The weather is becoming warmer and this means you're probably starting to think about camping trips, nature hikes, and endless outdoor fun for you and your dog. Unfortunately for many pet owners and their pups, it also means tick season, and in some cases, Lyme disease. Two words that send shivers down even the most seasoned outdoor adventurers spine, but what is Lyme disease and what does it mean for you and your pup?
Lyme Disease is an infection that can result from the bite of a number of different types of ticks. The disease is caused by the transmission of Borrelia Burgdorferi, a bacteria carried by some ticks. Lyme disease affects 5 to 10 percent of animals bitten by ticks and can be transmitted when the tick has been on the animal for two to three days.
Lyme disease is most prevalent in the Northeastern states, the upper Midwest, and the Pacific coast. These areas are known for their beautiful woods, but within these dense woods, ticks are abundant. If you live in these states, near wooded areas, or if you plan to adventure with your dog in any wooded areas near you, you'll want to stay vigilant in preventing this serious disease in your pet.
Symptoms of Lyme disease in dogs can vary depending on the type of tick that bites them, so it's important to keep an eye out for any out-of-the-ordinary signs in your dog. Joint pain, limping, loss of appetite, breathing problems, fever, or depression are common symptoms of the disease in dogs. In some cases the heart and kidneys can become dysfunctional, but this reaction is rare.
There are two different types of tests used to diagnose Lyme disease in dogs. The first is an antibody test that can detect the presence of antibodies that your dog's body produces against the Borrelia bacterium. However, in some cases antibodies may not be present if the dog has had the infection for too long unchecked. The second test is a DNA test, called the polymerase chain reaction test (PCR). This can detect the presence of any Lyme disease bacteria in the blood, however this test can sometimes turn false negatives. If you think your dog may have the disease, it's best to let a veterinarian make a diagnosis based on the test result and your pet's symptoms.
Antibiotics, such as doxycycline, are the standard treatment for Lyme if your dog is diagnosed with the disease. With treatment, your pet should see general improvement of symptoms within days. The course of treatment may be four weeks or more. If your pet is suffering from the joint pain symptoms common with the disease, anti-inflammatory pain medication can help to relieve any discomfort.
Most veterinary experts recommend keeping dogs out of the thick underbrush where ticks like to hide. However, in some areas of the country, it is almost impossible to try to keep your dog away from these places. Widespread wooded regions in the North and Northeast make this type of precaution impractical. You should always check your dog carefully after any walks through the woods to find hidden ticks and remove them immediately. It's a good idea to use a spot-on pesticide product that is effective against ticks on a regular basis during the Spring and Summer months. A Lyme disease vaccine is available that will prevent infection in vulnerable dogs. The vaccine is given in two doses, at 2 or 3-week intervals and must be administered each year to maintain immunity from the disease.
Though the chances of your pet getting Lyme disease from a tick bite are fairly low, it's important for you to be aware of the symptoms, treatment, and prevention of Lyme, so you and your dog can have a safe and exciting time outside.
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