Lyme disease is the #1 tick-borne disease in Canada and the US. It is a bacterial infection that can affect both animals and humans. The bacterium that the ticks carry is called Borrelia Burgdorferi. It is carried by the deer ticks. When a tick is infected with this bacteria and bites on to a pet or human, it can cause Lyme disease. A dog infected with Lyme Disease can appear normalfor months without showing clinical signs.
A dog that is suffering from Lyme disease won’t generally display signs of the disease for a long period of time. Once the sickness has become more serious, a dog will show the following signs:
- Reoccurring Polyarthritis
- Reluctance to rise and walk
- Arched back when standing or walking
- Lack of appetite
Lyme disease is the most common disease caused by ticks in Manitoba. Cases are especially more likely if an owner takes their dog camping or hiking outside of the city and is not vaccinated or protected in any way. In 2012, there were 577 cases of Lyme disease in Winnipeg and 40 in Brandon. If any of these signs are noticed in your dog, it should be taken to the vet right away.
When diagnosing a dog or any pet, the veterinarian will ask for a detailed history of the animal. The vet will be asking specific questions about where the dog has been, has it been off leash recently or has it gotten out of the house, has it been in any long grass, etc. Once the vet has these answers, they will then ask about its clinical signs or symptoms that have been noticed in their dog. It is important for an owner to try and remember all of the details and be as specific as possible so that their vet can develop a hypothesis as to what the problem may be. After the clinical signs have been discussed, the vet will then draw blood for a complete blood profile. The vet or vet techs will be doing a complete blood count and a blood chemistry to try and find any abnormalities. The vet may also ask to have a urinalysis done as well as well as a 4Dx test or a SNAP test. If Lyme disease is suspected, the vet may do a physical examination of the dog to look for a bite site or the tick itself. If the owner has noticed the dog limping or favoring a leg or side, the vet may also draw synovial fluid from the joints that seem to be affected. If the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi is found in any of the samples taken, a positive Lyme disease infection will be diagnosed.
The vet will treat the dog with antibiotics to kill the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi in the dog’s body. This may not eliminate all of the bacteria but it will make the clinical signs go away. If the disease or symptoms have been ignored for too long, the dog may be experiencing kidney failure. If this is the case, the dog will be put on antibiotics for a longer period of time as well as other medications to help treat the kidney disease that has occurred.
By: Jackie Elias