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Lyme disease or borreliosis in dogs: symptoms, causes, treatments and prevention

Lyme disease is transmitted to a dog by a tick when it carries the Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria. This is why the disease is called borreliosis. The risk of being bitten by ticks is highest when the dog is roaming through the woods and forests, but these mites are also present in fields and ditches. They are particularly virulent in spring and fall. Let's find out the most common symptoms, treatments and ways to prevent Lyme disease.

Lyme disease: a tick-borne bacterium is involved


Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato is a bacterium that infects the wood tick (Ixodes ricinus). Once on the dog's body, the tick - which is a mite - bites its host to feed on its blood. In less than 72 hours, the dog is contaminated once the tick has inoculated it with the bacteria it carries. This is how Lyme disease is transmitted to animals but also to humans.

Lyme disease in dogs: symptoms


The incubation period for Lyme disease can last from 8 weeks to 5 months. In many cases, it is asymptomatic. This means that a dog infected by a tick does not show any particular symptoms.

The chronic form of Lyme disease can cause the following symptoms:

  • Mild lameness,
  • Diffuse pain,
  • Nervous :
    • Nervous,
    • renal,
    • respiratory disorders.
  • Muscle damage or myopathy.
Symptomatology is different in dogs suffering from the acute form of Lyme disease. The animal may present one or more of the following signs

  • Intermittent lameness that appears suddenly. It is associated with:
    • intense pain,
    • High body temperature,
    • swollen lymph nodes,
    • more or less important fatigue.
  • An arthritis that affects only one joint, either on a front foot (carpus) or on a back foot (tarsus).
  • Polyarthritis is the term used when several joints of the dog are affected.
  • Vomiting.
It is important to consult a veterinarian when you notice these symptoms in a female dog so that the exact cause can be identified as soon as possible.

How do you treat a dog with Lyme disease?


Diagnosing Lyme disease is not so easy for the veterinarian if he or she is limited to clinical signs. The veterinarian needs to know about the dog's lifestyle. This means that it is important to specify during the consultation whether the animal spends a lot of time outdoors or not, in what type of environment it goes for walks or, if it is a hunting dog, what type of game it usually pursues. Any precision is important because it can help the practitioner to make a diagnosis with certainty.

Of course, additional tests are essential to confirm that it is borreliosis. The veterinarian may wish to do :
  • A blood test to look for antibodies,
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR),
  • A joint puncture.
Once the diagnosis of Lyme disease is confirmed, the dog is treated. It should be noted, however, that the later the diagnosis, the less effective the treatments will be. Complications are therefore to be feared, especially since they can be serious.

The treatment of Lyme disease in dogs is based on the prescription of antibiotics and anti-inflammatory drugs, the latter allowing to reduce the pain. It should be noted that several months after treatment, the dog still carries the bacteria involved in borreliosis.

Protecting your dog against Lyme disease


The only way to prevent Lyme disease is to protect your dog from tick bites. To do this, it is imperative to systematically check his coat and skin when he returns from a walk, and to remove any tick without delay, preferably using a tick remover.

In addition, it is recommended to use an external antiparasitic adapted to the dog, to its age, to its weight... This type of preventive solution against ticks can be bought on the advice of the veterinarian.

Finally, you can opt for a vaccine, especially if you have a herding dog that spends most of its time in the wild, or a hunting dog that is used to running in the forest.