Health & Diet

Lyme Disease in Border Collies and Other Dogs: Causes, Treatment and Prevention

There are certain health conditions that are specific to dog breeds. For example, flat-faced dogs are prone to suffering from breathing complications. Then again, there are general health problems that could affect any dog breed. One of these is Lyme disease in dogs.

What Is Lyme Disease In Dogs?

The transmission of Lyme disease in dogs comes from a tick bite. By the time it enters the bloodstream, the bacteria present in Lyme disease are moved to different areas of the body such as kidneys or joints. Deer tick or otherwise known as the black-legged tick is the prevalent type of tick carrying Lyme disease. These ticks are present in parts of Canada, Eastern United States, and the Midwest.

What Causes Lyme Disease In Dogs?

the source of Lyme disease in dogs

Borrelia Burgdorferi is the bacteria that causes Lyme disease. In the US alone, Lyme disease is a vector-borne disease that has almost become a household name.

The chance of getting Lyme disease is high, especially if you spend most of your time in wooded or grassy areas. If it happens that you live or in such location, take necessary precautions to avoid catching one. Mind you, Lyme disease not only affect dogs but humans too.

What Are Ticks?

Normally, dog ticks are similar to the size of apple seeds. Its color varies depending on what species of tick they belong to.

Once they’ve attached to the host’s skin and sucked its blood, they become engorged. When that happens, that “apple seed” sized tick can grow to as big as a human’s pinky fingernail. Remember, there are different species of ticks. If you’re uncertain whether it is a tick or not, your best move is to see your vet.

There are ticks that are capable of infesting dogs, even though they’re indoors. At times, even for a short period of time outside, ticks can use this opportunity to attach themselves to the unsuspecting host.

Where Do Ticks Live?

Humid and moist environments, these areas serve as the perfect breeding ground for ticks. Nevertheless, these ticks are very adaptable. Generally, ticks live closely to their chosen hosts including:

  • Dogs
  • Cats
  • Birds
  • Deer
  • Rodents
  • Humans

If you notice or suspect that part of your home has this kind of environment, start taking action. You don’t want to face a tick infestation at a later time.

How Do Dogs Get Ticks?

dogs outdoors getting tick

Ticks are sensitive creatures. They sense the carbon dioxide exhaled by your dog and the heat it emanates. This would alert them that there is a host nearby.

Perhaps, you and your Border Collie or whatever breed you have loved the outdoors. Indeed, this is a wonderful experience to bond together. Unfortunately, this experience also makes you two more prone to getting ticks. This is why it is important to be extra careful before going out.

How Lyme Disease In Dogs Transmitted?

Borrelia burgdorferi spreads Lyme disease through a single bite of an infected tick. As for the transmission in domesticated pets like cats and dogs, there’s no concrete evidence of its transmission.

What veterinarians and other experts are convinced though is, to protect your pets by all means. Use tick control products to prevent potential transmission.

Lyme Disease Transmission Can Happen Any Time of The Year

A lot of people think that acquiring Lyme disease peaks in the warmer seasons or summer time. Well, you better hold that thought. Contrary to popular, infection is all-year round. Considering the temperature, weather, and infected ticks.

The advice given by Companion Animal Parasite Council among pet owners, don’t let your guard down. Protect your dog all throughout the year.

What Are The Symptoms or Signs of Lyme Disease In Dogs?

lame dog with Lyme disease

The most dominant symptoms include general feeling of malaise, fever, and recurrent lameness as a result of joint inflammation.

  • Depression
  • Lack of appetite
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Sensitivity to touch
  • Enlarged lymph nodes
  • Stiff walk with an arched back

When Do These Signs Usually Start To Appear?

Truth is, most dogs that have been exposed to Lyme disease are not showing symptoms right away. At times, it takes weeks or even months before it becomes apparent from the time they were bitten.

On the other hand, if you notice that your dog feels fatigued, showing flu-like symptoms and sudden loss of appetite, you might want them to be checked by your trusted vet. It might be start of something. Better safe than sorry.

How Is Lyme Disease In Dogs Diagnosed?

When a vet performs a diagnosis of Lyme disease in dogs, they make their decision based on history and signs.

Your vet will perform close observation of your dog. This is to verify clinical signs of the infection. In the event that the clinical signs turned out positive, your vet will request a serologic test. Traditionally, the diagnosis of Lyme disease is carried out via PCR, joint fluid analysis, Western Blot, and ELISA. But now, more modern tests are performed. These tests are referred to as QC6 or C6 Test as well as Quantitative C6 Test.

The purpose of the C6 test is to detect any antibodies against a specific protein known as C6. C6 is a protein that’s unique to Borrelia burgdorferi. If there are antibodies present to C6, it confirms that the dog has been exposed and that there’s a possible infection already.

How To Treat Lyme Disease In Dogs?

Treating Lyme disease normally involves drug prescription. This would last for at least 30 days or at times, longer. If your dog suffers from a great deal of pain, anti-inflammatory drugs could be prescribed as well. This will be used only for the alleviation of joint pains.

How To Know The Treatment Is Successful?

Oftentimes, doxycycline is the preferred choice of drug in treating Lyme disease in dogs. There’s no consensus among experts on what is the optimal treatment duration or drug dosage. Although, you can know that the treatment is a success if your dog is free from Lyme disease within 4 weeks.

Can Treated Dog Be Infected Again?

If you’re quick to detect the infection, then the symptoms must be gone within 72 hours of treatment. It’s true that treatment is quite effective in terms of eliminating Lyme disease. However, you should know that once a dog has been infected with one, it’ll probably be positive forever.

In fact, there are cases wherein the dog’s test for Lyme disease turned positive; but is not showing signs or symptoms. In these circumstances, veterinarians are not recommending treatment right away.

Can Vaccinated Dog Get Lyme Disease?

The vaccine doesn’t make your dog immune to Lyme disease. Though it provides an extra layer of protection to help them fight the bacteria carrying this disease. Lyme disease vaccines provide additional protection to dogs from the bacterial infection brought by deer ticks. These vaccines are grouped into core and non-core.

With a core vaccine, it is suggested for all dogs, regardless of breed, and usually includes canine parvovirus, distemper, rabies, and dog hepatitis.

For the noncore vaccine, this is recommended as per the exposure risk of dogs as a result of their lifestyle and geographic location.

Between the two groups, Lyme vaccine belongs to Noncore. In the US, the reports of infection for Lyme disease keep on growing. This is why it becomes a vital consideration among dog owners to have their dogs vaccinated.

How Often After Treatment Should Dog Be Retested?

Preferably, a retest is performed after 6 months from the C6 antibody test. There are various treatments available for dogs with Lyme disease. There are dogs that are asymptomatic and might not show biological or hematologic changes. While they seem fine on the outside, they must still be monitored closely for the development of clinical signs or proteinuria.

Does Immediate Treatment After Bite Negate Lyme Disease?

Sadly, immediate treatment doesn’t negate Lyme disease. The treatment must not be solely based on the tick bite. Perhaps, you may think that ticks are the main source of Lyme disease. Actually, they are not. Truth is, the infection rate of ticks would vary as well on their location.

Say that the tick was infected, then it is essential to perform treatment right away. Though the tick should feed for a minimum of 1 day on its host for it to successfully transmit the Borrelia burgdorferi virus.

But if antibody levels are present, then the treatment can be performed almost immediately. In this stage, the treatment works effectively in negating Lyme disease in dogs.

Is It Possible To Prevent Lyme Disease In Dogs?

Fortunately, Lyme disease in dogs are preventable. Assuming that you invest in tick preventive products. Though you must know that dogs are vulnerable to tickborne diseases and tick bites. Hence, the use of tick preventive products.

Ticks are very small. Thus, making their bites almost undetectable. Add the fact that the signs of tickborne disease have a delay rate of 1 to 3 weeks. Therefore, you must be monitoring your dog closely if they show any changes in appetite or behavior, especially if you have a gut feeling that they’ve been bitten by a tick.

Luckily, there are other ways to protect your dog from tick bites as well as tickborne diseases aside from tick preventive products like:

  • Steering clear of grassy or wooded areas
  • Sticking to trails when outdoors
  • Perform tick checks daily
  • Remove ticks you found
  • Discuss Lyme vaccine with your vet

How To Remove Tick From A Dog?

Removing a tick is a rather straightforward process. However, it must be done with care. Before you begin, see to it that you have worn a pair of gloves. Ticks on your dogs are master carriers. They can easily transmit the virus they carry to another host. So wear your gloves, it’s better safe than sorry.

fine point tweezers

The next thing you must do is get a pair of tweezers. This is so common, yet effective approach in tick removals. When using tweezers, make sure to use the one with fine point. This will reduce the possibility of tearing the tick.

Tick removal is delicate. Not being able to pull the tick entirely could spread the infection in the bite area. When pulling the tick from your dog, try to get as close to the skin as you can. Then, in a slow and steady motion, gently pull the tick straight up using your tweezers. That should do the trick.

Is Vaccine Foolproof?

As of this writing, it’s hard to say that vaccines are foolproof. First of all, vaccines have a variable efficacy rate of 50 to 100 percent. That’s why even though Lyme vaccination is strongly encouraged by vets, it stirs controversy in preventing Lyme disease in dogs.

Can Lyme Disease In Dogs Affect Humans?

It’s unfortunate that bacterial infection brought by Lyme disease could be transmitted to humans. This is otherwise known as Lyme borreliosis.

There are a lot of people who show early symptoms of the infection with the most common being rash around the tick’s bite.

As per accounts of previously affected individuals, the rash developed in a span of 3 to 30 days after being bitten. It’s comparable to a “target” on a dartboard with the edges seem a bit raised. Usually, the diameter of the rash bite is roughly 15cm or 6 inches but could be smaller or bigger.

Do Ticks Carry Other Diseases?

Aside from Lyme disease in dogs, ticks are capable of spreading other diseases. In reality, they can be infected with parasites, viruses or bacteria. Some of the common tickborne diseases in the US are:

  • Babesiosis
  • Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever
  • Ehrlichiosis
  • Southern Tick-Associated Rash Illness
  • Anaplasmosis
  • Tularemia
  • Tick-Borne Relapsing Fever

Border Collies And Lyme Disease

Earlier, we mentioned that ticks love moist and humid environments. They typically live in grassy areas. If you happen to have a Border Collie, this creates an opportunity for ticks to attach themselves to your dog. As you know, Border Collies love going outdoors and they’re very energetic, thanks to their herding instincts.

Before you and your Collie head out, put some tick repellant to them. If you have no clue about what kind of product to buy, don’t think twice to talk to your vet. They can suggest the safest and most effective products your money can buy. Remember, the key to preventing Lyme disease in dogs is by limiting their tick exposure.

Leave a Comment