The most common sign of Lyme disease in dogs is arthritis, which causes sudden lameness, pain ands sometimes swelling in one or more joints. Other signs that may be seen include fever, lack of appetite, dehydration, inactivity, and swollen lymph nodes. In severe cases, the infection can cause kidney failure and death although this does not occur commonly in dogs. The signs of heart and nervous system dysfunction seen in infected humans are not often seen in animals. Humans often
show a skin rash that looks like a target but this is rarely seen in infected dogs.
A diagnosis of Lyme disease is usually made based upon a history of being in an endemic area, signs of arthritis and favorable response to treatment. There is a blood test that measures antibodies to the bacteria but many dogs that live in endemic regions will have a positive blood test.Dogs that have been vaccinated for Lyme disease may have a positive blood test depending upon the type of blood test that is performed. There are several other causes of arthritis that occur in dogs that must also be considered.
Lyme disease in dogs often reponds rapidly to antibiotics Borrelia burgdorferi is easily treated with antibiotics. The signs of Lyme disease usually regress rapidly in response to treatment. If the disease remains untreated the disease becomes chronic and can cause kidney damage although dogs are much less likely to develop chronic disease than are people. The need for vaccination remains a controversial topic.
Animals in endemic areas are at greatest risk for infection. The best method of prevention is to avoid tick infested areas, especially in the spring when the young ticks are most active. When returning from a tick-infested area do a thorough search for ticks on both yourself and your animals. Ticks should be removed carefully with a tweezers, pinching the tick near the point they enter the skin.