Lyme disease in Dogs

Lyme disease in dogs

Written by: Myla Paggao, vet student at Isabela State University Main Campus

Lime disease is a serious tick-born disease which first targeted dogs in 1985 and was first diagnosed in humans in Connecticut (1975). It is caused by a unique bacteria called Spirochete. In dogs, the common deer tick – Ixodes scapularis and pacificus (tick scientific names) is the main carrier of this disease. Usually, the prevalence of the disease is greatly related to the population of deer in the area.


Vulnerable areas

Lyme Disease has been found to be anywhere in North America (most prevalent), but most of the time, victims (humans and pets) get infected when they travel to a state where the disease is always present. Areas of the highest incidence in the US include New England, Midwest, and the Pacific Coast. Lyme Disease also exists in Europe and Asia, usually in the moderate climatic regions.


How is Lyme disease transmitted to my dog?

Transmission occurs when an infected tick feeds on your dog. The nymphal stage of the tick is the most infectious. A carrier nymph can transmit this disease to your dog only if it’s attached to the host’s skin for more than 48 hours. If that nymph carrier died or was removed from your dog before 48 hours, it is likely the transmission of bacteria never occurred. The bacteria travels from the parasite’s gut to their saliva. Tick saliva disrupts the dog’s immune response that allows the entry of bacteria in the skin forming a circular red skin patch, the disease enters the bloodstream of your dog and travels to different organs like joints, brain, nerves, eyes, and heart, which there it multiplies.


Symptoms of Lyme disease in dogs

Lyme disease in dogs is very different compared to humans. Clinical symptoms only show 2 to 5 months after the bite. Dogs show different signs and symptoms when they have the disease, but the most common include:

  • recurrent lameness
  • fever
  • anorexia
  • lethargy
  • painful joints
  • and swollen lymph nodes that can be observed when you touch your dog’s neck, shoulders, tummy (near the thighs).


If the dog’s symptoms were left unchecked, they would develop Chronic Lyme Disease symptoms like:

  • unexplained weight loss
  • difficulty in walking (laminitis)
  • spontaneous abortions
  • and poor fertility
  • changes in mood and temperament caused by chronic pain or general fatigue.

If left untreated it may persist in the body for months or even years. If left untreated for a year, Lyme Disease may induce nerve and brain dysfunction.


Most vulnerable breeds

Labradors and Bernese Mountain Dogs show to be more susceptible to the dangers of the bacteria than any other dog breeds. They develop kidney failure which is not seen in other dogs.


How is Lyme disease diagnosed in dogs?

For diagnosing, the veterinarian needs to know your dog’s history, clinical signs, epidemiologic considerations, and response to antibiotic therapy. Veterinary diagnostic procedures include autoimmune panels, CBC, blood chemistry, radiographs, and other laboratory data. Vets will also use serologic testing for antibodies (examples are ELISA, LIA, PCR western blots, and fluorescent bead-based multiplex assays).


How is Lyme disease treated in dogs?

Acute Lyme Disease responds to treatment with antibiotics like amoxicillin and oxytetracycline. For chronic status, prolonged or repeated courses of treatment may be required. Tetracycline is the drug of choice for chronic status (doxycycline 10mg/kg, per os, twice a day), vets can also prescribe penicillin (amoxicillin 20 mg/kg, per os, three times a day).


How do I prevent my dog from Lyme Disease?

Tick Repellents and anti-tick collars, sprays, and spot-on (acaricides) are the main and top preventative measures. We put together a few products for you HERE.

Perform regular tick removal using special tweezers on your dogs. Make sure the tick is removed with the skin its attached on. There are also vaccines available that prevent Lyme Disease for dogs, but the dosage is based on your dog’s exposure to carrier ticks. Usually, dogs who live in endemic areas will need to be injected more. Always consult your vet on these vaccines.

How about your tips and tricks on dogs and ticks? Anything you’d like to share?