Symptoms of Lyme Disease
Let’s answer your most urgent question first: what does Lyme disease look like in pets?
- Stiff walk with an arched back
- Sensitivity to touch
- Difficulty breathing
- Loss of appetite
- Lethargy and depression
Lyme disease is one of the most common tick-transmitted diseases in the world, but only causes symptoms in 5-10% of affected dogs. It’s been positively diagnosed in all 50 states, and every continent except Antarctica. Transmission of the disease is most prevalent here in Illinois and in the upper Midwestern states, the areas near the Atlantic coast, and the Pacific coastal states.
Lyme disease is transmitted primarily by the tiny black-legged tick known as the deer tick, a species of the Borrelia burgdorferi group. You’ll find deer ticks that carry Lyme disease in forests or grassy, wooded, marshy areas near rivers, lakes or oceans. Deer ticks may bite humans or pets during outdoor activities such as hiking or camping, or even while spending time in their back yards.
Infection typically occurs after the tick has been attached to the pet for 2-3 days. Once ticks attach to pets they usually hide in more vascular areas of pets where blood vessels run close to the skin. Adult ticks, which can be detected and bitten off by dogs, often hide around the neck, in the ears, and between toes.
Dangers of Lyme Disease
One of the biggest dangers of Lyme disease is kidney disease. If left untreated, kidney disease can progress to kidney failure, which could be fatal. Vomiting and diarrhea are sometimes signs of advanced disease. ALL dogs are susceptible to this disease without appropriate year-around tick prevention. Labrador retrievers, golden retrievers, Shetland sheepdogs, and Bernese Mountain Dogs appear to develop kidney disease higher prevelance than other species. Some studies indicate younger dogs are more susceptible than older dogs.
Many dogs who develop Lyme disease suffer recurrent lameness due to inflammation of the joints. Sometimes the lameness lasts for only three to four days but recurs weeks later, either in the same leg or in other legs. This is known as “shifting-leg lameness.” One or more joints may be swollen, warm, and PAINFUL.
Treatment at Woodlawn Animal Hospital
If the diagnosis is Lyme disease, your dog will be treated as an outpatient unless their condition is unstable (e.g., severe kidney disease). We prescribe an antibiotic specifically for Lyme disease. The recommended treatment length is usually four weeks, but longer courses may be necessary in some cases. If your pet is suffering from severe pain, we may also prescribe an anti-inflammatory for pain relief.
Unfortunately, antibiotic treatment alone does not always eliminate the Lyme disease bacteria (Borrelia burgdorferi) completely. Symptoms may resolve but then return at a later date. This is why we push for year-around prevention. We’ll keep your pet under close observation with regular examinations.
Lyme disease is not communicable from one animal to another, except through tick bites. However, if you have more than one pet and one of them is diagnosed with Lyme disease, we recommend testing for any other pets who may have been exposed to ticks at the same time. In fact, because people and their pets often travel together, a Lyme disease diagnosis in any family member is a red flag that all family members, human and pets, should be evaluated.
Preventing Lyme Disease in Pets
If possible, avoid allowing your dog to roam in tick-infested environments where Lyme disease is common. Check your dog’s coat and skin daily. We can also recommend a variety of products that kill and repel ticks. Such products should be used under a veterinarian’s supervision and according to the label’s directions. Call us today at 773-249-7191 to set up an evaluation and protect your pets against Lyme disease.