Diagnosis and Lyme disease therapy in dogs

An infection with Lyme disease can have serious consequences – even long after the actual tick bite. That is why Lyme disease therapy is just as important in dogs as in humans.

Tick-borne Lyme disease is symptom-free in most cases, so it often goes undetected. However, in the course of the disease and various inflammatory reactions and pain in the joints, heart disease, neurological deficits or symptoms of paralysis can also occur. The earlier Lyme disease therapy is given to dogs, the better the chances of recovery.

Visit the vet if you have symptoms of Lyme disease.
The correct diagnosis must first be made for your dog to be treated properly because the Lyme disease symptoms in dogs are non-specific, just like in humans. This means that they can also be observed in connection with other diseases and therefore do not indicate Lyme disease. The vet can carry out various tests to clarify a possible infection with Lyme disease.

Blood test: antibody test for Borrelia

The simplest test is a blood test with a so-called titer: a serological antibody test is carried out in the laboratory. If your dog has been infected with Lyme disease after being bitten by a tick, its blood will show antibodies against the pathogen. The antibodies can only be detected three to five weeks after a tick bite.

The Lyme disease immunoblot also examines the antibodies in the dog’s blood, but on a smaller scale than a simple titer test. Here, special Borrelia antigen fractions are searched for, allowing infections to be distinguished from vaccination reactions. Since this examination involves more effort, it is correspondingly more expensive.

Other test methods that attempt to detect Lyme disease pathogens via the immune reaction are the Indirect haemagglutination test (IHA), immunofluorescence test (IFT), Western blot, enzyme immunoassay (EIA) and the C6 ELISA test.

Molecular biological test: Borrelia PCR
A very complicated procedure is the so-called Borrelia PCR. PCR stands for “Polymerase Chain Reaction” – the test looks directly into the cell nuclei of the pathogens. This rapid test is possible if skin tissue or synovial fluid is removed that still contains the pathogen. Inflamed skin or swollen joints are an indication that the Borrelia are active there.

Differential diagnostics: Therapy, even if the symptoms are ambiguous

Whether using quick tests or complex procedures: it is difficult to diagnose Lyme disease confidently. Rather, other conditions are systematically excluded as the cause of the symptoms. Since the damage that a Borrelia infection can cause is enormous, therapy is started in case of doubt if no other triggers can be found. If the symptoms then improve, Lyme disease is considered proven.

In particular, the following diseases must be excluded:

● allergies
● fungal infections
● Tumours in the area of ​​the joints
● Osteoarthritis & Rheumatoid Arthritis
● other tick-borne conditions (e.g. TBE, anaplasmosis, Ehrlichiosis)

Lyme disease therapy in dogs with antibiotics
The infectious disease is usually treated with antibiotics. The treatment takes place over at least four weeks. Other medications, such as anti-inflammatory painkillers, can also be administered to alleviate the symptoms of the disease. Vitamin supplements can also be used to support Lyme disease therapy in dogs. If Lyme disease remains untreated, it can take a severe course and eventually become chronic.

No immunity after infection

Unfortunately, after surviving Lyme disease, your dog is not immune to Borrelia, so it can become infected again at any time if an infected tick is bitten again. Therefore, you should consult your veterinarian about how to prevent infection by ticks. This includes, for example, the controversial tick vaccination in dogs against Lyme disease.

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