Lyme disease in dogs

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Lyme disease, or Borreliosis, is an infectious disease transmitted to dogs by ticks (Ixodes Ricinus in Europe). But it was first in humans that she was first suspected, in a small town in Connecticut, which gave her her name. In the 1970s, in Lyme, many children presented with erythema migrans, followed by juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. Although humans are also affected by the disease, dogs do not show the same clinical manifestations as this one.

Let’s try to know a little more about this disease that many walkers fear.

Etiology of Lyme disease

The pathogen of the disease is a bacterium, of the spirochete genus, called Borrelia . There is a Borrelia Burgdorferi sensu lato complex which has 12 species of Borrelia . Six of them are transmitted by the tick of the genus Ixodes Ricinus , a tick vector of the disease in Europe.

This tick is found in humid and wooded regions, which has maximum activity in spring and autumn (late summer). There is thus a greater geographical distribution in the North and East of France, even if all regions can be affected. Note that not all ticks are infected.

The tick infection with the bacteria occurs during a blood meal on an infected animal. The bacteria are then found in the digestive tract of the tick where it multiplies before migrating into the salivary glands, ready to infect other animals, including the dog.

The bacteria are inoculated in the dog by saliva during a tick “bite” and is disseminated in different organs. The disease is generally transmitted after 24-48 hours of contact with the tick, followed by an incubation of 2 to 5 months.

Symptoms of the disease

A large number of dogs with Lyme disease are said to be asymptomatic, that is, they do not show any symptoms.

In fact, only 5% of infected dogs show symptoms, which are variable. According to recent studies, the clinical expression of Lyme disease in dogs seems to depend on the location of the tick on the animal and the age of the latter.

Symptoms include mainly in the acute form of the disease: lameness, which can be intermittent and changeable, and fever. Others less common can also be observed: joint swelling (especially carpus and tarsus), weight loss, anorexia, vomiting …

When the disease becomes chronic, the lameness is often less severe and other symptoms can appear: cardiac disorders, nervous disorders, renal failure which can lead to death …

How to diagnose it? What’s his prognosis?

The diagnosis of Lyme disease is all the more difficult as the symptoms are varied and can be transient. Also, since ticks are vectors of several diseases, co-infections are possible (ehrlichiosis, piroplasmosis, etc.)

In the presence of suggestive clinical signs and a favorable context (presence of ticks, dog’s lifestyle, risk areas, etc.), the veterinarian will carry out additional examinations to confirm or not his diagnosis.

The veterinarian can thus perform various examinations such as joint puncture, blood test. He can then look for the presence of the bacterium or specific antibodies to it. (serology, PCR, culture).

The prognosis of the disease will be all the more favorable the more the disease is caught in time. To treat the affected dog, the veterinarian will put in place specific, long-term antibiotic therapy (around thirty days). Anti-inflammatory drugs may be added during severe and painful lameness. It is important to perform several long and medium term tests to ensure the disappearance of the bacteria.

Ways to prevent Lyme disease

To avoid Lyme disease, effective prevention is needed for your dog.

The veterinarian will prescribe specific external antiparasitics, depending on the age, weight and breed of your dog (some molecules may be harmful to certain breeds of dog). These antiparasitics, active against ticks, exist in different forms: tablets, shampoo, spot-on (pipettes). Remember that if you use the spot-on, you should not bathe your dog for 48 hours before and after applying the pipette.

Despite the application of external antiparasitics, it is possible to find, despite everything, ticks on the animal. Indeed, the action of these molecules often requires a blood meal from the tick in order to kill it. It is therefore important to carefully check your dog’s coat after any walk in a risk area.

How to remove a tick from your dog? First of all, stop the received ideas: do not use ether or other product of the kind to put it to sleep, indeed, it risks spilling its saliva and transmitting pathogens to your dog. To detach the tick, instead use the small hooks provided for this purpose, which allow all ticks to be easily removed without leaving the rostrum (anterior rigid extension of the tick’s head), and then disinfect the area. If the manipulation frightens you, do not hesitate to consult the veterinarian who will take care of removing the tick.

To fight against Borreliosis, there is also a vaccine. This can be done from the age of 12 weeks, requires a first booster 3 to 5 weeks later, then annual boosters. The vaccine will allow the animal to fight against the bacteria in the event of contamination. However, the vaccination is not 100% effective and should not, under any circumstances, make you neglect a good associated parasite prevention.

Once all these good practices have been carried out… all you have to do is enjoy beautiful and long walks with doggie!


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