Ticks carry many diseases such as Lyme disease, a bacterial infection that is very easily treatable but can cause physical and nervous problems in the long term. This disease, also called borreliosis, affects both animals and humans. To protect your dog from infection, you should consider some preventive measures. Here are some tips for detecting Lyme disease in your dog.
Origin of Lyme disease
Lyme disease, or borreliosis, is an infectious disease caused by Borrelia burgdorferi, a bacterium transmitted by ticks of a single species in particular: Ixodes ricinus, also called “wood ticks”. Ticks are small mites of the arachnid family, which feed on blood and cling to the skin of their victims.
Wood ticks can be found everywhere, in grass and meadows, on dead leaves and plants close to the ground. A bite spreads Lyme disease into an animal’s bloodstream. Although treatment is possible, it can affect different organs and cause many disabilities in the long term, both physical and mental:
- Heart problems
- Nervous system disorders
- Skin diseases
Lyme disease is also a zoonosis, which is a disease that is transmitted from animals to humans, just like rabies or toxoplasmosis. It can, therefore, affect many animals, dogs and cats, and the rest of your family members. Its name dates back to the 1970s when the disease was discovered in the town of Lyme, United States.
Symptoms of Lyme disease in dogs
The challenging part with Lyme disease is recognizing its symptoms, as they can be very similar to other illnesses, or may seem mild and undetectable. If your dog has Lyme disease, these can be some of the symptoms:
- Loss of appetite
- Joint pain (arthritis or polyarthritis) – your dog is limping, and the affected area is hot and swollen
- Muscle pain
- Large lymph nodes
In the third stage, more severe problems can result like muscle injuries, nervous disorders, a heart defect or even kidney failure.
Symptoms may appear 2 to 5 months after a bite in intermittent attacks, with one or more symptoms at the same time. To detect Lyme disease, veterinarians perform blood tests, serology, a joint puncture or a PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction), or a DNA test that can diagnose various infectious diseases. Other specific lab tests may be needed to find out which particular organs have been affected.
How to treat Lyme disease?
The best treatment for Lyme disease, of course, is prevention. Ticks transmit many other diseases such as piroplasmosis that you need to prevent. It is a parasitic disease that can have severe and fatal consequences in dogs.
There are many pest control products that you can apply on your dog all-year-round, to prevent tick bites:
- Pipettes or stop-on: directly on the dog’s skin, neck or back, where he cannot lick himself because the product is very toxic.
- Collars which are very effective in the long term.
- Tablets, a new solution which also acts on internal parasites.
Not all pest control treatments are suitable for the same dogs. The lifestyle of your companion mainly influences the choice of the product. Pipettes, for example, are less recommended for dogs who live outdoors and in wet areas. Swimming or even raining can make the product ineffective. Also, not all dogs react the same way to treatment. There is a vaccine against Lyme disease, which is highly recommended for hunting dogs in particular, who roam the wilderness every day. The borreliosis vaccine can be part of the puppy’s primary vaccination, from 12 weeks old. An annual booster is necessary for optimal efficiency, especially before spring.
Check your dog’s coat after each walk to remove a tick as quickly as possible. Be careful, if you remove a tick improperly, you may remove the body only and leave the head there. Never remove a tick with your bare hands, tweezers, or alcoholic solution. Instead, use tick clips or hooks specially designed to remove the tick gently. Turn the forceps counterclockwise and then disinfect the area.
Fortunately, you can treat borreliosis with antibiotics for several weeks. Your vet may also prescribe anti-inflammatory drugs, in case your dog suffers from muscle or joint pain.
Other pest control products like sprays and shampoos are effective in treating dogs already infested with ticks and work in a curative way. However, they do not cure Lyme disease.