Lyme Disease Risk in Dogs
High risk areas in the US for canine Lyme disease include the southeastern and northeastern states, as well as California, although Lyme disease cases have occurred across the US. Ticks usually need to be attached to a dog for forty-eight hours before they transmit Borrelia and infect the dog with Lyme disease. This time may be shorter in Europe as the tick species there are more likely to carry the bacteria in their saliva rather than their gut. Daily tick checks make sense in Lyme endemic areas, for you and your dog. Ticks can also carry co-infections of Lyme disease and confuse diagnosis with concomitant canine Ehrlichiosis, Rickettsia, and Babesiosis as well as Borreliosis.
Symptoms of Lyme Disease in Dogs
Symptoms of Lyme disease in dogs include fever, swollen and tender joints and lymph nodes, loss of appetite, dehydration, listlessness, lameness, and behavioral abnormalities or confusion. Although some of these symptoms appear days after a tick bite, like in humans, other symptoms of canine Lyme disease may take weeks or months to occur. Dogs will naturally try to hide their symptoms as a defensive strategy and so the first sign may be a limp and whimpering from intense joint pain that has actually been present for some time. This lameness in dogs is usually in the front legs and it can switch legs as pain and swelling shift due to systemic inflammation. The dog’s shoulder joints may feel tender and swollen and warm to the touch and the lymph nodes may also be swollen and tender.
Preventing Lyme Disease in Dogs
Luckily, dogs can be vaccinated against Lyme disease if they live in a Lyme endemic area although there are concerns over the safety of Lyme disease vaccines for dogs. Performing regular tick checks and using tick repellents can help reduce the risk of Lyme disease in dogs but where it does occur it is usually treatable with antibiotics along with painkillers if the joint pain and other canine Lyme disease symptoms are particularly severe.