Home » other animals » Dog Lyme Disease: Symptoms, Treatment, and Testing for Lyme Disease

Dog Lyme Disease: Symptoms, Treatment, and Testing for Lyme Disease

Lyme disease in a dog is one of the most dangerous tick-borne diseases.

Lyme disease in a dog

Contemporary people appreciate the possibility of being close to nature and living in a clean ecological environment, away from the big city noise, exhaust fumes and constant traffic so characteristic of metropolitan centers.

Therefore, they more and more often choose suburban areas where, in peace and quiet, enjoying the full charms of living in a green environment, they can rest after a hard day at work.

Such a trend should probably not surprise anyone too much and undoubtedly testifies to resembling highly developed Western societies.

However, we must remember that by choosing such a living environment, we enter the natural habitats of various parasites from with forceps at the forefront.

In well-kept and shortly mown lawns of city parks, we are also not completely safe, although the risk of contact with these parasites is much smaller.

So choosing nature and walking the dog in green meadows or hiking in the forest, unfortunately, we must be more vigilant so that these moments of carefree and pleasure do not later turn into the need to treat dangerous diseases transmitted by these arachnids.

Progressive climate changes and milder, snowless winters with positive temperatures also do not work to our advantage and cause the emergence of more and more cases of transmission tick-borne diseases.

All dog owners know about one of the most dangerous tick-borne transmission diseases it is babesiosis moreover, it is often confused with another extremely serious disease as it is well known Lyme disease.

The latter sows fear in people, often leading to serious health effects.

It also gives rise to many myths and false information that have nothing to do with reality.

So I think it is worth getting acquainted with it in the context of our dogs.

So, can dogs get sick with Lyme disease?

What are they, after what time and when do they occur symptoms of Lyme disease in a dog?

What is the diagnosis, possible treatment and what medications are used for Lyme disease in a dog?

I will try to present this topic to you in this article.

So should the dog owner be afraid of Lyme disease in his pet??

  • What is Lyme disease?
  • How a dog can catch Lyme disease?
  • Is Lyme disease in a dog contagious?
  • Where the dog can catch Lyme disease?
  • Symptoms of Lyme disease in a dog
  • Diagnosis of Lyme disease in dogs
  • Treatment of Lyme disease in dogs
  • How to prevent Lyme disease?

What is Lyme disease?

Lyme disease is a multi-organ, systemic disease caused by bacteria (called spirochetes) belonging to the group Borelia burgdorferi sensu lata, which is vectorized by ticks.

Common tick | Source: Wikipedia

Unfortunately, in the disease, we observe an increased reaction of the immune system to highly pathogenic bacteria, such as spirochetes, which complicates the diagnosis and treatment.

Lyme disease is most often transmitted by the popular and common ticks belonging to the genus Ixodes.

The scale of the problem and the high prevalence of the disease in our latitude may be confirmed by the number of diagnosed cases in humans, which unfortunately increases every year. In Europe alone, there are over 65,000 new cases of human disease every year.

What is alarmingly, it is also found in places so far recognized as free from the disease, so we can safely say that it is strongly spreading.

The reason for such a state of affairs as suspected is climate change resulting in mild winters, and therefore climate warming in general.

Ticks colonize new areas where once, due to unfavorable living conditions, they simply did not exist, which also entails an increasing spread of the disease.

Lyme disease is also called Lyme disease from the place in the United States where it was discovered and described in humans in the mid-1970s.

It was then that in the town of Old Lyme, there were mass cases of people suffering from arthritis accompanied by skin lesions such as erythema.

Let us make it clear that it is the interactions, i.e. the joint interaction that exist between the bacteria, their carriers and the immune system of the infected organism, that determine the image of the disease that will develop.

How a dog can catch Lyme disease?

The culprit that causes the disease is the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferii sensu lata, which includes about 18 spirochete species, not all of which are equally pathogenic to humans and pets.

The genospecies were distinguished due to the large diversity within this species.

Only some of them play the most infamous role:

  • Borelia garini,
  • B. afzelli,
  • B. burgdorferii sensu strictly,
  • B. bavariensis,
  • B. spielmanii.

The pathogenicity of the remaining species has not been defined and investigated in detail so far.

Borelia species are small bacteria in size 0.2-30 micrometers visible under phase or dark field microscopy.

They are incapable of independent living in the environment and for transmission they require blood-sucking arthropods such as ticks.

It is certain, however, that it is B. afzelli and B. garinii and B. burgdorferii are most often isolated from European ticks, hence they are assigned the greatest pathogenic importance. All the species mentioned can cause development a lot the characteristic symptom of Lyme disease, which is migratory erythema.

As for other symptoms, it depends on the Borella genre.

For example, in the course of the disease caused by B. burgdorferii are more common symptoms of a neurological nature and inflammation of the joints a B. garinii is responsible for the development of symptoms known as neuroborreliosis.

Lyme disease occurs among various, often not very specific clinical symptoms, hence not all of the described symptoms must occur in every case of the disease.

A reservoir of spirochetes, i.e. a living organism constituting a specific "storehouse " for bacteria, can be small wild ones rodents, as is the case with B. afzelii and B. bavariensis or B. garinni living u birds.

Minor is considered to be the main reservoir of the Borelia Burgdorferia rodents, so field mice or voles.

As I wrote before, the vector of the disease is a tick, most often Ixodes ricinus, less often I. persulcatus.

There are three stages in the life cycle of these arachnids:

  • larvae,
  • nymphs,
  • adult characters.

Infected nymphs transmit the infection to animals that are reservoirs of bacteria.

The infection occurs during blood collection, that is, feeding on an individual infected with spirochetes.

In this way, adult ticks become infected, which then transmit bacteria to their offspring, i.e. the larvae, and then the nymphs that develop from them.

Estimated data show about a dozen or so percent of the population of ticks infected with spirochetes, which with the total number of these arachnids seems to be a huge number.

Not every tick transmits the disease, it is true, but the number of those infected is enormous, hence the increasing risk of disease for humans and animals.

The number of infected ticks is huge in the rich, highly developed countries of our continent, including Austria, Germany, Switzerland and Slovenia.

The transmission of infection depends on many environmental and climatic factors, but also due to the biology of the tick (e.g. length of development phases due to climate, preferences for parasitic species).

At the moment of feeding, i.e. clinging to the animal's skin, the tick introduces substances that facilitate blood collection, and thus immunomodulates (changes) the immune system or affects local blood vessels (vasoactive effect).

Unfortunately, all this facilitates the penetration of bacteria into the body.

Anyone who has had a tick on their own skin knows that when feeding begins, we do not feel the bite, and we often discover the presence of a tick when it is strongly drunk, filled with blood, and therefore it is parasitic for several or several dozen hours.

This is due to the anesthesia of the wound where the parasite is inserted so that, feeling discomfort and itching, we do not accidentally remove the tick prematurely.

For the transmission of the infection to be effective, the tick must forage the appropriate time. As a rule, the transmission of Lyme disease does not occur for the first day, therefore it is very important if a tick is found to be removed as soon as possible, its proper removal, preventing it from collecting blood, which significantly reduces the risk of developing infection.

Is Lyme disease in a dog contagious?

Debunking popular and ingrained myths:

our pets, especially dogs, do not pose a threat to their owners and we will not catch Lyme disease from them.

The only exception is when dogs carry hungry ticks on their hair, or their developmental stages, which accidentally come across people at home.

Ticks filled with blood are not able to survive in apartments and houses for too long, and most importantly, they do not attack humans again.

Where the dog can catch Lyme disease?

Incidence of Lyme disease | Source: Wikipedia

We find the disease in many European countries with the main sperm in the central and northern parts.

Interestingly, we are unlikely to catch a tick high in the mountains, where it does not occur due to unfavorable living conditions.

Also in the south of the continent, in the Mediterranean climate, the number of infected ticks is much lower, which translates into the risk of disease.

The most vulnerable to the disease are people who often stay in places where ticks live, so:

  • woodcutters,
  • forest workers,
  • foresters,
  • hunters,
  • walkers and dogs often accompanying their owners and thus having a lot of ticks.

In this context, we must not neglect the continuous prevention of ticks in our dogs with an effective preparation available on the market.

We perform it even when no other dangerous tick-borne disease, such as it is, has never been found in a given area babesiosis. Ticks can transmit both pathogens simultaneously or separately.

It is obvious that infection occurs during the season of their activity, which used to fall in the period from spring to autumn, i.e. roughly from March to November.

Currently, due to the increasingly milder winters, this time has extended to practically the entire year.

So let no one be surprised by the presence of a feeding tick in the middle of a calendar winter.

Also, do not be confused by the appearance of clinical symptoms.

They do not always have to occur at the aforementioned time.

Characteristic indeed wandering erythema most often it appears immediately shortly after infection, but other clinical symptoms, for example from the nervous system, skin or eyes, do not have to be directly related to the fact of finding a tick.

Wandering erythema | Source: Wikipedia

They do appear frequently months later.

Symptoms of Lyme disease we can have many months after contact with the tick, which can confuse many patients.

Symptoms of Lyme disease in a dog

The picture of the disease and the occurrence of it symptoms of Lyme disease in a dog they are very diverse, which depends on the type of spirochete we have been infected with by the tick.

So we can have an acute or chronic course of Lyme disease.

The lack of homogeneous, characteristic clinical symptoms certainly makes the diagnosis difficult and thus an effective and rapid therapy, which seems to be crucial in preventing subsequent complications of Lyme disease in the dog.

In humans, in about 60% of cases, an early symptom of Lyme disease is erythema migrans, which appears a few days to weeks after infection.

It raises a lot of concern, but in fact it is a good warning signal informing about the existence of the disease and determines early therapy.

So it is a symptom "absolutely desirable", if at all, you can write about the symptoms of the disease.

It looks like an oval lesion over 10 cm in diameter with a rim and sometimes itching.

However, it does not always occur, and its absence may cause early symptoms to be missed.

Currently, many cases of Lyme disease do not, unfortunately, occur with this symptom.

Migratory erythema does not usually occur in dogs, which would be difficult to notice anyway due to the presence of hair.

Symptoms of Lyme disease in the first, early stage are accompanied by flu-like symptoms such as general weakness, fever, headaches, muscle and joint pains or faster fatigue.

These symptoms are self-limiting and seemingly healed.

In case of dog borreliosis neurological symptoms develop only in a few months, years later; distant neurological symptoms of Lyme disease, resulting from meningitis and the brain itself, it is neuroborreliosis for short.

It also develops:

  • inflammation of large joints with symptoms of lameness and movement deficits,
  • changes in the heart muscle (work disorders, fainting, arrhythmias),
  • skin changes,
  • nephritis.

Unfortunately, the more advanced the disease, the more pronounced clinical changes become more intense and often permanent.

The disease becomes chronic and becomes extremely burdensome for the patient.

In a dog, symptoms of Lyme disease appear 2 to 6 months after exposure and contact with infected ticks.

The development of the disease is closely correlated with the increase in serum antibodies, and its severity and symptoms depend on the patient's age and the state of the immune system.

Clinical signs of Lyme disease in a dog may be acute fever limb lameness up to 40.5 degrees, which may be accompanied joint swelling, enlargement of the lymph nodes.

Everything is accompanied, of course, by:

  • general feeling of being unwell,
  • apathy,
  • lack of appetite in the dog.

Therefore, these are very non-specific symptoms occurring in practically many health problems.

The most common symptom of the disease is this arthritis and lameness.

Bacteria locate in:

  • the skin,
  • joints,
  • connective tissue,
  • muscle tissue.

As a rule, the joint closest to the tick's attachment point is attacked first.

The lameness lasts for several days and then disappears or spreads to another limb.

Arthritis is accompanied by an increase in overall temperature as a sign of bacterial infection. Interestingly, the changes in the joints, although they pass, are progressive and the destruction of the joint structures continues.

The disease also causes serious changes in the kidneys.

Attacking the glomeruli leads to a loss of protein in the urine and may result in an acute, unfortunately progressive renal failure with azotaemia, uraemia and the accumulation of exudate in body cavities resulting in local swelling.

Such symptoms were more common in golden retrievers and Labradors.

Acute renal failure, rapidly developing, is accompanied by:

  • vomiting,
  • weight loss,
  • apathy and apathy,
  • anorexia.

Moderate meningitis, encephalitis, and perineural inflammation can also occur in canines, with neurological symptoms not always being present.

However, there may be:

  • depression,
  • stupor,
  • impaired coordination of movements,
  • seizures.

At the site of the tick sticking to the dog's skin, we will sometimes observe small, red changes that disappear within a few days.

However, it is not a characteristic of human erythema migrans, as this usually does not occur in a dog.

Other symptoms that may occur with Lyme disease in a dog this myocarditis resulting in the occurrence of arrhythmias and the appearance of arrhythmias.

Lyme disease in dogs it can also have little characteristic symptoms that do not fit in with the "well-known " picture of the disease.

Cases have been reported:

  • fever with convulsions, weakness and fainting,
  • lack of appetite,
  • attacks of aggression,
  • visual disturbances.

So we can see exactly how diverse, nonspecific and often unrelated symptoms of Lyme disease can be and hence it is often very difficult to recognize it without pathognomonic symptoms.

Diagnosis of Lyme disease in dogs

Diagnostics and tests of borreliosis in dogs

At the outset, let's say that confirmation by appropriate tests and Diagnosing Lyme disease in a dog is difficult. Clinical signs do not occur in every seropositive animal, and these only affect 5-10% of cases.

In order to make an accurate diagnosis, we must simultaneously meet four conditions, so:

  1. Have an interview confirmed that the dog has been in contact with ticks.
  2. The dog must have clinical symptoms typical of Lyme disease.
  3. The dog must show a positive antibody titre to Lyme in its serum.
  4. Show a positive response to treatment with appropriate antibiotics.

Only when all these conditions are simultaneously met can we speak of Lyme disease in a dog.

General blood tests with morphology and biochemistry for Lyme disease usually do not add anything new and remain normal, so they are not helpful in the diagnosis.

In recent years, Lyme disease has become a very "fashionable and media disease ", about which we can learn a lot in the local press, guides or on the radio.

Not all of this information is correct, and some are even misleading.

In many cases, the diagnosis is exaggerated and wrong. Relying only on positive laboratory test results may result in unnecessary treatment, as infection with non-pathogenic spirochetes or Borrelia strains is common.

So how to avoid mistakes?

As a rule, the methods of diagnosing the disease can be divided into the direct ones aimed at detecting bacteria in the tested sample (culture, PCR or microscopic examination) and indirect, i.e serological tests.

The cultivation of the bacteria themselves is difficult, requires a specialized substrate, and in the case of obtaining an increase in the biochemical assessment or analysis of genetic material.

Leather taken from the site of a tick bite seems to be the best material.

The multiplication of bacteria on special substrates it also lasts for many weeks, which prevents a quick diagnosis.

Microbiological test for Lyme disease shows much worse results in the case of synovial or cerebrospinal fluid.

It seems effective, but not without its flaws PCR method, that is, the polymerase chain reaction.

It allows us to define exactly Borella genotype.

This method consists in multiplication of a specific fragment of nucleic acids of the grown bacteria.

Its disadvantages are for that false negative results caused contamination of the test sample or her improper download.

In serological diagnostics, i.e. indirect methods, we use ELISA test and indirect immunofluorescence test.

Large variation B. burgdorferia and having many surface proteins with significant antigenic variability and the similarity to the structures of leptospires and other bacteria make serological diagnostics difficult.

Following Lyme infection, IgG levels increase gradually but slowly which makes the test we should perform after 4-6 weeks at the earliest and the best after 3 months, when this name is highest.

Detectable levels of antibodies persist in your dog for a long time several months.

These tests as we can see they are not very suitable for an early diagnosis of the disease.

To conclude that the disease process is "fresh", we should investigate two pairs of sera with an interval of 3-4 weeks.

Only an increase in the titer of antibodies in the research indicates a freshly ongoing disease process.

You may find it helpful here testing of IgM antibodies, which appear faster after infection, but last shorter.

In case of positive test results, the ELISA method is still recommended to be performed imunoblotting test.

In field conditions, in veterinary clinics, they can be very helpful quick SNAP tests detecting the surface protein of IDEXX spirochetes.

Treatment of Lyme disease in dogs

Treatment of Lyme disease in a dog, similarly to its recognition, it is not an easy activity and, on the contrary, it can be very difficult.

Lyme disease is a bacterial disease and should be treated effectively antibiotics and this is not always the case.

The "first-line" drugs used at the outset are considered tetracyclines and beta lactam antibiotics.

In many cases, we can see improvement over the course of the day 2 days from the start of effective therapy.

Obviously, the greatest effectiveness is achieved by implementing treatment at an early stage of the disease, as soon as clinical symptoms are identified.

Introducing antibiotics as soon as possible not only brings a quick improvement, but also reduces the number of bacteria in the tissues and prevents their multiplication.

Often, however, the first symptoms are not very specific and difficult to capture, hence they are easy to overlook.

As I wrote before, the most effective administration seems to be doxycycline in dose 10 mg / kg m.c. orally 2 times a day by a period of about a month.

Another very effective antibiotic is amoxicillin in dose 20 mg / kg m. c. 2-3 times a day for a month and azithromycin 25 mg / kg m. c. 1 x daily for 10-20 days.

These drugs are highly effective in the initial stage of infection.

When dealing with late symptoms (neurological, cardiac or permanent arthritis), we can use:

  • ceftiaxone,
  • cefatoxime,
  • chloramphenicol.

These measures are prescribed in intravenous injections or infusions, so they require administration by veterinary staff, rather in the conditions of a veterinary clinic. Importantly, doxycycline is not recommended for animals during the growing season, as it may cause discoloration of teeth, skin and claws.

Safe in young animals the antibiotic for Lyme disease is amoxicillin.

We can use as supportive treatment non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs relieving arthritis symptoms, or with caution glucocorticosteroids in low doses.

These drugs will reduce pain and swelling in the joints and will improve your pet's appetite.

In humans, prophylactic administration of antibiotics was sometimes used in the presence of ticks, with a slight effect on the exaggeration.

In the case of dogs, however, such an action seems impractical, devoid of any purposefulness and additionally increases the cost of treating a dog's Lyme disease, so it is not recommended.

How to prevent Lyme disease?

Tick-borne disease prevention

The best way to prevent the disease is to prevent ticks from feeding on your pet. Remember that the longer the tick stays on the dog, the greater the risk of infection.

Protecting our animals against tick attacks mainly boils down to providing effective protection in the form of:

  • collar for ticks,
  • tablets,
  • anti-tick preparations poured onto the dog's skin.

An effective preparation must kill the tick as quickly as possible or scare it away and discourage it from starting feeding.

Of course, you can choose safer places where we walk with our dog, but remember that nowadays ticks are practically everywhere.

It is also a good idea to carefully inspect the dog after each walk, brush it, which can help us find the tick or remove the ticks that are on the fur and have not yet started feeding.

We should remove the feeding tick as soon as possible by wearing gloves or using a paper tissue.

Never touch a tick with your bare hand, as this poses a risk of infection with pathogens from it.

However, combating ticks in their habitats with chemicals seems to be ineffective and is associated with environmental pollution.

So let's secure our dogs not only because of the formidable fear babesiosis, but also in Lyme disease prevention.


The number of cases of Lyme disease is increasing every year

Lyme disease is certainly a dangerous and extremely popular tick-borne disease, the number of which is systematically growing every year.

It arouses considerable emotions, especially in the context of complications in people that it causes in the late, chronic stage.

Our canine friends are in a slightly better situation, because despite the common contact with ticks, the disease and the development of characteristic symptoms are not always the case.

This should absolutely not exempt us, keepers from the obligation to protect dogs against ticks.

The opinions sometimes heard among dog owners that "Lyme disease is not a disease of dogs" have long been considered untrue.

We do not always recognize it, which does not mean that it does not occur and does not attack dogs.

Focusing on the more spectacular babesiosis, we forget a bit about Borelia burgdorferii bacteria, making it easier for them to spread freely.

Lyme disease, on the other hand, will certainly be a disease that will occur more and more often and it will still be hard for many people.

Knowledge the first symptoms of Lyme disease and methods of treating it therefore seems crucial.

Sources used >>

Leave Your Comment