Lyme Disease in Dogs: A Guide With Everything You Should Know

by | Oct 9, 2019 | Health and Nutrition

If you have a pet dog, you know that a lot of care is required to keep your dog healthy and happy. Regular trips to the vet, a sensible diet, plenty of exercise and play, and lots of love are essential to your dog’s well being.

It’s also important to know the dangers that face your dog’s health, including possible infections. Dogs that spend a lot of time playing outdoors are at risk of contracting Lyme disease as a result of infected ticks. 

To keep your dog safe, here’s what you need to know about Lyme Disease in dogs:

What is Lyme Disease?

Lyme disease is caused by a bacteria that lives within the guts of ticks and is transmitted when infected ticks latch on, and feed off of your dog. Ticks are very small, some as small as a grain of sand or sesame seed, so they can be hard to spot until they have filled up with blood. They thrive in moist, shady environments, usually buried within the dirt but also above ground in shrubs, bushes, or on low hanging branches. 

Lyme disease is a risk in every state within the United States, but especially in those areas of the country where the climate and environment are appealing to ticks. Areas with the biggest tick problems include the Northeast, North Central, and West Coast states. 

Risk of Lyme Disease In Dogs

All dogs, regardless of breed, age, or size, can be affected by Lyme disease. Dogs that spend a lot of time outdoors where ticks live, are, particularly at risk. 

And it’s not just dogs that can be affected. If your dog attracts ticks, they bring them into your home and you and those you live with can be infected as well. Speak with your veterinarian about the steps you can take to better protect your dog, and in turn, yourself

Ticks are hard to spot as it is, so dogs with thick, dark coats are especially at risk of becoming infected by ticks carrying Lyme disease since it’s less likely that their ticks will be noticed early on. 

Signs of Lyme Disease

Not all ticks carry Lyme disease, so even if you find a tick on your dog, that doesn’t mean they’ve been infected. Lyme disease in dogs can be spotted by recognizing some of the common symptoms. 

Some of the things to look out for include:

  • Your dog becomes reluctant to move as much as usual. This is due to painful joints that last for several days. 
  • A stiff gait. 
  • Swollen joints that are warm to the touch. 
  • A fever accompanied by swollen lymph nodes. 
  • Overall fatigue and listlessness. 

Many of these common symptoms might come and go. Some of these symptoms might be mild with your dog while others may be more severe. 

Some dogs might not even experience any symptoms for months after they’ve been infected. 

In the most severe cases, dogs can develop central nervous system disorders, kidney disease, or heart disease as the results of Lyme disease. This is why it’s so important to keep an eye out for signs of infection and act quickly if you suspect something is wrong. 

Treating Lyme Disease in Dogs

Having your dog treated is crucial to them recovering fully from Lyme disease. Thankfully, there are reliable tests now available that can diagnose your dog for tick-borne infections. If you’ve noticed any of the above symptoms, you should take your dog to the vet right away. 

Prepare to give a detailed account of your dog’s health history and symptoms. It’s possible for your dog to have more than one type of tick-borne infection at once. 

Your vet will run a series of tests to determine if your dog has become infected. Some of these tests might include:

  • A chemistry test to check the function of your dog’s liver and kidney and to monitor sugar levels.
  • Fecal tests to check for any intestinal parasites.
  • Electrolyte testing to make sure your dog isn’t dehydrated or struggling with an electrolyte imbalance.
  • Urine tests to check for a urinary tract infection and to look at protein levels. 
  • A thyroid test to make sure the thyroid gland is producing the hormones efficiently. 
  • An ECG to check your dog’s heart rhythm and spot any possible heart problems. 

For treatment to be effective, early detection of Lyme disease is key. The most common treatment methods include antibiotics which can alleviate symptoms quickly. 

Preventing Lyme Disease

Lyme disease in dogs can be prevented with the right knowledge and precautions. Start with being aware of your area and if tick-borne illnesses are common near where you live. Speak with your vet about your options when it comes to vaccinating your dog against Lyme disease.

You can also ask your vet to perform a tick screening test during regular check-ups. Keep an eye on your dog and be aware of drastic changes in appetite or behavior. Lastly, take the time to check your dog for ticks regularly, especially after they have spent significant time outdoors. 

Read up on how to remove ticks safely and effectively so that if you do happen to find a tick on your dog’s body, you can get rid of it right away. Prompt removal of ticks will also lessen the risk of Lyme disease developing. 

Find Other Useful Resources

Now that you’ve learned some of the ways to spot Lyme disease in dogs, take control of your own health with the help of our useful health-related articles

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