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Lyme Disease in Dogs

What is Lyme Disease?

Lyme disease is a bacterial infection that is transmitted by ticks, which harbor the disease. There are known types of ticks that can transmit the disease, but the most commonly known is the Deer Tick. These ticks embed themselves into a dogs skin acting as a parasite, and thus transmit the disease. In America, canine Lyme Disease is most commonly found in the Northeast, from Maine to Maryland, as well as Minnesota, Wisconsin, Oregon, and Northern California. If not treated right away, Lyme disease can result in serious joint or nerve damage, as well as cardiac damage. Fortunately, there are ways to reduce the risk of a tick bite, and ways to recognize one when it happens so you can get help for your dog right away.

Symptoms of Lyme Disease

Once a dog begins to show symptoms of Lyme disease, the symptoms usually get progressively worse over a few days. The most common symptom in dogs is joint pain; most dogs with Lyme disease will limp because they can’t put pressure on one leg. Dogs may also have swollen lymph nodes and a fever. Diagnosis is often based on comparison with a dog’s medical history. If a dog has no history of arthritis or other injury and suddenly starts experiencing pain or tenderness in one of its limbs, Lyme disease may well be the culprit. If you see these symptoms in your dog, especially if your dog spends a lot of time outdoors, see your veterinarian immediately.

Treatment

Fortunately, most dogs with Lyme disease who are treated right away respond well to treatment with an antibiotic. They will have to take the medication for about 3 weeks. A small percentage of dogs may experience a relapse or even some lasting neurological damage or joint pain, but the earlier the antibiotic is started, the better the chance of a full recovery.

Prevention

There are three different vaccines for Lyme disease that have been approved for dogs.  No vaccine is guaranteed effective, though, so it is still important to minimize your dog’s risk of exposure as much as possible, especially if you live in one of the geographic regions mentioned above, and you dog spends time in wooded areas. There are liquid medications you can apply to your dog’s skin that act similarly to bug spray for humans, as well as a number of other products from shampoos to collars, which help repel ticks. Read the instructions on all products carefully, especially since some should not be used together. Be sure to remember that none of these products can guarantee a tick will never be on your pet, so when your dog comes in from outside, check for ticks. They are very tiny and black, and attach themselves to the skin. To remove one, you have to be careful not to crush it. Gently grasp it with tweezers as close to the skin as possible and carefully pull it away.  Cleanse the area with an antiseptic, and contact your veterinarian.