Lyme disease in dogs

Lyme disease (Lyme borreliosis) is an infectious disease transferred by ticks. In addition to game and rodents, it also affects dogs and humans.

In Germany approximately every fourth tick is infected with Borrelia and transfers the bacteria when sucking blood - although only after several hours. The most important preventative measure, therefore, is to inspect the animal for ticks e.g. after a walk in areas heavily affected or after your pet has been running around freely. Dogs should be protected against tick bites as a precautionary measure by using a relevant tick treatment (spot-ons, tick collars).

Development of a Borrelia infection

The infection starts with a slowly spreading reddening of the bitten area which, in the case of dogs, is very hard to detect. The main signs are joint and muscle pain and, subsequently, neurological disturbances may also occur. Most affected animals experience an infection which initially takes place without clinical complaints. There is, however, a considerable risk of chronic joint problems developing, either as a delayed effect, or if the animal is re-infected.

Diagnosing Lyme disease

There is a blood test for Lyme disease but it is not reliable as the titre of a previous clinically silent infection can lead to false (positive) results. In cases of uncertainty it often makes more sense to treat on the basis of a suspected diagnosis. Sick animals generally respond well to a two to four-week course of antibiotics. A vaccination is available for dogs but its efficacy is controversial.

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