Canine Lyme Disease

What is Lyme disease ?

Canine Lyme disease is caused by Borrelia burdorferi, a bacterium that is transmitted to dogs through a tick bite.  Canine Lyme disease is becoming increasingly more prevalent in our area.  It is important to recognize that Lyme disease infects humans.  However, you and your family members cannot become infected directly from your dog but you can become infected through the same ticks that are on your dog.

What are the clinical signs of Lyme disease for my dog ?

Unlike human Lyme disease, clinical signs in most dogs with active Lyme disease are observed in only approximately 10 % of infected cases.  These signs tend to occur 2-5 months after the infection and include – lameness (multiple limbs likely), lethargy and fever.  Contrary to human infections, skin lesions are not common in dogs.  These signs tend to resolve in 3-4 days and in many cases only after antibiotic therapy.  A more serious, but even less common syndrome of Lyme disease in dogs includes a severe form of kidney disease.

What do you recommend I do for my dog ?

Testing: Springfield Veterinary Center recommends that owners be aware of the symptoms that are associated with Lyme disease.  If your dog presents with these symptoms we will initiate antibiotic therapy.

We recognize that, fortunately, most dogs exposed to Lyme disease never become ill.  However, we do know that 10 % of dogs can go on to develop serious complications including kidney disease.  For these reasons we recommend all asymptomatic dogs have a urinalysis performed at least twice a year to monitor for kidney disease.  In addition we recommend a Lyme C6 test, which can measure your dog’s individual antibody level.  Based on these test results we can better assess which dogs should be treated and which dogs should continue to be monitored.

Prevention:  We also cannot stress enough the need and importance for tick prevention.  It takes time for an infected tick to transmit the infection to your dog, this typically can happen no sooner than 48 hours from the beginning of the blood meal.  We recommend daily tick removal especially immediately after possible tick exposure; walking in wooded or high grass areas.  In addition, we recommend utilizing safe and effective tick preventative medications.  Finally, in some cases we recommend vaccinating against Lyme disease.