Approximately 30,000 new cases of Lyme disease are reported to the CDC every year. And that's just in humans.
What about your puppy counterpart? If your dog enjoys spending time outside, their risk of contracting Lyme disease increases significantly.
But that doesn't mean you need to keep your pup confined to the indoors. This article will teach you everything you need to know about Lyme disease in dogs including how to diagnose, treat, and prevent it.
Lyme Disease Is Everywhere
This is a sad reality every dog owner needs to face. The risk of your dog getting Lyme disease is relatively high, regardless of where you live.
Lyme disease, also known as Lyme borreliosis, is a bacterial infection transmitted by ticks. Once bitten, bacteria enters the bloodstream and travels throughout the body.
Lyme disease can affect your dog's joints and organs, compromising their overall health. In extreme, untreated, cases, Lyme disease is life-threatening.
Many people live with the false notion that ticks only live on the East coast of the United States. Or that the only way your dog is at risk is if you let them roll in the grass or run in the woods.
This informational podcast explains otherwise. While the risk is higher in the Northeast, Pacific coast, and Upper Midwest, it's important for all pet owners to be aware of Lyme disease risk and prevention.
Another important thing to note is that your dog can contract Lyme disease all year-round. If you stop your dog's tick treatments when the weather gets cold, you're putting them at unnecessary risk for contracting the disease.
Warning Signs of Lyme Disease in Dogs
If you're only now realizing the importance of Lyme disease education, you may want to understand the warning signs. This will help you treat your dog quickly if you suspect they've been infected.
Another danger of Lyme disease is the speed with which it can impact your pup. Your dog will feel the effects of Lyme disease within 24-48 hours of being bitten.
Here are some of the most common warning signs that your dog has been infected:
- Fatigue and lethargy
- Loss of appetite
- Stiffness and discomfort in the joints
Gone untreated, these symptoms can quickly progress into kidney failure, cardiac arrest, and neurological disorders. If your dog is hesitant to eat, try offering them single ingredient, dehydrated foods.
Anti-inflammatory foods and medications can also help reduce swelling and relieve joint pain and discomfort.
Testing for Lyme Disease
While the warning signs of Lyme disease are quite obvious, you'll still need to test your dog to confirm your suspicions.
Two blood tests are required to diagnose Lyme disease in dogs – the C6 test and the Quant C6 test. Your vet will also consider your dog's history and physical signs and symptoms.
If your dog has an active Lyme infection, the C6 test will detect antibodies against a protein known as C6. It takes between three and five weeks for the C6 antibody to present itself in your dog's blood. Surprisingly, C6 may be detected long before your dog shows obvious signs of the disease.
If C6 is detected, your veterinarian will perform a Quant C6 test next. This test determines if the levels of C6 protein are high enough to require treatment.
How to Treat Lyme Disease in Dogs
After your dog is diagnosed with Lyme disease, it's time to choose an appropriate treatment plan. While some symptoms can prove fatal, early detection and a visit to your trusted veterinarian will put your pup on the right track to recovery.
The most common way to treat Lyme disease in dogs is through the use of antibiotics. Generally, a 30-day supply is all it takes to help kill the bacteria infecting your pup.
In some, more serious, cases of Lyme disease, additional medication, and treatment are required. Veterinarians also aim to treat specific symptoms and ease discomfort as the antibiotic goes to work.
On the other hand, some veterinarians choose not to treat Lyme disease in dogs. Even if a tick is found, if your dog isn't showing any discomfort or symptoms, your vet may let the bacteria run its course.
If there's no immediate threat to your dog's health, sometimes the best treatment is no treatment at all. As always work with your veterinarian to determine the best course of action.
Lyme Disease Prevention
While knowing the warning signs of Lyme disease, as well as how to diagnose and treat it, is important, preventing the disease is your first line of defense.
Most dog owners are familiar with the common parasites to protect against – primarily ticks and fleas. The Companion Animal Parasite Council educates pet owners about other, lesser-known threats.
Read reviews and ask your veterinarian about a reliable tick-repellent product and be diligent about applying it. Your veterinarian might also suggest a vaccination that protects your pup against Lyme disease. This is strongly recommended for those living in heavily-wooded areas.
Check your dog for ticks after every outdoor activity. Just like with humans, ticks tend to attach to dogs in certain areas. These include the head, neck, and ears.
This is where blood vessels are closest to the surface. Be sure to check these areas well.
Although no dog is completely safe against the threat of Lyme disease, some breeds are more susceptible. Retrievers and Labradors are at the highest risk for contracting a deadly strain of the disease known as Lyme nephritis.
Lyme nephritis can cause a dog's kidneys to fail and often results in death. If you have one of these two breeds and your dog tests positive for Lyme, it's recommended you treat them with your veterinarians guidance immediately.
Keep Your Dog Happy and Healthy
As a pet owner, your dog's happiness and health are paramount. And knowing how to prevent and treat Lyme disease in dogs is only one part of the equation.
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