Lyme disease is one of the most common tick-transmitted diseases in dogs. The bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi is the causative agent of Lyme disease, most commonly causing inflammation of the joints.
Recurrent shifting leg lameness (comes and goes and may switch from one leg to another) is the most common clinical sign. Fatigue, reluctance to move, lethargy and anorexia can also be observed. Damage to the kidney may occur in serious complications.
Transmission has been reported in dogs throughout the United States and in Europe, being most prevalent in the northeastern, mid-Atlantic and north-central states, as well as in California. Dogs that spend a lot of time outdoors, especially in the woods (camping), bush, or areas with tall grass are the most at risk.
Diagnosis includes a thorough history (tick exposure), clinical signs, and a blood test done by a veterinarian to detect antibodies. A positive antibody test alone does not diagnosis Lyme, but can just indicate exposure only. Exposed animals do not always exhibit clinical signs.
Treatment for Lyme disease includes antibiotics for at least 2 weeks. Tick control is extremely important for the prevention of Lyme and other disease transmitted by ticks. Be sure to place your dog on a flea and tick preventative (Frontline, Revolution) before enjoying the outdoors. For dogs with a high risk of exposure, we offer a Lyme vaccine. Dogs as young as 12 weeks old can be vaccinated, a booster will be needed 3-4 weeks later. Annual vaccines are recommended for lasting immunity, ideally before tick season.
Dr. Alia Habhab ("Dr. Alia") has been working at Animal House of Chicago since July 2013. A recent graduate of Ross University Veterinary School, she finished her clinical year at Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine in May 2013. Dr. Alia has a special interest in exotic animal medicine.