What is Lyme Disease in Dogs?
Lyme disease is not transmitted directly between animals and humans, rather it is the ticks that feed on both that spread the infection. Having a dog with Lyme disease in the house is not, therefore, putting you or your family at direct risk of infection but it may indicate a need for increased tick awareness for your pets and yourself. Dogs can act as a host reservoir for the bacteria that causes Lyme disease, Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato, and if a dog is bitten by a nymph or adult which then goes on to bite another pet or family member the infection is possible. This is one reason why it is important to check both ourselves and our pets for ticks after outdoor activities.
Can Dogs Give Humans Lyme Disease?
It is also possible that a dog infected with Lyme disease could then infect a tick that bites him or her, thus increasing the risk of transmitting the disease via tick bite to humans in the house. Prompt treatment for dogs with Lyme disease can effectively resolve the infection and reduce the risk of long-term damage from the condition.
Dogs treated with antibiotics for Lyme disease arthritis do not usually require continued treatment once the infection has been cleared and the arthritis symptoms have gone. In cases where arthritis re-occurs or continues after the initial infection has been treated it is worth considering the possibility that the dog has been re-infected, or that another cause of the arthritis is to blame, such as general wear and tear on the joints in older dogs. Mild swelling of joints commonly progresses to lameness in dogs with untreated Lyme disease. They may also experience fever and lymph node enlargement.
Symptoms of Lyme Disease in Dogs
In many cases you may be able to tell that your dog is suffering by her/his loss of appetite and a generally depressed air often indicated by their tail hanging low between their legs. Occasionally, dogs with Lyme disease will develop kidney damage, neurological problems, and/or heart inflammation and pathology. Arthritis and lameness are the common features of Lyme disease in dogs in North America, similar to the prevalence of such symptoms in humans in contrast to the neurological symptoms which are more common in European states.
Lyme Disease Vaccination for Dogs
Many dogs will display positive titers to Lyme disease but have no symptoms of the condition itself. This can make it difficult when considering both vaccination and treatment of Lyme disease in dogs. Most vets will not take a positive titer test as diagnostic proof of Lyme disease in a dog unless accompanied by symptoms. Where such symptoms are present, treatment is usually a short-course of antibiotics such as doxycycline for at least fourteen days and most likely for three to four weeks. Cephalosporins may be used instead and are usually effective over the shorter time period which can be more cost effective than the longer-use tetracycline antibiotics.
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