present in the dog’s blood, which are produced only when a dog is infected by Lyme disease.
If the dog tests positive for either of the tests, the vet is likely to order a complete urinalysis to see if the dog’s kidneys have been affected by the infection.
Synovial fluid might be drawn from the affected joints to check whether arthritis has been caused by Lyme disease or another cause.
The most important indicator will be the condition of the skin near the area of the tick-bite. The vet will carefully check that area to see if the wound is still open or any parts of the tick’s body are still clinging to the dog’s body even after the tick itself has been removed.

Treatment of lyme in dog.

A number of antibiotics are available to cure the dog of Lyme disease completely. A 30 day treatment of doxycycline has been found to be highly effective, though the medication would be required for a longer period if kidney problems have already set in.
Lyme disease in dogs in its initial stages can be treated with other milder antibiotics as well. Anti-inflammatory Remadyl might be given to the dog to provide it relief from joint pain. Painkillers should not be used without consulting a veterinary doctor.
Early administration of antibiotics helps the condition of dogs improve significantly, though it is suspected that it can never be completely cured. It might become inactive for some time, but will never disappear.

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