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What is Lyme Disease and Can It Affect Your Dogs?

Many people enjoy hiking with their pets. People will notice ticks on themselves or their dogs after a hike in the spring and summer months. This can be a problem because ticks carry diseases that can make you and your pet very sick. But have you heard of Lyme disease? 

Lyme disease is a bacterial infection caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi. The disease is transmitted to humans and animals through the bite of an infected black-legged tick, also known as a deer tick. Lyme disease is most commonly found in the northeastern and upper Midwest regions of the United States.


What is Lyme Disease? 

Lyme disease is a bacterial infection caused by the spiral-shaped bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi. Ticks spread it to both animals and humans. After being bitten, the disease can spread almost anywhere in the body, affecting everything from joints to organs and even skin.

Lyme disease was named after several cases in 1975, all of which occurred in Lyme, Connecticut. While Lyme disease can be found anywhere in the United States, the Northeast, upper Midwest, and Pacific Coast account for 95 percent of cases. The removal and destruction of natural habitats and animal travel have all contributed to the massive spread of this disease.


How Do You Contract Lyme Disease? 

The Ixodes tick transmits Lyme disease to dogs. When a tick bites your dog, the bacteria are injected into his bloodstream, which multiplies and spreads throughout his body.

When your dog goes outside to use the restroom, it may pick up ticks. Ticks are more common in tall grass and wooded areas; you don’t have to walk in the woods to get them.

Ticks will climb to the top of a blade of grass and wait for an animal or, sadly, your dog to brush against them, where they will quickly transmit to them. The tick must remain attached to your dog for 24 to 48 hours for your dog to contract Lyme disease.


What are the Symptoms of Lyme Disease in Dogs? 

Lyme disease can cause a wide range of symptoms. Pain and lameness in the legs are two of the most common symptoms. This lameness may last only a few days before shifting to a different portion or joint, known as shifting leg lameness. Other signs you may notice are

  • Fever
  • Appetite loss
  • Lethargy
  • Lymph nodes swollen
  • Walking with difficulty
  • Pain and stiffness
  • Inflammation of the joints

These symptoms can progress to kidney damage and, eventually, death if not addressed as soon as possible.

How Can Lyme Disease Be Diagnosed?

A veterinarian will perform a physical exam and blood test for Lyme disease. They will also examine organs like the liver and kidneys to ensure proper function. Other organs can be affected by Lyme disease.

Lyme disease can be detected using two different blood tests. They are as follows:

  • C6: This test detects antibodies normally present in dogs when Lyme disease occurs.
  • Quant C6: This one is similar to the first but uses urine. This is the final step in determining whether a dog has an active Lyme disease infection.

A sample of joint fluid from the swollen joints will be taken to ensure that there is no secondary infection in the joints that must also be treated.

The majority of dogs in the northeast will test positive for Lyme disease. A dog not currently displaying symptoms will be closely monitored for signs of the disease. If your dog exhibits Lyme disease symptoms, treatment will be initiated.


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