Lyme Disease in Dogs

Lyme disease is caused by a bacterium known as Borrelia burgdorferi. It is transmitted to dogs through the bite of deer ticks. Transmission occurs after a tick has been attached for at least 48 hours. The disease is uncommon in cats. 

Dogs affected by Lyme disease often show symptoms of joint pain, lameness, or fever. These symptoms can be waxing and waning, or a dog may exhibit a “shifting-leg lameness”, where limping is observed in one limb, then a different limb. Sometimes the symptoms can also be vague, such as lethargy or decreased appetite. Some dogs will not show signs of being sick until long after they were first infected. In these cases, the disease may have already spread throughout the body. In these cases, the infection can localize to the kidneys. When this happens, a dog can become extremely ill, or the disease can even be fatal.

Exposure to Lyme disease can be detected here in the hospital via a blood test called a 4Dx Snap test. It requires only three drops of blood and takes ten minutes to run. This test is positive in the presence of Lyme antibodies. If your dog has been bitten by a tick, a 4Dx should be performed approximately 6 weeks after the bite, as antibodies may not develop in the bloodstream until that time. Following a positive 4Dx test, a urinalysis is sometimes recommended. The results of a urinalysis can help assess a dog’s kidney function. Lyme disease is treated with an antibiotic called doxycycline, for a course of 4 weeks. Sometimes an anti-inflammatory medication is also prescribed if a dog is very painful from the infection. 

Lyme disease is a preventable disease. All dogs should be given a monthly Flea and Tick preventative, year-round. Even in the winter, ticks can live in the environment and infect your dog. NexGard is an effective, safe, and convenient flea and tick preventative that is available at all of our locations. It is a flavored chewable that is given orally every 30 days. Over the counter flea and tick products found at some retail stores or online are never recommended, as some can cause adverse reactions in dogs, and even be toxic to some dogs. 

Dogs that are at a higher risk of contracting Lyme disease should be vaccinated for it. If your dog has never received the vaccine, they would receive an initial Vaccination, then a booster vaccination 3-4 weeks later. Thereafter, the Lyme vaccine is a yearly vaccine. The vaccine is recommended for any dog that spends time in a grassy yard, walks in the park, or goes to wooded or sandy areas. 

Veterinarian for Dog Lyme Disease

Even if your dog has been vaccinated for Lyme disease and is on a monthly preventative, always check your dog for ticks after being in a grassy, wooded, or sandy area. Places ticks can more easily hide and evade detection are between the toes, and in or around the ears of a dog. If you find a tick on your dog, be sure to call the office right away to schedule an appointment for an examination with our Veterinary Hospital.

Dr. Alison Messina DVM
World of Animals Veterinary Hospitals