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Lyme disease in dogs: causes, symptoms and treatment

Author: Adel Saadoun, Veterinary Doctor

Several diseases can be transmitted to dogs by external parasites, including ticks.

Lyme disease or borreliosis is potentially fatal if not treated on time. It is common to humans and various mammals including dogs.

In this article, we will explain what causes Lyme disease in dogs, its symptoms and treatment.

What is Lyme disease?

Also called borreliosis, Lyme disease is a bacterial infectious disease caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi which is transmitted by ticks. In France, it is present throughout the country, particularly in the North and in Eastern regions.

It is considered a zoonosis disease, which means that it also affects humans.

This disease is much more prevalent during the ticks’ favourite periods, namely spring and fall.

How is Lyme disease transmitted to dogs?

lyme disease in dogs symptoms

The bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi, which causes Lyme disease in dogs, is transmitted by a tick of the genus ixodes ricinus. When ixodes ricinus ticks attach themselves to the dog’s coat, they feed on the dog’s blood and transmit the bacteria.

For contamination to occur, the tick must be attached to the dog’s skin for at least 48 hours. It is therefore not possible to see the tick because it is small. It will be more visible when it is full of blood.

Dogs at risk are those that are often outdoors, especially in wooded areas.

Symptoms of Lyme disease in dogs

Symptoms of Lyme disease may not appear immediately or but months after the infection.

This is why sick dogs can be observed outside the periods of tick activity (spring and autumn).

In addition, the clinical symptoms are not systematic, i.e. dogs can develop the disease without showing symptoms and recover spontaneously, especially if the disease is in its early stages.

Symptoms of borreliosis include the following:

  • Fever;
  • Fatigue;
  • Depression and anorexia;
  • Joint pain resulting in lameness of one or more limbs (polyarthritis);
  • Muscle pain;
  • Kidney and heart problems.

Lyme disease can be acute or chronic, meaning that attacks can last a few days before subsiding. Severe signs can be seen in the second or third phase of the disease.

This is why many owners hesitate to take their dog to the vet because the symptoms are either mild or heal spontaneously. However, only a veterinary diagnosis can detect the presence of the disease.

Treatment and prevention of Lyme disease in dogs

The treatment of Lyme disease aims at fighting the bacteria and joint inflammation.

The veterinarian may consider prescribing antibiotics and anti-inflammatory drugs in this case. Symptomatic treatment depends on the variety of clinical symptoms caused by the disease.

To avoid any risk of contamination, it is important to take preventive measures against tick bites. Indeed, there is a vaccine with an annual booster that reduces the risk, especially for dogs exposed to wooded and forested areas.

In addition, there are various anti tick products on the market, although they are not 100% effective. It is therefore recommended to check your dog for ticks, especially after a walk.

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