By Sherry L. Granader
As spring arrives in the northern part of the United States, Lyme disease appears to be a concern mainly in the eastern coastal states from Virginia to Massachusetts. It is somewhat prevalent in the upper Midwest states, Minnesota and Wisconsin and is present in the Pacific coastal states. The rest of the country accounts for approximately 1% of Lyme disease cases.
Lyme disease is transmitted by ticks that can cause recurrent lameness in dogs due to inflammation of the joints. Other complications include damage to the kidneys and in some cases, nervous system or heart disease. Bernese Mountain dogs, Labrador and Golden retrievers are a few breeds that appear to be more susceptible to kidney disease, especially when they are young.
Signs And Symptoms include:
• Lameness of the limbs
• Inflammation of the joints
• Kidney problems
• Lack of appetite
• Weight loss
• Increased urination
• Fluid build-up in the abdomen, legs and under the skin
• Stiff when walking
• Sensitive to touch
• Difficulty breathing
• Nervous system complications
Acute lameness can last for 3-4 days and may recur days or weeks later. In many cases, alternating lameness from one leg to another with one or more joints swollen and pain are quite common. If left untreated, kidney failure can set it if the dog with symptoms of vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, increased urination, thirst and weight loss. The bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi is the culprit behind Lyme disease, transmitted by hard-shelled, slow-feeding ticks. Infection typically occurs after a tick has been attached to the dog for at least eighteen hours.
Take your dog to your veterinarian immediately. You will need to give a complete history of your dog’s health including signs and symptoms you have noticed. A complete blood count and urinalysis will be done to look for fungi, parasites and bacteria in the blood. In some cases, your veterinarian will draw fluid from the affected joints to analyze and check the condition of the skin near the tick-bite site for any fragments left in the wound from the tick’s body.
Since the symptoms of arthritis are quite similar to Lyme disease and your veterinarian will want to differentiate between arthritis initiated by Lyme disease or other inflammatory arthritic disorders. An x-ray will help determine the damage or disorder of the bones as well as the specific cause of the symptoms.
• Keeping your dog warm and dry
• No special diet is required
• Control the dog’s activity may be needed
It can take up to four weeks before symptoms completely resolve in some cases and long-term joint pain may continue even after the bacteria has been eliminated from the dog. However, you should see some improvement within 3-5 days after being on antibiotics.
• Avoid any tick-infested areas
• Groom your dog daily
• Use an appropriate collar that can repel ticks
• Apply a spot-on topical product to kill and repel ticks
• Talk to your veterinarian about a vaccine that is right for your dog
Reviewed and approved by Dr. David L. Roberts, DVM