Lyme disease is a bacterial illness that can be transmitted to humans, dogs, and other animals by certain species of ticks. It is caused by the spiral-shaped bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi that is carried inside a tick and gets into a dog or person’s bloodstream through a tick bite. Once in the bloodstream, the bacteria can travel to different parts of the body and cause problems in specific organs or locations, such as joints and overall illness.
What are the symptoms of Lyme Disease in Dogs?
Lyme disease is, unfortunately, a relatively common canine disease. Typical symptoms in dogs include:
- Loss of appetite
- Reduced energy
- Lameness (can be shifting, intermittent, and recurring)
- Generalized stiffness, discomfort, or pain
- Swelling of joints
Symptoms can progress to kidney failure, which can be fatal. Severe cardiac and neurological effects can also occur.
Many dogs who develop Lyme disease have periodic lameness because their joints are inflamed. Sometimes the lameness lasts for only 3-4 days but recurs days to weeks later, either in the same leg or other legs.
- Enlarged lymph nodes
- Stiff walk with an arched back
- Sensitivity to touch
- Difficulty breathing
How is Lyme Disease Treated?
Treatment includes antibiotics, usually for at least 30 days. This often resolves symptoms quickly, but the infection will persist, and prolonged medication may be needed in some cases. Treatment can also include other therapies aimed at resolving or relieving specific symptoms.
Can I Catch Lyme Disease From My Dog?
Dogs are not a direct source of infection for people. Lyme disease can’t be transmitted from one pet to another, nor from pets to humans, except through tick bites. However, a carrier tick could come into your house on your dog’s fur and get on you.
If your dog is diagnosed with Lyme disease, you and other pets have probably been in the same outdoor environment. You may also be at risk, so it is a good idea to consult with your physician and veterinarian to see whether you should test other pets or family members.
Sometimes, dogs and people can become sick with “co-infection” of multiple tick-borne diseases, where more than one type of disease-causing bacteria is transmitted through a tick bite. This situation can make diagnosis and treatment even more challenging.
How Can I Prevent My Dog From Getting Lyme Disease or Other Tick-borne Illnesses?
Inspect your dogs and yourself daily for ticks after walks through the woods or grassy settings. On dogs, look especially on the feet (and between toes), lips, around eyes, ears (and inside ears), near the anus, and under the tail.
Remove ticks stat. The quicker you find them, the less likely your dog will contract a secondary illness related to tick bites. Learn the proper method of tick removal. Invest in a pair of fine tweezers used for this purpose. If you are unable to do so, consult with a veterinarian.
Ask your veterinarian to conduct a tick check at each exam. They’ll be able to find any you may have missed.
Prevent ticks from jumping on your dog with one of the many veterinary-approved flea and tick preparations available on the market. Speak to your veterinarian to find the best and most appropriate product for your dog.
Keep grass mowed as short as possible. Refrain from walking into grassy patches in endemic tick areas if you can.
Get your dog vaccinated. Vaccination could prevent your dog from getting Lyme disease. They may not be appropriate for some dogs, so discuss with your vet.