Symptoms of Lyme Disease in Dogs
Here are some common and less common symptoms and complications of Lyme disease in dogs.
When infection leads to Lyme disease in dogs, the dominant symptoms are:
Many dogs who develop Lyme disease have periodic lameness because their joints are inflamed. Sometimes the lameness lasts for only 3-4 days but recurs days to weeks later, either in the same leg or other legs.
This is known as “shifting-leg lameness.” One or more joints may be swollen, warm, and painful.
In some cases, Lyme disease can also cause:
Lyme disease, also known as Lyme borreliosis, is a bacterial illness that can be transmitted to humans, dogs, and other animals by certain species of ticks. It is caused by the spiral-shaped bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi that is carried inside a tick and gets into a dog or person’s bloodstream through a tick bite. Once in the bloodstream, the bacteria can travel to different parts of the body and cause problems in specific organs or locations, such as joints, as well as overall illness.
Given the seriousness of Lyme disease, it’s important to be aware of tick prevention and treatment for dogs.
The ticks that carry Lyme disease are especially likely to be found in tall grasses, thick brush, marshes, and woods — waiting to latch onto your dog when he passes by. A tick can transmit the disease once it has been attached to a dog for 24 to 48 hours.
First named when a number of cases occurred in Lyme, Connecticut, in 1975, the disease can be hard to detect and can cause serious, ongoing health problems in both dogs and people.
Lyme disease happens in every state, but infection risks vary. Over 95% of cases are from the Northeast, the Upper Midwest, and the Pacific coast, although with recent changes in deforestation, migrating deer, and bird populations, percentage rates in these areas are constantly changing.
A small number of cases crop up each year along the West Coast, especially Northern California. In Canada, Lyme-positive dogs are found mostly in southern Ontario and southern Manitoba. A smaller number of cases are reported each year in Southern Quebec and the Maritime Provinces.
How to prevent Lyme disease in dogs
Lyme disease is preventable. The best way to avoid contracting Lyme disease is to avoid areas with high concentrations of ticks, like woods and grassy areas. Ticks are most active during the summer and fall, but infections are common during the summer as well as the winter in areas with mild winters. You should always manually check your dog (and yourself) for ticks after going for walks in tick-infested areas.
Administering a monthly tick preventative will also help prevent Lyme disease. Many of these preventatives kill ticks before they have had a chance to attach for 24 hours, reducing the risk of infection. There is also a vaccination that may be recommended for your dog if you regularly frequent high-risk areas. If you live in an area with severe infestations of ticks, you may also want to consider treating your yard, although pesticide treatments carry risks of their own that should be discussed with your veterinarian.