Many believe that tick is the cause of lyme disease, and they are not far from the truth. However, the organism that is actually responsible for the health condition is called Borrelia burgdorferi; a spirochete bacteria that the tick picks up from feeding on things like mice, before consequently transmitting the bacteria to their victims. To prevent your canine companion from getting lyme disease, you have to first prevent their exposure to ticks. It might sound simple to a dog parent whose pooch has never contracted lyme disease before, but the reverse is the case. Continue reading to find out more about lyme disease, including symptoms, prevention and treatment.
How Lyme Disease is Transmitted to the Canines: Causes
Lyme disease was first discovered in Lyme, Connecticut, hence the name. While it is widespread in the northeastern US, exposure to the disease has been evident in 48 of the continental state of America. The regions where the disease is most recorded include the upper Midwest, Northeast, and some parts of California. However, it can break out in any location that has Ixodes ticks – which can just be everywhere.
Additionally, lyme disease is transmitted to dogs when they get bitten by a tick that is infected. In the upper Midwest and the northeast, these parasitic ticks are known as the deer tick – scientifically called Ixodes scapularis, but in the west, they call them black-legged tick or deer tick with Ixodes pacificus as the scientific name. The life cycle for these ticks span for a couple of years, taking them through the complete four stages of life formation in insects, namely; egg, larvae, nymph, as well as adult.
However, ticks don’t emerge from the eggs with B. burgdorferi spirochetes, rather, the bacteria is picked up, as they feed on some infested hosts, mostly mice. While feeding on an infected host, the tick sucks in spirochetes alongside the blood of its victim. The spirochetes will reside in the midgut of the tick until such a time that the insect is ready to feed on another victim. At this point, the spirochetes are transported to the salivary gland of the tick, and in turn, the blood-sucking parasite spits it out into a canine’s body when it is done with feeding – now the spirochetes go to reside in the bloodstream of its new host.
Transmission of the spirochetes may not be instantaneous since it has to migrate through the tick – but there are cases where it is reportedly faster. Some trusted studied have the evidence of a faster transmission rate when it took less than 24 hours for the spirochetes to be transmitted from the tick carrier to the host. Once it finds itself in the body of a dog, B. burgdorferi goes to infect some parts of the canine’s body like muscles, joint capsules, and lymph nodes. However, the clinical signs of Lyme disease in dogs may take some months to manifest.
Important to note that being exposed to lyme disease does not necessarily mean that the canine is bound to develop some clinical signs. According to reports, clinical signs of the disease has only been recorded in five to ten percent of canines exposed to B. burgdorferi.
Symptoms of Lyme Disease in Dogs
Lyme disease in dogs is known to come with several symptoms that may persist for some days before fading away; however, it will still make a reappearance within the next few weeks. When you fail to treat the condition, the symptoms may keep recurring even after several months from the first infection.
We have seen some canines that didn’t show symptoms of the disease until after a year or even above that. This kind of delayed symptom is bad news, because, it is possible that the disease must have had a far-reaching effect by the time it starts manifesting – it may have spread all through the pup’s body. For further information, here are some of the common symptoms to expect from a dog that is infected with Lyme disease;
- The dog might experience lameness, which may be shifting from one leg to the other.
- Swollen joints
- Joint pain
- While walking, the affected dog is likely to experience arched back or stiffness
- Reduced energy level or depression
- Loss of appetite
- Lymph nodes that are swollen
In some cases, the condition has given rise to more serious complications. Some of such complications include kidney failures that have fatal consequences; what’s more, neurological problems, and heart disease are known to be uncommon, but it has been established that lyme disease can result in such severe conditions.
As a dog parent, you need to call the attention of the vet immediately – this will go a long way in reducing the risk of severe complications.
Lyme Disease in Dogs: Treatment
Being a bacterial infection, lyme disease is generally treated using antibiotics. The most common among them are tetracycline, doxycycline, as well as amoxicillin. However, the vet may still add other drugs to these if deemed necessary. What’s more, the duration for Lyme treatment for dogs can span from three to four weeks. For the dogs that are showing signs of swelling and joint pains, the vet can prescribe some anti-inflammatory medication. If you are looking for more options, check out our guide on dog joint supplements.
Additionally, the recovery rate for Lyme disease is admirable, but we have seen cases where dogs develop some relapse infection, and as a result, they will need to be placed on antibiotics longer. There are still other canines that would never respond to antibiotics – this category of dogs are usually monitored carefully since it is may be that they are at a higher risk of developing kidney infections.
It is vital for pet parents to avoid Lyme diseases in their furbabies. All you need do is to stay away from places that are marked as high-risk areas such as tall grasses, as well as any other area where ticks are known to be widespread. It is also advisable to stay on trails while participating in nature hikes and be sure to check your dog’s body for ticks whenever it spends time in the great outdoors.
Also, you can greatly reduce the risk of Lyme infection in your furbaby by getting the ticks out within 24 hours – 48 hours is also considered safe.
For dog parents who are residents of areas that are known to have a higher risk of lyme infection, recommendations are that they take to the preventive medication before the disease occurs. The preventive medications are always given on a monthly basis – this will prevent the tick from attaching itself to your pup’s body. Even the ones that are attached won’t be able to stay long enough to affect transmission.
There are also vaccinations that can be given against Lyme disease which are taken annually. But because of the risks with vaccinations, not all dogs can be vaccinated – it is usually for canines that live in a high-risk area.
Where do Ticks Hide in a Dog’s Body?
We all believe that ticks often live in the woods and get picked up by animals that venture into the forests and bushes. But that may not always be the case, even city pups are predisposed to lyme disease, and many have contracted it in the past. So, always check your environs for those telltale signs that will aid you in determining if the insect poses a risk to your household.
According to experts, ticks are good at finding hideouts once they gain access to a dog’s body. Any pet parent who wants to check out the body of their canine friend for ticks should target those more vascular areas – these areas are known to have blood vessels closest to the skin surface for easy access. They include the neck, head, and ears. Additionally, the blood-sucking insects are also good at creeping into places that are harder-to-spot in an attempt to completely hide from the pup.
Findings have shown that the size of a full-grown tick is quite substantial and dogs can easily spot them and bit them off on sight – this may be the reason why the insects chose those spots that the dog’s eye cannot easily reach like in between the toes and around the neck.
The Best Way to Remove a Tick From Your Pup’s Body
Seeing a live tick on the body of your canine companion may push you into pulling it off instantly. However, it is not always safe to handle ticks with your bare hands. You need to handle the situation with caution and take the safe route involving patience.
Once the tick is spotted, you need to get hold of sharpened tweezers to aid you in taking it out. Now fix the tweezers as far down the tick’s head as possible and pull – this should be more effective in pulling the insect out completely. Recommendations are that you should cover your hands with gloves while at it, or just be extremely careful. Hypothetically, it is possible for anybody with a cut on their hand to get infected if they happen to squish a tick. So you need to be very careful while extracting a tick from your dog’s body.
- Lyme Disease – Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine
- Lyme Disease in Dogs: Symptoms, Tests, Treatment, and Prevention – AKC