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Canine Lyme Disease

Canine Lyme Disease
Does My Dog Have Lyme Disease?

Since the symptoms of canine Lyme disease are very similar to other health conditions, and also because not all positive dogs have an active infection, it can be difficult for pet owners – as well as veterinarians – to determine the true Lyme status. In an acute case, Lyme disease causes lameness, and swollen and warm joints.

If you suspect that your dog may have Lyme disease, blood tests are necessary to confirm the diagnosis. Talk to your veterinarian about testing and vaccinating your dog. 

Lyme disease is one of the more common tick-transmitted diseases found in the world. Lyme disease is caused by the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi. When a tick carrying Lyme disease  bites a dog, the organism will pass through the bloodstream and typically enter the joints. Symptoms of Lyme disease in dogs include lameness, swollen joints and fever. However, since other diseases can also cause these symptoms, identifying Lyme disease in dogs can be challenging.

Symptoms of canine Lyme disease include:

  • Lameness in the legs
  • Warm joints
  • A stiff walk with an arched back
  • Fever
  • Lack of appetite
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Kidney failure
  • Heart abnormalities (rare)

There are several options for protecting dogs against canine Lyme disease. One option is vaccination, which may be the best choice for pets who live in an endemic area.  Annual vaccination is an affordable means of protecting pets against this disease, which can have serious health implications. Some dogs that are affected by canine Lyme disease are never fully “free” from this disease and may continue to exhibit symptoms even with treatment. Vaccination prior to infection provides the best possible outcome. If a vaccine is administered, a booster is necessary two to three weeks after the initial vaccine; then annual booster immunizations are  recommended.

If your adult dog has never been vaccinated against Lyme disease, it is important to first test to see if your dog has been exposed to Lyme disease. This test is often performed at the same time that a dog is being tested for heart worms as there is a test kit that checks for both; results are available within 15 minutes of testing. If the test is positive, your veterinarian will recommend a follow-up test at the reference laboratory to see if there is an active infection.

Without proactive treatment, most dogs will eventually develop serious kidney problems and, in many cases, renal failure. Symptoms of renal failure include vomiting, diarrhea, lack of appetite, weight loss, increased urination and thirst at first, then it may change to not drinking enough. Even with treatment, however, not all joint pain symptoms may resolve. In fact, some pets continue to experience pain even after bacteria is eradicated from the system. Consequently, prevention through vaccination is important.

Sources:

Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. Reported Lyme disease cases by state, 1993-2007.

J. Lidicker MA et al, Lyme Disease Cases in the United States Projected Through 2012: Time Series Model Identification and Forecasts of the Federal CDC Data. World International Lyme Disease Emergency Rescue (WILDER) Network, Inc, Published 9/11/2005.

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Testimonial

Don't take a good vet for granted, that's what I say. I currently live in another state and have taken my 10 year old dog to numerous vets over the years (California, Colorado, Vegas, and then some). Never have I ever received the attention and care I've gotten w/Dr. Hines. Within the past 3 months alone, my dog went to 3 different vets for a horrible and painful skin problem that broke out all over her body.

The first vet: I spent more time ponying up the $175 for the visit than the Dr. spent actually looking at my dog. He performed a woods lamp exam for ringworm. Even without Google or a veterinary degree, I could tell it wasn't ringworm. Thanks for taking my money.
Second vet: "Here's some spray, now here's your bill. Bring her back in two weeks so I can charge you another visit." No tests, nothing.
Between the two, I felt like I got nowhere. No definitive answer on why this affected my dog and the medication given wasn't even for a diagnosed condition. Just some general topical spray. I could have bought it at Petsmart and saved myself the time and money.
Recently, on a visit to Idaho, I planned ahead to bring my dog to the Rupert Animal Clinic. I asked the same questions, had the same concerns and now have different results. Dr. Hines gave me options on what route to take, ran appropriate tests and communicated with me every step of the way (even calling me personally when test results came in). My primary concern was cancer. Our dog is like our child- we'll pay the money if we can keep her healthy and safe. In the future, I've resolved to bring my dog to Rupert Animal Clinic on our annual trip for all of her exams. I know she won't be treated as a little cash cow to exploit an owner's love for pets.

Sung L.
Rupert, ID

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