If you live in a densely forested area, you probably already know that you need to do regular checks of your dog's coat and skin to ensure that they're tick-free. Ticks carry all sorts of ailments that can have long-lasting impacts for your pet, including Lyme disease, which is one of the most common tick diseases affecting dogs. Here's what you need to know about the illness.
Signs of Lyme disease in dogs
Lyme disease is known as “The Great Imitator" for a good reason. Just as in humans, the illness can mimic other issues dogs might have. If you're concerned about your pet, first look for common, general signs of the illness:
- a change in appetite
Then, pay attention for some other symptoms of Lyme disease. Your dog may:
- limp on both legs at seperate times
- display swollen and hot joints
- exhibit excessive thirst
- have hard lumps behind their jaw, on the back of their thighs, or in the groin area (a sign of swollen lymph nodes reacting to Lyme bacteria)
- have shallow, rapid breath
Most dogs never actually display any symptoms of illness and behave perfectly normal even when infected. In fact, when dogs do test positive, it is usually incidentally when they are screened each year for heartworm disease (the heartworm disease test also tests for tick diseases) at their annual trip to the veterinarian. If you see or remove ticks from your dog, keep some of the above symptoms in mind and schedule an appointment with your dog's vet.
Treating Lyme disease in dogs
Dogs test positive for Lyme disease in two ways. The first one, as explained above, occurs when a dog is annually screened for heartworm disease and also tests positive for Lyme disease. In these situations, the veterinarian may decide to prescribe a round of antibiotics to be on the safe side. For dogs that are sick, showing clinical signs, and test positive as a result of a vet's suspicion, antibiotics will be used in addition to other forms of supportive therapy. Anti-inflammatory medication may be prescribed, for example, depending upon the symptoms. Your dog's vet may schedule follow-up appointments.
Using a tick preventive that kills ticks, which may transmit Lyme disease, is key. There are also some tick prevention products that kill and repel ticks, which is important because if a tick is repelled, it cannot bite and transmit diseases, like Lyme disease. Effective tick control products can be found at the vet or over the counter at pet stores and online retailers.