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Lyme Disease in Dogs

3 min read

If you’re getting ready to take your dog on a trip to the countryside, or even on the usual walk in the park, there’s something else to consider besides checking the weather and planning the route: ticks. In particular, a certain type of tick known as the deer tick or the black-legged tick which might carry Lyme disease and infect your pet if it attaches to them. Keep reading to find out more about this tick-borne disease and what you can do to help prevent it.

 

What is Lyme disease in dogs?

Lyme disease in dogs is a tick-transmitted disease caused by a type of bacteria called Borrelia bergdorferi. This spiral-shaped bacterium gets into your pet’s bloodstream via a tick bite. Most commonly, the joints and the kidneys are affected by Lyme disease, but it can spread around the body.

 

What are the symptoms of Lyme disease?

In humans Lyme disease is associated with a characteristic bullseye rash, however this is not generally the case in our pets. While some pets will never display any symptoms, the most common signs of Lyme disease in dogs are:

  • Lethargy
  • Fever
  • Limping
  • Lack of appetite
  • Swollen joints

Although severe cases of the disease are not typically very common, it is possible for the condition to progress to a point where it becomes fatal. Neurological symptoms or kidney failure can be seen in more severe cases, so it’s important to talk to your vet if you notice any symptoms in your pet, particularly if you have found a tick on them.


How is Lyme disease in dogs diagnosed?

White dog on the vet check

The symptoms of Lyme disease are not very specific, and can indicate a variety of other illnesses including other bacterial infections. This is why blood tests are necessary. These tests look for specific antibodies produced by the pet’s body when trying to fight an active Lyme disease infection.

However, it can take between three to six weeks after the infection for antibodies to be produced and therefore detected by blood tests. This is why your vet is likely to run other tests too, such as a complete blood cell count, urinalysis or joint fluid analysis.


What is the treatment for Lyme disease in dogs?

Lyme disease is caused by bacteria, so a course of antibiotics will often be prescribed. The initial course of antibiotics typically lasts a month but may be prolonged if necessary.


How to prevent Lyme disease in your dog?

Luckily there are plenty of ways to help reduce the risk of your dog catching Lyme disease:

Keep your dog on trails
Dog walking with the owner in the forest

Whenever walking in the countryside, or in woods, keep away from tall grass areas.

Check for ticks

After returning home from your walk check your dog (and yourself) for ticks. Usually a tick needs at least 24 hours to transmit the disease, so the sooner you notice it and remove it, the better. If you want to find out more about removing ticks in dogs, check out our easy guide.

Keep tick treatments up to date

Dogs regularly come into contact with a range of parasites, including ticks. This is why it’s important to ask your vet for advice, and to make sure your dog is up to date with all their necessary tick treatments. Your vet may recommend a product that offers protection against both fleas and ticks.

Vaccinations

Dog vaccinations against Lyme disease are available, but not part of their routine vaccinations. Discuss with your vet whether a vaccine is necessary and suitable for your dog. This usually is based on a risk assessment, including whether you live in an area affected by ticks or you’re visiting the countryside with your dog often enough to considerably raise the risk of infection.

If you want to find out more about ticks in dogs, what they are and how to spot them, read our easy-to-follow guide.