Lyme Disease in Dogs
Lyme disease is a common tick-transmitted disease that is caused by Borrelia burgdorferi, a type of bacteria found in some ticks, most commonly, the deer tick. Although it is more prevalent in the Midwest and Northeastern states, dogs can be exposed to Lyme disease anywhere throughout the United States.
Symptoms of Lyme disease in dogs are not the same as those found in humans. While some dogs may not show any symptoms at all, those that do include lameness due to inflammation of the joints, lack of appetite, fever, lethargy, and depression—all of which typically occurs 2-5 months after being bitten by a tick carrying Lyme organisms. Some dogs may experience acute lameness while others may experience recurrent lameness in the same leg or it may shift to the other legs. The leg that initially became lame may return to normal function during this shift. This is something that had happened to our dog recently.
Our beagle came into Cascade Beagle Rescue in the fall of 2011. We adopted him in early December, 2011 and by the end of the month, he developed lameness in his right hind leg, lack of appetite, was lethargic, and seemed depressed. Living in Portland, Oregon where we do not see many cases of Lyme disease in dogs, the veterinarian he saw thought it was a knee injury. X-rays were taken to rule out any hip issues, fractures, and chips, etc. and we were told that the aggravation was probably from a partial crutiate ligament tear. A couple of days later, we noticed that the lameness had shifted to his left hind leg. I became suspicious that something else was going on, so I started doing some research on the internet to see what else could possibly be the cause of his symptoms, particularly the leg-switching lameness. I came across panosteitis aka growing pains. I thought this could very well be what our little guy had since he was found nearly starved to death when he was just a few months old and had been malnourished. He was now at a healthy weight and growing rapidly. The symptoms were very similar to Lyme disease, pain shifting from one leg to another, fever, low appetite, and lethargy.
We took our dog back to the veterinarian where he was seen by another vet in the same clinic who happened to be from the East coast where Lyme disease is very common. I asked if it could be panosteitis and she said it was possible, but she thought it could also be Lyme disease since our beagle had been found back East. She wanted to test him for it and get him started on Doxycycline, one of the antibiotics used to treat Lyme disease, just in case until we knew more from his lab results. The most common test used to check for Lyme disease is the Idexx SNAP 3Dx which checks your dog’s blood not only for Lyme, but heartworms and other tick-borne blood diseases. Our dog had the Idexx SNAP 4Dx which also tests for anaplasmosis. She looked at the condition of his skin searching for signs of tick bites and ticks, which there were none as a couple of months or so had passed since he had been infected. The day after we started our dog on the Doxycycline, he started eating again, playing with his toys, and he was able to walk again. The lab results came back a couple of days later and sure enough, he tested positive for Lyme disease. The veterinarian had him on Doxycycline for a total of four weeks, which is the recommended period for treatment. We were told to keep him warm and dry. I had read on the internet that pain medication should not be used unless approved by the veterinarian, so we asked about using Tramadol if necessary for pain management.
Once our dog tested positive for Lyme disease, the veterinarian ran additional tests such as the Quantitative C6 test to check his level of antibodies, complete blood panel and protein/creatinine ratio, to see if there was any kidney damage. We asked for an early renal damage detection test aka E.R.D. HealthScreen Urine Test, which is the most sensitive measure of detecting kidney damage available that I had heard about when our other beagle had chronic renal failure in his old age. Damage to the kidney can occur in some dogs as a result of Lyme disease. If left untreated, total kidney failure can occur and vomiting, diarrhea, increased thirst and urination, lack of appetite, and weight loss will occur. Rarely are there serious complications to the heart or nervous system. We were thrilled to hear that there was no sign of kidney damage, however, yearly tests that detect early signs of kidney failure is recommended for dogs that have tested positive for Lyme disease.
To prevent Lyme disease, talk to your veterinarian about vaccines that are available to see if they may be right for your dog, and products that kill and repel ticks. Only use the products as directed and under the supervision of your veterinarian. This is extremely important because some medications may not be used in conjunction with a flea/tick prevention product. If you suspect that your dog has Lyme disease, it is important that you take your dog to see a veterinarian immediately. Remember, if left untreated, your dog could end up suffering from chronic Lyme disease and permanent joint and organ damage as mentioned above.
Cascade Beagle Rescue