What is Lyme Disease?
Lyme disease is caused by a bacteria called Borrelia burgdorferi and is spread by ticks. Ticks become infected with the bacteria by feeding on infected mice and other small animals. When an infected tick bites other animals, it can transmit the bacteria to these animals. Lyme disease is transmitted by the deer tick and a small group of other closely related ticks. The deer tick is small and may bite animals and people without being detected.
Lyme disease affects a variety of species, including dogs, cats, and people. There is no evidence that Lyme disease is spread by direct contact with infected animals.
Dogs that spend a lot of time outdoors, especially in the woods, bush, or areas of tall grass are most commonly infected with Lyme disease. However, ticks can be carried into yards on other animals, and dogs can become infected anywhere ticks are found.
Infections occur during tick season (usually spring through early fall), but the infection can appear 2-5 months later.
Lyme disease is seen across the US and in many other parts of the world. In the US, Lyme disease is most common in the northeastern US, along the Pacific coast, and in the midwest.
Signs and Symptoms of Lyme Disease
· decreased appetite
· swollen, painful joints (dogs may be reluctant to move)
· lameness -- limping which may be mild at first, then worsen, and may also shift from one leg to another
· swollen lymph nodes
Lyme disease can lead to other health issues so if your dog exhibits any signs please contact your veterinarian.
Diagnosing Lyme Disease
The diagnosis of Lyme disease is be based on a combination of factors, including history, clinical signs and finding antibodies to B. burgdorferi bacteria.
Treating Lyme Disease
Treatment with antibiotics usually produces a rapid improvement in symptoms. Antibiotics will be given for several weeks. Treatment may not completely clear the bacteria, but instead just clear up the complications from the disease..
Preventing Lyme Disease
Tick control is extremely important for the prevention of Lyme disease (and many other diseases that can be transmitted by ticks). Check your dog daily for ticks, remove any ticks if present, since ticks must feed for at least 12 hours (possibly 24-48 hours) before transmitting the bacteria causing Lyme disease. This is especially important in peak tick season and after your dog spends time in the woods or tall grass.
If you think your pet may have contracted Lyme disease, please contact your local veterinarian.