Recognising the symptoms of Lyme Disease could save your pet’s life. Lyme Disease is a bacterial disease acquired when an infected tick bites a human or animal. The longer they are left untreated, the more severe the symptoms of Lyme Disease become.
Ticks commonly wait on the edge of leaves or grass, using their hind legs to hold on. When an animal walks by and brushes against the plant, the tick latches onto its target. Once attached the tick bites its victim to draw blood. If the tick is infected, this bite can transmit Lyme Disease to the host.
What is Lyme Disease?
Lyme Disease is the most common tick-borne disease. Both humans and pets are vulnerable to Lyme Disease. However, it is not possible to transmit it from owner to pet or vice versa. Lyme Disease causes inflammation in those afflicted. Swelling starts with the skin but can spread to other parts of the body if left untreated. Prompt diagnosis and treatment reduce the long-term effects of Lyme Disease.
How to Reduce the Risk of Lyme Disease
Keeping your dog safe is an essential part of being a dog owner. Although watching your dog for symptoms of Lyme Disease is important, the best defense is reducing the likelihood of tick bites. By reducing the chances for your dog to come into contact with ticks, you minimize their exposure to Lyme Disease.
Maintain your property
Ticks utilize long grass and plants to find hosts. Cutting your grass reduces their possible latching locations and protects your dog. Trim back your bushes where your dog enjoys playing or frequently passes through while outdoors. Overgrown lawns and agricultural fixtures are prime spots for ticks to hang on and target your dog.
Check your dog regularly after playing outside. Be extra sure to inspect your dog when it has been playing in high-risk areas like the woods or a poorly maintained park. Pet them over their entire body, being sure to separate their fur down to the skin when doing so and looking at the exposed skin. Remove any ticks discovered on your dog immediately, using a pair of tweezers. Attempt to remove the tick by its head, pulling with a gentle twist. Prompt removal of the tick lowers the risk for your pet if the tick is infected.
Anti-tick products and further protection
Utilize anti-tick products to deter ticks from latching onto your dog. A flea and tick repelling collar reduces the chances of a tick attaching onto your dog. Medications are also available which lower the risk of tick bites.
Avoid taking your dog to areas with increased likelihood of ticks. When walking in the woods, for example, keep your dog on the trail and away from the underbrush. To prevent your dog from accessing overgrown or unkempt areas, you should always use a leash.
Speak with your veterinarian about vaccination options. Although not required for all dogs, if your vet determines that your dog’s situation renders it at an increased risk, the vet may recommend the vaccination to help inoculate your dog against infection.
Symptoms of Lyme Disease in Dogs
Your bond with your dog is tight, which is helpful for keeping an eye out for symptoms of Lyme Disease. The disease shows itself most commonly by changes in the day-to-day behavior of your dog. From physical to behavioral changes, if your dog has Lyme Disease, you will likely notice that it is not behaving normally. If you note any problems, get in touch with a professional to have your pet checked out immediately.
Physical symptoms of Lyme Disease
Monitor the way your dog is getting around the house. Lyme Disease often causes physical difficulties allowing you to spot problems early. The disease creates swelling in muscles and joints making it painful for your dog to walk. The most common physical symptoms are:
- Limping or seeming to favor one or more limbs
- Stiff limbs
- Swollen joints
Dogs with Lyme Disease commonly suffer from pain in their legs which causes them to limp or stand with one or more paws raised. Limping is the easiest of all symptoms of Lyme Disease to spot in your dog as it becomes instantly apparent the first time it gets up.
Lyme Disease causes the joints of some dogs to stiffen up. The pain and swelling lead to your dog not utilizing the joints as much. A dog walking with a stiffer, less fluid gait may have contracted Lyme Disease and you should visit your vet for a consultation.
Examine your dog’s joints when petting them. Swelling in the joints frequently occurs in animals with Lyme Disease and is a reliable indicator of infection. Gently assess your dog’s joints. Be sure not to cause any sharp movements of your dog’s joints as this may hurt your dog if they suffer from swollen joints.
Behavioral symptoms of Lyme Disease
Tick bites alter the behavior of some dogs which acquire Lyme Disease. The more severely the disease is allowed to take hold in your dog the more apparent behavioral symptoms will become. Behavioral changes to be aware of include:
- Difficulty breathing
- Reduced appetite
- Increased water intake
Dogs with Lyme Disease may experience difficulty breathing. This presents in both the form of wheezing sounds during normal breathing and as labored breathing.
Suffering from Lyme Disease often renders a dog lethargic. The disease attacks the muscles as well as your dog’s joints, making it painful to move. Normally active dogs may suddenly become sedentary. The lack of energy the disease can cause and the muscle pain combine to make being active an unattractive option for your dog.
Contracting Lyme Disease reduces an animal’s appetite. The effect of this appetite loss might be mild, where a dog will leave small amounts behind in its bowl. With more extreme cases, the dog eats little to no food at each meal.
While food consumption goes down with Lyme Disease, water intake goes up. Increased water drinking can be spotted both in your dog’s drinking behavior and the number of daily walks it needs. A dog who suddenly needs more walks than usual should be watched and checked for Lyme Disease.
Other symptoms of Lyme Disease
The ways your dog is moving or behaving are not the only indicators to watch out for. Other symptoms require you to monitor your dog in very specific ways to catch the warning signs.
A dog’s temperature will frequently rise when they are unwell, and Lyme Disease is no different. Dogs have a normal body temperature between 101 and 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit when healthy. Lyme Disease may lead to a spike in your dog’s temperature. Use a dog thermometer if your dog feels warm or if you have spotted other potential symptoms of Lyme Disease.
Always check the skin around the area of the tick bite when you find a tick on your dog. Lyme Disease can cause swelling of lymph nodes near the bite, giving you an early warning sign that there may be trouble.
Dogs love getting attention as much as you love giving it, but Lyme Disease can make contact painful. If your dog recoils at your touch when they would normally be relishing the attention, they may be suffering from increased sensitivity from Lyme Disease.
What to Do if You Suspect Your Dog has Lyme Disease
If you observe one or more symptoms of Lyme Disease in your dog, you should take them to see a veterinary professional immediately. The doctor will assess your dog’s condition and likely order blood work or a urinary test to screen for the disease.
Vets prescribe antibiotics to dogs with Lyme Disease. The Antibiotics attack the disease to prevent it from causing further difficulties and heal the problems already suffered. Antibiotics programs commonly last for several weeks, however, in severe cases it may be necessary to continue treatment for a more extended period.
Lyme Disease is a scary topic, particularly to anyone who knows a person or a pet afflicted with a severe case which was not spotted early. Fortunately, the disease becomes significantly less harmful the sooner you catch it.
Diligent monitoring of your dog for signs of Lyme Disease significantly reduces its risks. Keep a careful watch on your dog, keeping them far from tick-friendly settings whenever possible and regularly screening them for ticks, particularly after they have been in a likely tick habitat. If you find a tick, don’t panic. Remove it and keep a close eye on your dog for symptoms of Lyme Disease and speak to a veterinarian if you have any reason to think your dog may be ill. The sooner you spot the disease and start treatment the safer your dog will be!