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Lyme disease in dogs: symptoms, diagnosis, treatment and prevention

This tick-borne infectious disease is caused by the bacterium (Borrelia burgdorferi), which is why it is also called borreliosis. The symptoms that appear a few months after a tick bite are common to other diseases. A diagnosis is therefore necessary in order to consider a targeted treatment. But in order to protect your dog's health, it is essential to do everything possible to prevent Lyme disease because it can cause serious damage. Let's take stock of the situation.

Borreliosis or Lyme disease: symptoms in dogs

When a dog is bitten by a tick, a red area may be seen on the skin of the animal within a few hours after the bite, but this usually goes unnoticed because few owners inspect their dog's skin millimeter by millimeter each time they return from a walk. In any case, this sign disappears after a week or so.

On the other hand, various symptoms appear between two and six months after the dog has been infected by the dreaded tick mite. These symptoms can be associated with a variety of diseases, but none of them are specific to Lyme disease. For example, the dog may have:
  • Loss of appetite,
  • Fever, i.e. a body temperature above 39°C,
  • Vomiting,
  • Swelling of the lymph nodes,
  • A state of weakness more or less important,
  • Lameness,
  • Joint pain.
It is of course essential to consult a veterinarian when the dog presents one or more of these symptoms, some of which are related to an inflammatory reaction.

Lyme disease in dogs: diagnosis

Lyme disease is not the easiest disease to diagnose. The veterinarian must take into account the symptoms described by the dog's owner, of course, as well as their duration, intensity and frequency, but also the animal's lifestyle. This last point can put the practitioner on the track. A dog that spends a good part of its days in the woods or in the fields is much more exposed to the risk of being a victim of ticks than a sedentary dog. This does not mean that you should not walk your dog.

In order to make a reliable diagnosis, additional examinations are necessary such as a blood test for antibodies or a joint puncture.

An antibiotic is administered to the animal. If the dog's health improves - that is, if the symptoms subside - the diagnosis of Lyme disease is confirmed fairly quickly.

Lyme disease in dogs: treatment

The sooner the dog is treated with antibiotics, the better the chances of avoiding complications from Lyme disease. Indeed, the animal's health condition can worsen over time if not treated. Skin lesions, arthritis, polyarthritis or paralysis, nervous system disorders, kidney problems or respiratory problems are to be feared at an advanced stage of Lyme disease. In the most serious cases, the dog's life may be at risk.

However, it is important to be aware that the bacteria transmitted by a tick is not systematically eliminated by antibiotics. In the majority of cases, the dog continues to have regular arthritis attacks because it remains a carrier of the bacteria. As a result, it is likely to contaminate other ticks which will then transmit borreliosis to their next victims. This is a vicious circle that can wreak havoc within a pack, for example, or in a dog farm. This is why it is essential not to stop the antibiotic treatment too soon, as it must be continued until the veterinarian has decided to stop it.

Solutions to prevent Lyme disease

The best way to avoid the risk of Lyme disease is to inspect your dog after every outing. If a tick is found under the dog's coat, it should be removed immediately with a tick remover so that the mite does not have time to infect its host. The tick is a terrible vector of pathogens that can contaminate a dog in less than twelve hours.

You should not hesitate to use repellents such as antiparasitic collars and pipette products. For dogs that are highly exposed to the risk of tick bites because of their outdoor activities, such as hunting dogs, the veterinarian can be asked to vaccinate them. But this vaccine against Lyme disease has no effect on an animal that is already infected.