One of the greatest fears that dog owners have is finding a tick on their pet. Not only can ticks be difficult to find and remove, but they can pass along a number of serious diseases, such as Lyme Disease, Ehrlichia, and Rocky Mountain Fever. Lyme Disease is one of the most common, yet also one of the most treatable tick-borne illnesses that affects dogs. Everything a pet owner needs to know about Lyme Disease in dogs is discussed below.
What is Lyme Disease?
Lyme Disease (also known as borreliosis) is a bacterial infection caused by Borrelia burgdorferi that occurs when a deer tick feeds on a host for 24 – 48 hours. Lyme Disease can settle in blood, tissue, bones, joints, and organs, and the symptoms that a dog exhibits, if any, are caused by the dog’s immune system response to the bacteria.
What are the Symptoms of Lyme Disease in Dogs?
Not all dogs exhibit symptoms of Lyme Disease, so it is very important to check your dog for ticks on a regular basis and have him or her tested for tick-borne illness during annual exams. Whereas humans develop a characteristic bull’s eye rash, the same sign does not occur in dogs. Typical symptoms include fever, joint pain, stiffness, lameness, fatigue, and weight loss. However, if symptoms do occur, they may not develop until 3 – 6 months after the initial tick bite.
What is the Treatment for Lyme Disease in Dogs?
Unlike in humans, Lyme Disease can be treated easily and with few complications. Dogs are given antibiotics (typically tetracycline or penicillin) for 2 – 4 weeks. After that time period, dogs are retested and either determined to be free of the illness or put on a second round of antibiotics, as the bacteria can be stubborn. Some dogs never fully rid themselves of the bacteria, but these pets rarely show additional symptoms or complications.
In what Parts of the Country is Lyme Disease Found?
Lyme Disease can be found wherever deer ticks are present. Since 2003, Lyme Disease has been confirmed in every state except Hawaii, and is most prevalent in the Midwest and Northeast. Deer ticks live in wooded areas and forests, and their abundance is directly proportional to the deer population.
How can I prevent Lyme Disease in my Dog?
The best course of action in preventing Lyme Disease is to have your dog on a regular tick preventative. These are available in a number of formats, including topical gelss, oral tablet, or collars. In addition to preventing ticks, most preventatives also target heartworm, fleas, and intestinal parasites. A veterinarian can discuss which method is best for your dog. You should also inspect your dog for ticks any time you go for a hike in the woods or spend time outdoors. If a tick is found, remove the parasite immediately. Use tweezers to apply pressure as close to the tick’s head as possible, and firmly pull the tick away from the dog’s body. Never apply heat, flame, or chemicals to the dog in order to remove the parasite.
Featured image credit : dgrinolds1