According to reports, Lyme disease in dogs is common. Some claim it is the most common disease transmitted by ticks.
When discussing Lyme disease, it’s natural to think about humans who have contracted the disease from a deer tick and are experiencing the devastating symptoms associated with Lyme. Humans often get a circular rash after a tick bite, a sure sign of Lyme disease. They rush to the doctor for treatment.
Lyme disease symptoms may not show up for weeks for dogs, and unless your dog is hairless, it would be impossible to see a rash developing.
As a pet owner, there are things you should know about Lyme disease in dogs that can help you care for the animal you love.
How Dogs Contract Lyme Disease
Dogs love being outdoors. It’s in their nature to run, play, and explore. While living their best life, they may encounter the black-legged tick or deer tick that lives on the blades of tall grass and in brushy areas.
Deer ticks carry Lyme disease. As your dog runs by them, they latch on to its warm body. Ticks love warm bodies because they feed on blood. Ticks can only crawl. They can’t leap, jump, or fly. Once they latch onto your dog’s body, they begin to crawl all over it, searching for the perfect spot to embed themselves.
A misconception about the contraction of Lyme disease is that ticks bite, and when they bite, they transmit diseases. However, ticks do more than bite you and your dog. They break your skin and stick their head and body below your skin. They are seeking blood in which to feed. While they are feeding, they transmit Lyme disease bacteria, or Borrelia burgdorferi, to your dogs’ bloodstream.
Once in the bloodstream, the bacteria multiply and flow to other body areas, like the joints. The longer Lyme stays in the system, the more chronic the symptoms.
Symptoms of Lyme Disease
Your dog may not show signs of Lyme disease for weeks or months. Some may show symptoms right away. Look for any or all the following: Fever, loss of appetite, reduced energy, lameness, limping, stiffness, discomfort, or pain. They may also show signs of swollen or sore joints or muscles.
If left untreated, symptoms can become severe and can even lead to fatalities. Kidney failure, cardiac and neurological effects can occur in dogs.
The good news is that veterinarians can test and treat dogs for Lyme disease. There are even vaccines available to protect your dog from Lyme disease.
Treatment for Lyme Disease
Your local veterinarian can perform blood tests on your dog that can detect Lyme disease antibodies. If the antibodies are present, your dog will receive a positive result. The two blood tests are called the C6 Test and Quant C6 test.
The C6 test detects antibodies against a protein called “C6” that can be detected three to five weeks after a tick infects your dog and before it shows signs of Lyme disease.
The next step is to do a Quant C6 test performed with a urinalysis to detect infections and if they have affected your dog’s kidneys.
If your dog tests positive for Lyme bacterial infection, the vet will prescribe a strong dose of antibiotics to treat the Lyme disease.
How Humans Get Lyme Disease from Dogs
It’s important to know that dogs with Lyme disease cannot pass it to humans or other animals. If they have Lyme and bite you or another animal, there is no risk that you will contract the disease. Cats, on the other hand, have been known to transmit infections through biting and scratching. But to date, there is no evidence showing this is true for dogs.
That doesn’t mean you aren’t in danger, however.
Deer ticks can live on the body of a dog for a while. It may not even find a good place to embed itself on your dog for 48 to 72 hours after it latches onto your pet’s body. That leaves a lot of time for the tick to travel to other places, like your body.
When your dog returns from the outdoors, it could be carrying a tick, which could easily crawl off your dog’s body and onto your body. Taking steps to protect yourself and your family is crucial to avoid getting Lyme disease.
The best form of protection is prevention.
Lyme Disease Prevention for Pets
There are specific steps you can take to prevent your dog from getting Lyme disease. You can also prevent your dog from bringing ticks back into your home and putting you at risk of contracting Lyme disease.
- Have your dog vaccinated for Lyme disease. The vaccine protects your dog from getting the infections caused by the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi. If you live in an area where ticks are prevalent, talk to your vet about the benefits and side effects of the Lyme vaccine for your dog.
- Use tick sprays or collars that are designed to repel ticks and other bugs. Most repellants are safe and approved by vets today. Insecticides for tick repellents have been used for many decades and are derived from plants. They naturally affect the insects, not your dog. The chemicals disrupt the nervous system of ticks, causing most to die.
- Landscaping solutions are key to tick prevention. As mentioned, ticks live in high grass and brushy areas. If this describes your backyard, your dog could come into contact with a tick even when just outside long enough to go poo. Mow your grass and keep your lawn manicured for tick prevention.
- Check your dog every time they return from the outdoors. If you find a tick, remove it immediately.
- Finally, bathing your pet after a day outside can help flush ticks that may still be crawling on your dog.
By taking prevention steps like these, you and your dog can continue to enjoy the outdoors without the fear of getting Lyme disease.