Lyme Disease

Lyme disease is an infection caused by spirochete bacteria called Borrelia burgdorferi. It is transmitted by ticks. Originally it was thought only the deer tick transmitted the disease, but they have found it in other species of tick.

As with humans, the tick can form a target like reaction around the bite. In animals of course it is much more difficult to see that particular sign due to the hair coat of most dogs. Other symptoms will include what we perceive as “flu like”, not feeling well, may run a fever, etc. This can last for a couple days or so. Many people may not notice this particular stage since many times it passes relatively quickly.

In veterinary medicine we generally see the next stage of lameness or swellings of the joints for no other reason. The lameness and swelling can fluctuate between the legs and joints, not always the same one.

We do a blood test at our clinic that takes just 8 to 10 minutes to get results. A positive test tells us that there has been exposure. Most dogs we see once they test positive, will continue to test positive for some time. A positive result does not always mean active infection. If your dog tests positive and shows symptoms then we can start treatment.

Treatment at this time consists of a particular antibiotic given orally for a minimum of 3 weeks. As with any medication, some dogs may have reactions to the antibiotic. It is important to notify your veterinarian if your dog appears worse or does not show improvement. Most animals will show some improvement within the first week, but it is important to finish the medication for the full course. Some dogs may require an additional round of antibiotics if they continue to have symptoms of Lyme disease. It is important to remember that some dogs may relapse at a later time or become infected again with Lyme disease. Getting it once does not make them immune for life.

Lyme disease can be prevented to a certain extent. Using a topical tick product to prevent the tick from feeding long enough to transmit the disease is the first line of defense. Vaccination is another way to help prevent infection. Although these help, together they are better, but even then its not 100% to prevent exposure and disease.

So if your dog is exposed to ticks and he develops symptoms, testing would still be suggested. Don’t hesitate to ask your veterinarian if you have any questions. You can not get Lyme disease from your dog, but if you go in the same areas as your dog then you too have the same exposure level.