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26th October 2017

Lyme Disease – Is Your Dog at Risk?

Lyme disease is caused by Borrelia burgdoferi, which is a spirochete (a spiral shaped bacterium). It is becoming more common in the UK and is transmitted by ticks. Dogs can commonly be infected subclinically, meaning that you don’t know they have been infected and show few signs of infection. However, dogs can become chronically infected, lasting for several years.

Once bitten by an infected tick, the Borrelia spirochete travels in the bloodstream and can affect several organs in the body. The most common symptoms include lethargy, loss of appetite/loss of weight, fever, lameness and enlarged lymph nodes. Sometimes, bullseye lesions (concentric rings of red swelling) can be seen where the tick bite was, but this is not always the case. In rare cases, Lyme disease can affect the kidneys, brain and heart.

Identifying Lyme disease can be difficult. There is no perfect test for Lyme disease as the spirochete is only found in the blood for a short period of time, making looking for it difficult. Some tests rely on looking for the body’s response to infection, but this can take time to develop and can be present even if the dog is poorly for another reason if the dog has already been infected with Borrelia.

Treatment is relatively simple if caught early on, using particular antibiotics. However, some dogs can relapse. If not caught before damage to organs or joints occurs, this damage may not be reversible and can be serious.

As always, prevention is better than cure. We always recommend tick prevention and can offer several different types of this, please call us to make an appointment or to discuss the options available. Pets should be checked regularly for ticks and any ticks found removed promptly and in the correct manner to make sure that the mouthparts are not left embedded in the skin. There is also a Lyme disease vaccine now available in the UK.

Finally, it is important to note that Lyme disease can occur in other species too. It is rare in cats, but can occur in cats who have poor immune systems. It can rarely be seen in horses and certainly can occur in humans, which is why tick prevention is important for people too.

If you have any questions or would like to know more about Lyme disease, please contact us at the surgeries.