Canine Lyme disease or borreliosis is a disease transmitted to dogs by parasites called ticks (specifically deer ticks) which act as vectors (disease transmitting agents). For this disease to occur, the disease transmitting parasites should remain in contact with the dog for at least a day or two. The disease is caused by a bacterium called ‘Borrelia burgdorferi ‘. Ticks can transmit the disease to other animals and humans; however, the infection cannot be spread through an infected dog.
A high percentage of dogs are prone to this disease in United States especially, the eastern coastal places. Preventive measures are available in the form of vaccines which can be given under the supervision of a specialist. Now, let’s find out the various symptoms associated, causes, ways to detect along with the measures which need to be taken to prevent the disease.
As earlier mentioned, the disease is caused by ‘Borrelia burgdorferi’ a gram-negative bacterium belonging to the spirochete group and which is more prevalent in eastern coastal states of America.
The initial signs can show after a month of infection. The disease can result in many symptoms like swelling in the lymph nodes due to the infection, increased body temperature, disability in the limbs, loss of appetite, inflammation and pain in the joints, general weakness, cardiovascular and kidney problems and can bring about certain nervous system related disorders also. The symptoms developed are different from those seen in people and the disease can manifest itself in many different ways.
When the joints are painful, inflamed causing disability (arthritis related), it is time to seek prompt medical attention, control the situation before it gets worse.
Sometimes, dogs which have been infected might not show any sign making early diagnosis impossible, so even slight changes in behavior should be considered (especially in areas where the dogs are more prone) for getting screening tests done. Sometimes symptoms are more visible after months.
A detailed physical examination, clinical history along with a complete blood and urine profile testing will be done to screen the infection at the earliest. The dog’s skin especially at the site of bite will be carefully observed for having an idea of the extent of infection. Activity levels should be controlled along with dietary modifications as suggested until signs of improvement are seen. Antibiotics for a month are given to treat the current infection after testing through accurate antibody tests even though the chances of relapse do exist. Antibiotics should provide relief and improvement should be seen within a couple of days else doctor needs to be consulted again for necessary changes in medication.
Commonly asked questions
1. Is canine Lyme disease an autoimmune disease?
Ans. Even though the pathology and symptoms resemble that of autoimmune disease, it cannot be concluded as an autoimmune disease. Another fact which is contrary is that the immune cells attack both the bacteria as well as some body tissues.
2. What are the initial signs of this disease?
Ans. Initial signs like fever, swollen lymph nodes, anorexia, painful joints, etc. can develop after infection.
3. How much time is required for these symptoms to develop?
Ans. Your pet sometimes may not show signs even after infection, but initial signs do show after a month of infection.
4. How is the disease confirmed by the veterinarian?
Ans. The disease is confirmed after inquiring about the clinical history of your pet along with a physical examination. The doctor may advise you to get clinically relevant tests done for your pet, the results of which only will confirm the disease.
5. What are suitable treatment options?
Ans. Antibiotics are the first line of treatment in all cases – ranging from mild to more chronic ones. The doctor might try a different diagnosis when they do not work. Anti-inflammatory medicines are given for relief from pain, inflammation in joints.
6. What if my pet does not show any signs but tests positive?
Ans. In few cases, it even may take years for the symptoms to become more evident even though rare. A normal dose of antibiotic treatment can be initiated as some antibiotics are safer when compared with others.
7. How effective and safe is the vaccination given for Lyme disease?
Ans. Vaccination is found to be effective in 75% cases with no detectable side effects, however, vaccination procedure cause various immune reactions in the body which in rare cases may cause disease like symptoms, causing confusion.
8. Which symptoms should I consider for evaluating the seriousness of the disease?
Ans. Pain with inflammation in the joints causing disability is one symptom which can give you an idea about the chronic nature of the disease and which needs immediate attention.
Measures which can be taken
1. Vaccination for prevention of the disease is a proactive and effective measure (in majority of cases).
2. The disease can also be prevented through pest or tick control treatments and by using other products from time to time.
3. Avoid your dog from roaming in environments where these ticks prevail.
4. Dogs should be thoroughly checked for these parasites (ticks) especially after outdoor visits even though these ticks are not easy to trace.
5. In case, you detect a few on your dog, various products can be used to eliminate them.
6. Keeping your pets clean on a daily basis is equally important.
7. Knowledge of other precautionary measures can be taken from a specialist.
However, in many cases, the symptoms do not ease off completely and show up in the form of pain in various parts even after eradicating the infection. A better approach would be to get your dog immunized as a precautionary step in case the infection has not set it.