Lyme disease is a tick-borne disease that can affect the two-legged and four-legged residents of your home. In dogs, the most common sign of Lyme disease is swollen, painful joints. Treated early and aggressively, Lyme disease can be cured. Unfortunately, a single course of antibiotics is not always enough.
The typical treatment for lyme disease is a four-week course of a tetracycline antibiotic. Doxycycline is a common choice, although some vets also use ceftriaxone or amoxicilin. The month-long treatment period is essential to healing, since the organism multiplies slowly and is difficult to kill, according to Cornell University. Tetracyclines are not appropriate for young pups who are still growing, so talk to your vet to choose other options if that's the case.
What Happens After
After four weeks of antibiotic treatment, your doggie should be tested again to see if Lyme disease is still present in the blood. If yes, more treatment is needed. A common reason why pets still test positive for Lyme disease after taking antibiotics is that they didn't take them long enough -- or maybe you missed a dose somewhere along the way, weakening the process. According to Cornell University, dogs who are still sick after treatment -- or who get sick again -- can take the same antibiotic they did the first time to continue treatment.
There's no such thing as Lyme disease immunity. This means that even if Fido gets well after four weeks of treatment, he can easily get Lyme disease again a few weeks later -- unless you control the tick problem. Tick preventives, such as Frontline or Advantix, will both kill and prevent ticks. This should be given in a monthly basis to prevent further problems -- plus you should still check for ticks if you take your pal for a walk in a tick-infested area. Tick sprays or powders are another option. If you don't address the tick issue, the antibiotics alone won't take care of the problem.
Some vets prescribe additional medication alongside antibiotics. This is because Lyme disease can cause a number of problems -- including joint swelling, kidney issues and fever -- that need to be addressed as well. Both steroids and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are sometimes given to dogs with Lyme disease. These aren't meant to cure it, but to help resolve some of the secondary problems -- unfortunately, they can sometimes mask the symptoms, making it seem like Fido is doing better when he's not. This is why a blood test is a must to make sure the bacteria is truly dead and gone.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.
Tammy Dray has been writing since 1996. She specializes in health, wellness and travel topics and has credits in various publications including Woman's Day, Marie Claire, Adirondack Life and Self. She is also a seasoned independent traveler and a certified personal trainer and nutrition consultant. Dray is pursuing a criminal justice degree at Penn Foster College.