As a dog owner, it’s essential to be aware of the different types of diseases that your furry friend may be susceptible to. One of the most common diseases affecting dogs is Lyme disease, caused by a bacterial infection transmitted by ticks. In this article, we will discuss Lyme disease, the symptoms you should look out for, and how to treat it.
Lyme disease is an infectious disease caused by a bacteria called Borrelia burgdorferi. This bacterium is commonly found in ticks and is transmitted to dogs when an infected tick bites them. Once the bacteria enter the dog’s body, they can cause symptoms from mild to severe.
How is Lyme Disease Transmitted to Dogs?
Lyme disease is primarily transmitted to dogs through the bite of an infected tick. The tick must be attached to the dog’s skin for at least 24-48 hours for the bacteria to be transmitted. This means it’s essential to regularly check your dog for ticks, especially after walks in wooded or grassy areas.
Signs and Symptoms of Lyme Disease in Dogs
The symptoms of Lyme disease in dogs can vary, but they often include the following:
- Lameness or stiffness in the joints
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Loss of appetite
- Difficulty breathing
Lyme disease can cause more severe symptoms, such as kidney failure and heart problems, if left untreated.
Diagnosing Lyme Disease in Dogs
If you suspect your dog may have Lyme disease, you must take them to the vet as soon as possible. The vet will perform a physical examination and may also order blood tests to confirm the diagnosis. In some cases, X-rays or ultrasounds may also be used to determine the extent of the infection.
Treatment Options for Lyme Disease
Lyme disease is typically treated with antibiotics, usually given for several weeks. In severe cases, hospitalisation may be necessary. It’s essential to follow the vet’s instructions carefully and ensure that your dog completes the entire course of antibiotics, even if they start to feel better before the medication is finished.
How to Prevent Lyme Disease in Dogs
The best way to prevent Lyme disease in dogs is to minimise their exposure to ticks. This can be done by:
- Regularly check your dog for ticks and remove them promptly
- Using tick prevention products, such as tick collars or spot-on treatments
- Keeping your yard and outdoor areas clean and free of debris
When do clinical signs of Lyme disease occur?
The clinical signs of Lyme disease in dogs usually appear within 2 to 5 months after the initial infection. However, it’s important to note that some dogs may not show any symptoms or be so mild that they go unnoticed. The severity and duration of the clinical signs can vary depending on the individual dog and the stage of the disease.
What are antibodies?
Antibodies are proteins produced by the immune system in response to the presence of foreign substances, such as bacteria or viruses. Antibodies help to protect the body against these invaders by binding to specific antigens on the surface of the foreign substance and signalling the immune system to attack and destroy them.
In Lyme disease, antibodies to the Borrelia burgdorferi bacterium are produced by the dog’s immune system in response to an infection. Testing for the presence of these antibodies can help to diagnose the disease.
How is the Lyme Multiplex assay different from the assay my veterinarian can perform?
The Lyme Multiplex assay is a more advanced diagnostic tool for Lyme disease than the traditional blood tests that veterinarians may perform. Conventional blood tests typically only detect the presence of antibodies to a single protein on the surface of the bacteria that causes Lyme disease, which can lead to false negatives if the dog has been infected with a different strain of the bacteria or if they are in the early stages of infection.
In contrast, the Lyme Multiplex assay can detect multiple antibodies to different parts of the bacteria, improving the diagnosis’s accuracy. It can also distinguish between current and past infections and identify any co-infections that may be present. The Lyme Multiplex assay is a more comprehensive and accurate test for diagnosing Lyme disease in dogs, and it is becoming increasingly popular among veterinarians.
If my animal is positive on the assay, should he/she be treated for Lyme disease?
If your animal tests positive for Lyme disease on the assay, starting treatment as soon as possible is generally recommended, even if they are not currently showing any symptoms. Early treatment is important for preventing the disease from progressing and causing more serious health problems.
Treatment typically involves a course of antibiotics, which can effectively kill the bacteria and reduce inflammation. Depending on the infection’s severity, the treatment duration may vary from a few weeks to several months. It is important to follow your veterinarian’s instructions carefully and monitor your animal’s symptoms closely throughout treatment. Many animals with Lyme disease can fully recover with prompt and appropriate treatment.
How can we know the treatment was successful?
The success of treatment for Lyme disease in animals can be determined through a combination of clinical signs and laboratory testing. During treatment, your veterinarian may monitor your animal’s symptoms, such as fever, lethargy, and joint pain, to assess their response to treatment. If symptoms improve or resolve, this is a good indication that the treatment is working.
Laboratory testing can also be used to assess the effectiveness of treatment. A follow-up blood test may be performed several weeks after treatment to check for the presence of antibodies to the Borrelia burgdorferi bacterium. A significant decrease in antibody levels or a negative test result may indicate that the treatment was successful in eliminating the infection.
Can an animal on treatment get re-infected?
If another infected tick bites, animals treated for Lyme disease can still get re-infected with the Borrelia burgdorferi bacterium. Lyme disease is caused by a bacterial infection transmitted through the bite of an infected tick, and animals can be exposed to infected ticks even after being treated for the disease.
Preventing tick bites is the best way to reduce the risk of re-infection. This can be done by regularly using tick-preventative products, such as topical or oral medications, especially during peak tick season. It is also important to regularly check your animal for ticks and promptly remove any ones found. Keeping your yard and surrounding areas well-maintained can also help to reduce the risk of tick exposure.
How long after treatment should the horse/dog be re-tested?
The timing of retesting after treatment for Lyme disease in horses and dogs can vary depending on several factors, including the severity of the initial infection, the response to treatment, and the individual animal’s risk of re-exposure to infected ticks.
In general, follow-up testing is typically recommended 4-6 weeks after treatment completion to assess the treatment’s effectiveness and determine if any further treatment is necessary. This follow-up testing may involve repeating the Lyme Multiplex assay or other laboratory tests to check for the presence of antibodies to the Borrelia burgdorferi bacterium.
Yes, Lyme disease can be cured in dogs with appropriate treatment, which typically includes antibiotics and supportive care.
The 3 stages of Lyme disease in dogs are acute, subacute, and chronic, each with their own set of symptoms and potential complications.
Lyme disease in dogs can be detected through blood tests that look for antibodies to the bacteria that causes the disease, as well as through clinical signs and symptoms.