By Jennifer Coates, DVM
Lyme disease is one of the most common tick-transmitted diseases. Learn about lyme disease symptoms and treatments for dogs.
- Medication: Doxycycline is the antibiotic of choice for treating Lyme disease. Other antibiotic options include amoxicillin and erythromycin. If your dog is very uncomfortable, a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory (e.g., carprofen or deracoxib) may also be given.
What to Expect at the Vet’s Office
If your pet has been diagnosed with uncomplicated Lyme disease, this is what you can expect to happen at your veterinarian’s office.
- Depending on the type of test used to screen for Lyme disease, a confirmatory test (e.g., a C6 antibody test or Western blot) may be necessary.
- Urine protein screening -- In general, only dogs who have symptoms of Lyme disease (fever, swollen lymph nodes, shifting leg lameness, and/or swollen joints) or protein in their urine should be treated with antibiotics.
- Dogs with protein in their urine should have regularly scheduled rechecks to monitor their condition.
What to Expect at Home
Home care for dogs with Lyme disease is relatively straightforward. Doxycycline is usually given by mouth twice daily (roughly 12 hours apart) for at least 30 days. Improvement in the dog’s symptoms should be noted within 24-48 hours. If the dog’s condition fails to improve in 72 hours or worsens at any time, call your veterinarian.
Questions to Ask Your Veterinarian
If your dog has a positive Lyme test but no symptoms of the disease or protein in the urine, ask your veterinarian why he or she is recommending treatment. Experts currently recommend against antibiotic therapy under these circumstances because the dog’s immune system is holding the bacteria in check and antibiotics are unable to eliminate the infection.
Dogs who have contracted Lyme disease do not develop prolonged, protective immunity and can be reinfected at a later date. Talk to your veterinarian about how best to prevent future infections. Options include measures to prevent the ticks that carry Lyme disease from biting your dog and Lyme vaccination.
Possible Complications to Watch for with Lyme Disease
Talk to your veterinarian if you have any questions or concerns about your dog’s condition.
- Some dogs who take antibiotics can develop loss of appetite, vomiting and diarrhea.
- Once infected, a dog will always have the bacteria that cause Lyme disease in his or her body. Therefore, relapses are possible, and owners should be on the lookout for unexplained fever, swollen lymph nodes, and/or lameness.
- A small percentage of dogs develop kidney failure as a result of Lyme disease. Clinical signs include vomiting, weight loss, poor appetite, lethargy, increased thirst and urination, and abnormal accumulations of fluid within the body.
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