The Importance of Protecting Your Pup from Lyme Disease

Trips to the veterinarian are often full of tough choices.

When it comes to vaccines, there seems to be a growing list of them that your pup’s doctor might be trying to push. One of these that is usually considered optional is the vaccination for Lyme disease. More veterinarians are beginning to suggest vaccinating dogs against the disease, and it might be time for you to consider it.

Lyme disease is one of the most common trick-transmitted diseases on Earth. Though it’s found primarily in only 14 states in the U.S., the potential for infection can occur almost anywhere. One of the biggest problems with the disease is that it’s hard to detect. In fact, only 10 percent of infected dogs ever show any real symptoms.

What are the symptoms of Lyme Disease?

Lyme diseases presents in a myriad of ways, with the most common being lameness. Once in the bloodstream, the spiral-shaped bacterium travels throughout the body and can lead to stiffness and pain in the joints. A dog’s limbs can become “lame” for periods of time. The loss of use in that limb typically spans three to five days before mobility returns, but often shifts to another joint and can return weeks later.

Another serious problem dogs face with Lyme disease is kidney failure. Once kidney problems occur, you might notice signs such as diarrhea, vomiting, lack of appetite leading to weight loss, and abnormal fluid buildups.

Other symptoms of Lyme disease include:

  • Stiffness or sensitivity
  • Fever
  • Depression
  • Difficulty breathing
dog tick lyme disease

©istockphoto/mistersunday

How can I treat Lyme Disease?

So what happens when your pup gets diagnosed with Lyme disease? Thankfully, it’s highly treatable with antibiotics when caught early. Your veterinarian will perform some laboratory tests, including blood analysis, in order to reach a diagnosis. From there your dog will typically receive outpatient treatment in the form of antibiotics for four weeks. The vet might also prescribe anti-inflammatory medicine for your dog’s joints.

In more severe cases your veterinarian might require your dog to receive treatment in house so it can be monitored. In cases of extreme kidney failure, the situation can turn dire.

Even when treated for Lyme disease early, antibiotics are not always 100 percent effective. In some cases the dog will have to live with residual effects of the disease, including long-term joint problems.

How can I prevent Lyme Disease?

The key to preventing Lyme disease is preventing tick bites. If you live in a warm climate with wooded areas or grassy settings it’s important to check yourself and your dog daily for ticks. On dogs, remember to in between the toes, under the tail around the anus, in the ears, and even under the lips where ticks love to hide. They tend to seek out dark, warm places.

It takes between 12 and 24 hours for a tick to transmit diseases after initially latching onto the skin, so it’s important to remove them as soon as possible. Follow the proper procedures for removing ticks to ensure the head does not get left behind.

There are many flea and tick prevention products on the market, including collars, chews, and topical solutions. Speak with your veterinarian to decide with method works best for you and your dog.

Additionally, it’s almost always a good idea to have healthy dogs vaccinated against Lyme disease.

dog tick lyme disease

©istockphoto/Andrei310

Meet the Author: Ben Kerns

Ben Kerns is a freelance writer, photographer and outdoor adventurer based out of San Diego. When he’s not busy working you can find him hopping across the world looking for new places to climb big rocks. He’s also fanatically obsessed with funding his outdoor obsessions for as little money as possible. This stuff gets expensive.

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