Lyme’s disease is a well-known disease that is spread by ticks to both pets and people. Projections indicate that Lyme’s disease is an ongoing risk in endemic areas and appears to be spreading. The causative agent is a bacterium called Borrelia Burgdorferi. The organism is spread from the tick to its host during feeding. Signs of infection may not show for months after the tick bite. Endemic areas include New England, the upper Ohio River Valley, and the Pacific Northwest. Even if you do not live in these endemic areas, if your dog travels with you to these areas, he/she could be at risk.
Affected dogs can show some of the following signs:
Lameness can be an indicator of many different things, and may not mean that your dog has Lyme’s disease. If you notice your dog seems to have difficulty moving around, discuss the possible reasons with your vet.
Inflammation of multiple joints can be an indicator of Borreliosis infection. These dogs will be lame on one or more of their limbs. Sometimes the lameness shifts from one limb to the next.
In addition to the lameness, some affected dogs may experience visible joint swelling and joints that are tender to the touch.
Clinically affected dogs will experience fevers and depression as their immune system struggles to deal with the invader. They may not want to eat and may appear lethargic.
Swollen Lymph Nodes
As the immune system rallies to attack the foreign infections, sometimes owners will notice swelling near the original tick bite.
Kidney or Heart Involvement
Some isolated cases will progress to more serious complications, but these difficulties are rare. Certain breeds, like Retrievers, seem to be slightly more likely to develop the serious sequelae.
Most cases of Lyme’s disease respond rapidly to appropriate antibiotic therapy. Sometimes the cases will become chronic for dogs, similar to the cases in humans, but not commonly. It is also encouraging to know that only a small portion of exposed dogs will become clinically ill.
There is a vaccine for Lyme’s Disease and your veterinarian can advise you if there is a benefit to your individual dog in administering it. If you think that your dog is experiencing any of the above signs, do not delay. There are many serious and important illnesses that could mimic these symptoms and you will need medical intervention to identify and treat them.