Understanding and Preventing Dog Lyme Disease
Lyme disease is an illness carried by ticks that can happen to even the most cautious of pet owners. Ticks come in different shapes and sizes and can be hard to see on a dog. Some species of ticks are as small as a pinhead which makes finding them on your pet feel impossible at times.
No matter how cautious you are, unfortunately sometimes dogs still end up with Lyme disease. As a pet owner, receiving a Lyme disease diagnosis for your beloved dog can feel overwhelming. The good news is that treatment is available, and your dog can continue to live a happy and healthy life. There are also things you can do to help prevent your dog from contracting Lyme disease again in the future.
Causes of Lyme Disease in Dogs
Many people know that ticks are the reason that dogs contract Lyme disease. What you may not know is that dogs can get Lyme disease year-round. There is some misconception that you only need to be concerned about ticks in warmer months, but that is not always the case.
Ticks are often found in tall grass, forests, and heavily wooded areas. Any time your dog spends time outside in these areas, it is important to check them for ticks as soon as you come inside. Being diligent with preventative tick treatment is the most important thing you can do to help protect your dog from getting Lyme disease.
Where to Look for Ticks on Your Dog
Anytime you are outside for extended periods of time, it is helpful to check your dog once you are back inside to make sure there aren’t any ticks attached. Ticks tend to hide in crevices on animals, so make sure to check specific locations on your dog such as behind their ears and in between their paws with a close eye.
Checking inside the ears is also necessary, as that can be a favorite hiding spot for a tick. Also, check under their tail and even on the bottom of your dog’s feet as ticks like to find spots that are hidden from plain sight.
Symptoms of Lyme Disease in Dogs
Lyme disease symptoms can come on suddenly, so it is important to take your dog to the vet if you notice any of these symptoms. However, symptoms can also take up to months to appear, so it is important to always be diligent in noticing unusual behavior in your dog.
Typically, dogs with Lyme disease have more than one symptom. The classic symptoms for Lyme disease include fever, joint and lymph node swelling, lethargy, and trouble walking. Lyme disease can also lead to loss of appetite and even kidney disease in more severe cases.
Removing the Tick from Your Dog
If you notice a tick on your dog after spending time outside, you need to remove it immediately. The longer a tick is on their body, the more likely your dog may contract Lyme disease. If a tick has been attached for less than 24 hours, it is much less likely to transmit Lyme disease.
Removing the entire tick is important, otherwise, infection and Lyme disease can still occur. Tweezers tend to be the most effective tool for removing a tick. Make sure that when you grasp the tick, you pull straight out so that the head of the tick is removed as well as the rest of the body. Many veterinarians advise keeping the tick in a plastic bag to show them to help determine the type of tick that bit your dog.
How Lyme Disease is Diagnosed in Dogs
Lyme disease requires immediate and specific treatment, so it is important to receive an accurate diagnosis from a veterinarian. It can be helpful to know what to expect when you take your dog in for an appointment to check for Lyme disease.
There are a few different tests your veterinarian may run to make sure your dog receives an accurate diagnosis. Science has come a long way in detecting Lyme disease in animals and many veterinarians can run a simple blood test to see if your dog has contracted Lyme disease.
Lyme Disease Treatment for Dogs
Once your dog is diagnosed with Lyme disease it is important to start treatment immediately. While it is rare, serious complications such as kidney failure can occur if treatment isn’t started right away. If you notice any adverse side effects from the medication, make sure to contact your vet to see if you should continue the same medication or try a different type.
The typical treatment for Lyme disease in dogs is a round of antibiotics. The most common antibiotic used is Doxycycline, which is a month-long medicine to make sure the disease is completely wiped out. If the disease is a more severe case, your dog may need additional treatment and medication to help their nervous system and kidneys recover.
You Can Prevent Lyme Disease in Dogs
When a dog has Lyme disease once, it, unfortunately, does not mean they are immune. Dogs can get the disease again from a new infection which is why it is so important to have a prevention plan in place.
Many vets recommend using preventative tick products monthly all throughout the year. There is also a vaccination that some veterinarians may recommend if you live in an area with a large tick population. These vaccinations have been shown to help prevent up to 80 percent of Lyme disease cases in places highly populated with ticks.
Other ways to help prevent your dog from contracting Lyme disease include keeping your grass cut short at your house and avoiding areas with tall grass when at all possible. Remember to be diligent about checking your dogs for ticks when you spend time outside. Being aware of the symptoms of Lyme disease as well as ways to prevent your dog from contracting the disease are the best things you can do to help protect your dog from Lyme disease.
If you are worried about dog Lyme disease in the Boulder, CO region, contact the expert vets at Boulder Veterinary Hospital. We offer comprehensive parasite prevention and treatment. Give us a call today at (303) 442-6262, or Request an Appointment online.