Protecting your Boxer Dog from Lyme Disease

Lyme disease is a tick-borne disease that can affect both dogs and humans. It was first discovered in Lyme, Connecticut. It was first observed in people in 1975 while dogs were found to also suffer from the disease in 1984.

Lyme disease is caused by the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi which is transmitted to dogs, humans and other mammals via the bite of infected ticks which are commonly found in the Northeastern and Midwestern United States. The most common species of ticks commonly associated with transmission of Lyme disease are the deer tick.

Most often than not, your veterinarian will not think of Lyme disease when you bring in your sick dog to the clinic. Lyme disease is often difficult to diagnose because the most noticeable signs exhibited by dogs are common symptoms which can indicate several infectious and non-infectious conditions. There are many illnesses that also exhibit the same symptoms, so there is a need to conduct tests in order to make an accurate diagnosis and start the right line of treatment.

Dogs that usually spend time outdoors and are free to roam the woods or areas with tall grasses where ticks usually reside, then their risk of being infected is quite high. But there are also dogs that spend most of their time indoors that also get Lyme disease. Tick population usually increases during springtime and summer when the weather is warm and dry.

SIGNS AND/OR SYMPTOMS

Dogs with Lyme disease exhibit joint pain and inflammation commonly found in the front legs with little or no appetite. Your dog may also have a high fever and become lethargic. Lyme disease often affects the entire body and there are dogs which develop lameness. If left untreated, lameness can disappear but may be more distinct later on. There are also dogs which do not show signs of ever suffering from Lyme disease until the disease has spread to the major organs including the kidneys and the heart. One very devastating but very rare side effect of Lyme disease is an irreversible kidney failure that results in death. Many breeds of dogs have been observed to be unfortunate enough to have this response to Lyme disease including Boxers, Cocker Spaniels, Retrievers, and Shelties.

DIAGNOSIS

In order to give an accurate diagnosis, your veterinarian will have to perform a complete physical examination and you have to be prepared with your vaccination records and your dog’s complete medical history.

If Lyme disease is suspected to be affecting your dog, then your veterinarian will do a blood test to determine your dog’s antibody levels. Still, there are few cases when it is hard to have an accurate diagnosis based on the measurement of antibody levels especially in dogs suffering chronic Lyme disease or who have just been infected by the disease and there has been no antibodies created yet by the dog’s immune system.

PREVENTION

Just like any disease condition, “an ounce of prevention is still very much better than a pound of cure”. Always groom your Boxer after a walk or after having been outdoors especially spring and summer where grasses are high and thick and the woods are dry. These are the best conditions that ticks love and when your dogs pass by these grasses, the ticks will just cling to their fur and they can be transported back to your home or the dog’s kennel.

Vaccination is still the best prevention of Lyme disease. Remember that once your Boxer is diagnosed to be positive for Lyme disease, then your dog will have a higher possibility of remaining infected for life.

An excellent preventive program for Lyme disease is pairing Lyme disease vaccination with an effective tick control program. Although topical tick control products will not stop ticks from clinging and biting your dogs, but they are very effective in killing ticks that are unfortunate enough to attach themselves to your dog’s fur. Since ticks need to be attached to the dog’s body for at least 48 hours to transmit the disease, applying topical products will surely cut this link in the transmission of Lyme disease.

Topical tick control products should be applied from early spring until late fall when the tick population is at its height. You can also use it during winter when there are consecutive days when the temperature is above freezing.

TREATMENT:

When a dog has tested positive for Lyme disease, your veterinarian will put it on antibiotics for three to four weeks to prevent the rapid multiplication of the pathogenic bacteria population in your dog’s body. A good response is usually seen two to three days after antibiotic treatment has been started.

Pain relievers and anti-inflammatory medications can also be given to provide relief.

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