Lyme disease in dogs is considered to be one of the major causes of death in dogs. It is caused by a spirochete bacteria identified as Borrelia burgdorferi that is commonly carried, spread and transmitted by ticks to their host, in this case, your dog.
"Ticks are not hatched already carrying the spirochete bacteria. They get it when they feed on infected hosts (like mice)."
We know what you're thinking! That all you need to avoid the dreadful lyme disease in dogs is to keep your dog from exposure to ticks. Sounds easy and is a pretty convincing argument. But who are we kidding? It ain't that easy!
HOW WILL MY DOG GET LYME DISEASE?
When an infected tick bites your dog, the bacteria is passed on. Ticks are not hatched already carrying the spirochete bacteria. They get it when they feed on infected hosts (like mice). The bacteria stays in their gut and when they feed again (this time on your dog), the bacteria is now on the salivary glands and is spit out into your dog's bloodstream.
WHAT SHOULD I LOOK FOR IN MY DOG?
Are you thinking your dog might have lyme disease? Depending on the state of lyme disease your dog is in, here are signs and symptoms to look for:
Fever, lethargy, fatigue, loss of appetite, swollen nymph nodes, joint pains, shifting lameness between legs.
Persistent lameness in dogs, inflamed joints, persistent arthritis.
Cardiac signs, difficulty in breathing, neurological signs, seizures, kidney damage, sometimes death
IS THERE A TREATMENT?
Before treating lyme, it should be properly diagnosed by your veterinarian to know what's the best plan for your dog and his lyme disease stage. Clinical signs shown by your dog will be treated to provide comfort and relief. For most cases of lyme disease in dogs, doxycycline is the best treatment. It is an antibiotic that is given during the full course of medication, usually four to six weeks. Other treatment can include minocycline, convenia and amoxicillin together with dietary management and supplements that support the kidney, gastrointestinal tract and joints.
Though ticks are sometimes difficult to handle, it is best to keep your dog's environment clean by disinfecting once every two weeks, cutting your lawn grass short (as ticks dry out in direct sunlight), keeping him indoors, having him wear topical or collar tick preventatives, and preventing him from having direct contact with any stray animals lurking around.
IS THERE A VACCINE FOR THIS?
Yes, there is a vaccine for this but it works differently since there are different kinds of strains in different environments. The downside to this is that your dog should have a lot of antibodies in his system for the vaccine to take full effect.
This is because if your dog has been vaccinated for lyme disease in dogs, the antibodies from the vaccine will be entering the tick's system when it feeds on your dog and attack the spirochetes bacteria - targeting it before it enters your dog's bloodstream. Another downside is that your dog will still get infected if another tick with a different strain feeds on him.
Keeping lyme disease away from your dog is a hard task but keep in mind there is no problem you can't solve and no disease you can't prevent for your dog's chance of living a happy, healthy and lyme-free life!
"Another downside [to the vaccine] is that your dog will still get infected if another tick with a different strain feeds on him."