If you’re a dog owner, there’s a pretty good chance you’ve had the distinct pleasure of pulling a tick off your pup at least once. While most vets recommend administering flea and tick prevention to your dog year-round, this preventative is particularly prevalent now as the warmer days are right around the corner! If you’re not totally convinced that your pupper needs flea & tick prevention, let me tell you a horror story about something called lyme disease…
Firstly, what is Lyme disease you ask? Well, Lyme disease is one of the most common tick-transmitted diseases in the world, and can pop up in any pet OR person (basically anyone whom ticks like to snack on). A specific type of tick (a slow feeding, hard-shelled deer tick) is responsible for the transmission of the Borrelia Burgdorferi bacteria which leads to Lyme disease. These ticks generally have to be attached for 2-3 days in order to spread the bacteria, which is why it’s so important to check your dog DAILY for ticks!
The interesting thing about this disease is that it actually only causes symptoms in about 5-10% of affected dogs, but when it does, they can be detrimental. Different species tend to have different symptoms when affected by Lyme disease, but the most common symptoms in dogs tend to be recurrent lameness due to inflamed joints, lack of appetite, depression, damage to kidneys, and heart or nervous system disease if left untreated. Additionally, it appears that certain breeds may be more prone to display certain symptoms. For example, studies have shown that Labs, Golden Retrievers, Shetland Sheepdogs, and Bernese Mountain Dogs may be more prone to kidney disease as a symptom of Lyme.
Most commonly, as previously stated, dogs will display something called “shifting leg lameness”, which is when the lameness may jump from leg to leg and recurs every few days/weeks.
So, how can you tell if your dog has Lyme disease? The tricky thing about this disease is that many symptoms are also symptoms of other common diseases. Therefore, it is very important to keep a close eye on changes in your dog’s health and behavior. Some common symptoms to look for are:
- Stiff walk with an arched back
- Sensitivity to touch
- Difficulty breathing
- Fever, inappetence, depression
- Swollen lymph nodes close to the tick bite
- Vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss, increased urination and thirst, abnormal fluid buildup (signs of early kidney failure)
If you suspect your dog may be suffering from Lyme Disease, take them to the vet! Your vet will need to run a series of blood tests, urinalysis, stool sample tests, joint fluid tests, and possibly x-rays. It’s important to rule out other causes of your dog’s symptoms. If your pup tests positive for Lyme disease, it is most commonly treated with Doxycycline (an antibiotic) for four or more weeks. Your vet may also decide to prescribe an anti-inflammatory if your pup’s joints are acting up. Generally within three – five days of treatment, your dog should have a significant relief of any joint pain. As with any illness, every dog is different and treatment/response to treatment can vary widely.
While flea and tick prevention is not 100% effective, it is a fantastic start in the fight against Lyme disease! If you don’t already have a monthly preventative for your dog, or suspect they may already have Lyme disease, speak to your vet about next steps!
***If you have a cat who ventures outside, this also applies to you!