Lyme disease is a bacterial infection that is transmitted by ticks. It is spread all over the world and not only dogs but also horses and people can get sick. For cats, there is currently little evidence that Borrelia is dangerous for them.
Transmission of canine Lyme disease
The tick itself mostly infects wild animals (mice, deer, etc.). She then carries the pathogens in her intestines. If she sucks blood, the bacteria migrate into her salivary gland and are transmitted to the bitten animal. This process takes at least 24 hours, which is why a tick that is removed quickly cannot transmit Borrelia.
Some Borrelia actively migrates from the site of the tick bite in the skin into the joints and tissues. Others remain in the skin and do not spread further. They can be reactivated at a later date if the animal z. B. is exposed to severe stress or other diseases. This is why some dogs develop Lyme disease long after a tick bite.
Only 5-10% of dogs bitten by an infected tick actually develop signs of Lyme disease. If the dog also has a good immune system and no other diseases, its organism can usually defend itself effectively against the infection.
By the way: Borreliosis is also often referred to as “Lyme borreliosis” because it was first described in 1975 in the American town of Lyme.
Lyme disease is not easy to recognize simply because its symptoms only appear 2 – 5 months after infection, sometimes even later. The signs of the disease are so often not associated with the tick bite.
Reddening of the skin occurs directly at the site of the tick bite, which is visible for up to a week. However, such reddening of dense dog fur is of course quickly overlooked or the tick bite is not noticed at all.
If Lyme disease then breaks out, the following symptoms are possible:
- loss of appetite
- swollen joints
The lymph vessels/lymph nodes can also be swollen. For example, this can be felt in the form of lumps under the skin that are not usually felt there. Some dogs also develop kidney infections as a result of the infection.
When should you go to the vet?
Has your dog’s skin reddened for days after a tick bite (even if you may not have found the tick)? Or he had a lot of tick bites that don’t become inconspicuous after removing the tick? Then you should consult your veterinarian. As already mentioned, this stage is often overlooked.
Also, consult your veterinarian if you notice your dog is listless, has a fever, listless and is eating little or nothing and/or is lame. These symptoms can also have many other causes, so a clarification is important.
The combination of symptoms and the possibility of contact with the tick (forest, meadow, etc.) gives the veterinarian a first suspicion of Lyme disease. This can be clarified and secured by detecting antibodies in the animal’s blood. The body forms these antibodies to fight Borrelia. The vet will also investigate what other medical conditions might be responsible for the symptoms. There is e.g. B. bacteria other than Borrelia, which can also trigger joint inflammation and thus cause a similar clinical picture.
In the rarer occurrence of kidney inflammation, a changed composition of the urine can be determined via a urine test. She meets particularly often dogs of the breeds Labrador, Golden Retriever and Bernese Mountain Dog.
Antibiotic therapy is very effective against Borrelia, but it must be carried out over a period of at least 4 weeks. If bacteria have become encapsulated in the tissue, they are difficult to reach with a treatment. As already mentioned, they can cause the disease to recur later. If the animal has severe pain, e.g. in the joints, the vet will also prescribe a painkiller.
Incidentally, a joint inflammation caused by Borrelia can become chronic, even if the dog has been treated with antibiotics. A possible kidney infection can also be very persistent. Once proven, the dog is given anti-inflammatory treatment to minimize kidney damage.
If Lyme disease is recognized and treated early, the prognosis for recovery is quite good, even if it can recur. In the case of kidney inflammation caused by Borrelia, the prognosis will be rather cautious.
You can effectively protect your dog from Lyme disease! Treat it regularly with products that keep ticks and other parasites away. These come in the form of collars or spot-on preparations that are dripped onto the skin. You can get them from your veterinarian. If you find a tick, carefully remove it with a tick pick or tick tweezers. You can also get these from your veterinarian, who will also show you the correct technique. Both protect not only against Lyme disease but also against all other diseases transmitted by ticks.
There is also a vaccination against Lyme disease, which also reduces the likelihood that the dog will contract Lyme disease. Incidentally, the vaccination is particularly valuable for e.g. hunting dogs or riding companion dogs, which are exposed to a high risk of contact with ticks. Since the vaccination cannot offer 100% security, you should definitely protect your dog against tick bites!