Lyme Diseases in Dogs
Lyme disease, or borreliosis, is a tick-transmitted infectious disease caused by the spirochaete bacterium called Borrelia burgdorferi. It got the name, Lyme, after the place in Connecticut where the condition first occurred. Lyme disease are wider spread throughout United States, especially in Midwestern states, states is Pacific coastal and also Atlantic seaboard. It is also common in Europe. There are actually three species of ticks that can be possible carriers of Lyme disease, but it is the Ixodes scapularis (formerly called Ixodes dammini), or deer tick, that is found to be its primary carrier, especially in the Northeast and upper Midwest.
In the United States, the risk of getting tick bites is high particularly between the months of April and November. Lyme disease is usually passed on to dogs, and even to humans, through a bite by the slow-feeding, hard-shelled black-legged deer tick, which clings onto the dog’s skin for at least a day or two before transmitting the bacteria to the host, and it then affects many organs of the body. However, its symptoms manifest only two to five months after the dog gets a bite.
Studies reveal that young dogs are more susceptible to Lyme disease than the adults. Infected dogs suffering from Lyme disease would usually exhibit lameness due to the inflammation on the joints, loss of appetite, depression, fever that rises from 103 to 105ºF, swollen lymph nodes, lethargy, arched back and walking stiffly, sensitivity to touch, and difficulty in breathing. In rare cases, the dogs may develop irregularities in the heart, including complete heart block; complications in their nervous system, and; kidney problem. The latter condition is found to be more prevalent among Labrador retrievers, golden retrievers, and Bernese Mountain dogs. If left without treatment, this kidney condition may eventually results in glomerulonephritis, which can cause infection and blood filters dysfunction and kidney failure, and even death.
Aside from dogs Lyme disease may also affect other domestic animals, although it is a rarity in cats and causes no significant problem in horses.
It is highly recommended that as soon as symptoms start to manifest, the infected dog should immediately be brought to the veterinarian for appropriate treatment. During check up, the veterinarian would usually base his diagnosis of Lyme disease according to symptoms presented, result of physical examination, and on the medical history of the dog. He may even do a blood test on the dog to verify the bacterium presence that causes the disease. Initial treatment would normally include administration of antibiotics, like doxycycline or amoxicillin, which course may stretch for 14 days or longer, depending on the dog’s progress. Unless its Lyme disease normally is chronic in nature, dogs are likely to exhibit improvement within 48 hours of treatment, and symptoms would normally subside three to four days after receiving antibiotic treatment. Aside from antibiotics, an antimicrobial therapy may also be applied to the infected animal, and a pain reliever may be administered should the dog exhibit severe pain.
Chronic Lyme disease, on the other hand, is difficult to treat and requires several weeks or longer periods of antibiotic treatments to completely rid of the bacteria since the Lyme organism has already contaminated the body for extended period. In some cases, the infected dog may suffer from joint or organ damage that could last for the duration of its life.
Nevertheless, there are certain measures to prevent Lyme disease in dogs. As a basic rule, it is advisable to avoid woods, brush, tall grass, and other possible tick-infiltrated areas as much as possible. But since the tick carrier of Lyme disease is so tiny that it can easily go unnoticed and it does not even make the dog to itch, it would be difficult to determine the presence of these creatures. Therefore, it is better to have your dog vaccinated against Lyme disease. You may also consider getting preventive tick collars for your pet, and bathe it regularly with an appropriate tick shampoo, especially right after walking your dog through bushy or woody areas. Other ways to avoid ticks in your dogs are to check them for ticks around the neck and around the armpit, and brush your pet regularly to remove excess hair. It should be noted that ticks adhere to warm fur.
Lyme disease is generally curable without complications if it is diagnosed and treated promptly.