Lyme Disease in Dogs & Humans
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Lyme Disease in Dogs & Humans


A resident of Tiptree has described how she became seriously ill after being bitten by a tick while walking her dogs in Pod’s Wood, which lies between Tiptree and Messing.

She has suffered extreme pain and debilitation and may have long term effects that could change the rest of her life.  She offers her story in the hopes of preventing other residents from suffering the same fate.

Lyme Disease in Dogs

Lyme disease is a tick-transmitted disease caused by a bacterium called Borrelia burgdorferi.. This bacterium is transmitted by slow-feeding, hard-shelled deer ticks (Ixodes spp.). Infection typically occurs after the Borrelia-carrying tick has been attached to the dog for at 2-3 days.

It causes recurrent lameness due to inflammation of the joints. There may also be a lack of appetite and depression. More serious complications include damage to the kidneys, and rarely, heart or nervous system disease.

Kidney disease appears to be more prevalent in Labrador retrieversgolden retrieversShetland sheepdogs, and Bernese Mountain dogs. Young dogs appear to be more susceptible to Lyme disease than older dogs.

Symptoms of Lyme Disease in Dogs

Many dogs who develop Lyme disease have recurrent lameness due to inflammation of the joints. Sometimes the lameness lasts for only three to four days but recurs days to weeks later, either in the same leg or in other legs. One or more joints may be swollen, warm, and painful.

Some dogs may also develop kidney problems. Lyme disease sometimes leads to glomerulonephritis – inflammation and accompanying dysfunction of the kidney’s glomeruli (essentially, a blood filter). Eventually, kidney failure may set in as the dog begins to exhibit such signs as vomiting, diarrhoea, lack of appetite, weight loss, increased urination and thirst, and abnormal fluid build-ups.

Other symptoms associated with Lyme disease in dogs include walking stiffly with an arched back, sensitivity to touch, difficulty in breathing, fever, lack of appetite, and depression.

The superficial lymph nodes close to the site of the infecting tick bite may be swollen, heart abnormalities are reported, but rare and nervous system complications occur in rare cases.

Diagnosing Lyme Disease in Dogs

You will need to give a thorough history of your dog’s health, including a background of symptoms and possible incidents that might have precipitated them. The history you provide may give your veterinarian clues as to which organs are being affected. Your veterinarian may run some combination of blood chemistry tests, a complete blood cell count, a urinalysis, faecal examinations, X-rays, and tests specific to diagnosing Lyme disease (e.g., serology). Fluid from the affected joints may also be drawn for analysis.

There are many causes for arthritis, and your veterinarian will focus on differentiating arthritis initiated by Lyme disease from other inflammatory arthritic disorders, such as trauma, degenerative joint disease, or osteochondrosis dissecans (a condition found in large, fast growing breeds of puppies). Immune-mediated diseases will also be considered as a possible cause of the symptoms. An X-ray of the painful joints will allow your doctor to examine the bones for abnormalities.

Treating Dog Lyme Disease

If the diagnosis is Lyme disease, your dog will be treated as an outpatient unless their condition is unstable (e.g., severe kidney disease). A very specific antibiotic is normally  prescribed for Lyme disease.  The recommended treatment length is usually four weeks, but longer courses may be necessary in some cases. Your veterinarian may also prescribe an anti-inflammatory (pain reliever) if your dog is especially uncomfortable.

Unfortunately, antibiotic treatment does not always completely eliminate infection with Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria. Symptoms may resolve but then return at a later date, and the development of kidney disease in the future is always a worry.

Preventing Lyme Disease in Dogs

If possible, avoid allowing your dog to roam in tick-infested environments where Lyme disease is common. Check your dog’s coat and skin daily and remove ticks, using a tick remover. Your veterinarian can also recommend a variety of tablets and spot-on topical products that kill and repel ticks. Such products should be used under a veterinarian’s supervision and according to the label’s directions. Lyme vaccines are available, but their use is somewhat controversial. Talk to your veterinarian to see if Lyme vaccination is right for your dog.

(The products suitable for use in the UK are not particularly effective in Europe, since other species of ticks that do not occur in the UK, can transmit the disease more rapidly and only products that Prevent ticks biting are effective. The vets at Tiptree Veterinary Centre and London Road Vets are happy to help with any queries.)

Lyme Disease in Humans

Lyme Disease is a Zoonosis, i.e. it can affect humans as well. A local resident has described her experience after being bitten by a tick in Pod’s Wood.

  • I went to the woods recently to take photos of the bluebells and while there was bitten on my ankle, I was not aware that this had happened
  • 2 days later I noticed a red mark on my ankle but didn’t take much notice , over the next 2 weeks I became exhausted all the time and every bone in my body down to my toes hurt  
  • I saw my gp and she was concerned about my pulse which was 111 , but decided just to wait and see
  • I did show her the mark on my ankle which she thought was an infection around the vein and would go away
  • That evening I developed a terrible rash that covered my legs and started on my arms and my ankles swelled to about 3 times normal size
  • The next day I went to work and became short of breath and unable to make sense of words on the screen, I saw a nurse and my pulse was 148! 
  • An ECG was done and I was sent to hospital where they did various tests mainly on my heart which was thankfully ok, all my blood tests are showing my body struggling and I was in a drip as had become dehydrated
  • At the hospital I was diagnosed  with erythema nodosum which is probably a reaction to the lymes -this  was the lumpy rash on my legs
  • I am on steroids for that and antibiotics for the lymes and vitimin d as that had been depleted
  • I am eating as healthy as I can trying to give my body a chance to fight
  • 2 days after I came out of hospital the lymes blood test came back positive
  • I need to have a blood test again in a week to see if it’s reacting to the meds

From being a very active woman , I now struggle to walk for 5 mins and I am in constant pain, I have violent sickness which last night was so bad I was deaf for a little while after , emotionally I’m scared of the future and terrified of grass! 

I am happy to help spread the news about lymes as I really do not want any one else to go though this.’

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