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Lyme Disease in Dogs - Signs, Symptoms & Treatment

Lyme disease is a tick-transmitted disease commonly seen in dogs and people across North America. Although many dogs carry Lyme and show no signs of the disease, other dogs suffer from a range of debilitating symptoms. In today's blog, our Southeast Memphis vets explain the causes, symptoms, and treatment for dogs with Lyme disease.

How do dogs catch Lyme disease?

Lyme disease is contracted through the bite of an infected tick. Ticks carrying Lyme are typically found in forests and grassy areas including farm fields and scrubland at the side of roads. Ticks find their prey by resting on the tips of grasses, shrubs, and leaves with their front legs outstretched waiting to come into direct contact with a person or animal. As your pet brushes past, the tick grabs hold and latches onto your dog. 

Lyme disease has been diagnosed in dogs across all states, however infection rates vary across the country. A large proportion of cases are reported in the Upper Midwest, Pacific coast and Northeast regions.

What symptoms should I watch for?

Dogs often contract Lyme disease and show no symptoms at all, yet some dogs can suffer from a range of painful symptoms. If your pup is experiencing symptoms of Lyme disease you may notice some of the following:

  • Swollen joints
  • Lameness
  • Stiffness
  • General malaise
  • Discomfort
  • Sensitivity to touch
  • Fever
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Lack of appetite
  • Depression 

If your pet is showing any of the symptoms above, contact your vet to book an appointment. If left untreated, Lyme disease can progress to kidney failure, or serious cardiac and neurological issues in some dogs.

Important Note: The symptoms above can be the result of a number of serious health conditions including Lyme disease. If your dog shows any of these symptoms, veterinary care is strongly recommended.

How do vets diagnose Lyme disease in dogs?

When evaluating your dog for Lyme disease, your vet will take a full medical history of your dog health, discuss with you any instances when your dog may have come into contact with infected ticks, examine your dog's body for ticks, then perform a number of tests which may include, blood tests (C6 Test and Quant C6 tests), urine analysis, fecal exam and x-rays. If your dog is suffering from particularly painful joints, your vet may draw fluid from the affected joints to be analysed. 

Can Lyme disease in dogs be treated?

Fortunately yes! Lyme disease in dogs is typically treated with a course of antibiotics lasting for a month (or longer in some cases). If the animal is suffering from painful joints, an anti-inflammatory medication may also be prescribed to help manage pain.

Can I prevent my dog from getting Lyme disease?

One of the best ways to help prevent your dog from contracting Lyme disease is to keep your pet on a tick prevention medication year round. If you live in an area with a high number of infections, speak to your vet about vaccinating your dog against Lyme.

If your dog has been walking through areas where ticks may be lurking, be sure to check your pet for ticks as soon as you get home. If you spot a tick on your pup contact your vet for instructions on how to safely remove the tick from your dog's skin.  It is essential to remove ticks properly to avoid leaving disease causing bacterial behind. Your vet may also ask you to bring the tick in, so that it can be tested for the bacteria that leads to Lyme disease.

If your dog is experiencing symptoms of Lyme disease contact your Memphis vet at Southwind Animal Hospital to schedule an examination. Tick prevention is included in our annual Wellness Plans. Choose the Wellness Plan that's right for your pet. 

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