Introduction: Understanding Lyme Diseases in Dogs

With warmer weather comes more outdoor time for our furry companions. Although it is wonderful to spend time enjoying the fresh air and sunshine with your dog, it is vital to be aware of the potential risks associated with tick bites. One of the most common tick-borne diseases in dogs is Lyme disease.

In this article, we will take a closer look at this disease, its symptoms, treatment options and preventative measures you can take to keep your dog safe. Sometimes you will see the term Lyme diseases in dogs (in plural) because at least two different bacteria produce the disease. However, the main culprit is the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi, which is transmitted through the bite of an infected black-legged tick.

Ticks are most active during spring and summer months, but they can be found year-round, depending on where you live.

Once infected, dogs may show symptoms such as lethargy, loss of appetite, joint pain or swelling and fever.

It’s important to note that not all dogs that are bitten by infected ticks will develop Lyme disease. However, knowing the symptoms and getting prompt treatment for those that do become infected can make all the difference in their recovery process.

In this article, we’ll discuss what Lyme disease is exactly and how it affects your dog’s health. We’ll explore common symptoms seen in dogs with Lyme disease and treatment options available from veterinarians.

In addition to treatment advice, we’ll share tips on how you can help prevent your dog from getting bitten by ticks in the first place. By being educated about this condition, you can provide better care for your pet while enjoying time together outdoors without worry or fear of contracting this dangerous illness.

lyme diseases in dogs can occurr when our furry friends go outside for hiking in areas where the disease is prevalent

What is Lyme Disease?

Lyme disease is an infection caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi, which is transmitted by ticks.

It can affect both humans and animals, including dogs. Lyme disease symptoms in dogs can vary greatly from one dog to another.

Some dogs may show no symptoms at all, while others may experience severe symptoms requiring medical attention (see the section “Symptoms of Lyme Disease in Dogs” below).

If left untreated, Lyme disease can lead to serious complications such as kidney failure and heart problems.

lyme diseases in dogs is transmited by ticks like the one on this picture

Knowing the bug: the bacteria that causes Lyme disease

The bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi, which causes Lyme disease in dogs, is a spirochete bacteria that is transmitted through tick bites. The bacterium was named after its discoverer Willy Burgdorfer, who found it in the earlier1980s from his studies of ticks in the northeastern United States.  

Spirochetes have a unique spiral shape. These bacteria are quite adaptable, hanging out in ticks and animals. What’s more interesting about them is their corkscrew-like movement thanks to their little flagella, which helps them navigate through tissues and evade the immune system of animals and humans.

Once inside a dog’s body, the bacteria can spread to different organs and tissues and cause inflammation. This inflammation can lead to various symptoms, such as joint pain, fever, lethargy, and loss of appetite.

This is the life cycle of ticks that transmit  lyme diseases in dogs

How is Lyme disease transmitted to dogs?

Lyme disease is primarily transmitted to dogs through tick bites. Ticks are small arachnids that are commonly found in wooded areas or tall grasses where they attach themselves onto hosts such as deer or other animals.

When a tick attaches itself onto a dog’s skin, it feeds on their blood for several days before transmitting the bacteria into their bloodstream. It’s essential to check your dog for ticks regularly during tick season (usually spring through fall) and remove them promptly with tweezers or a tick removal tool.

Common areas where ticks carrying Lyme disease are found

Ticks carrying Lyme disease can be found in many parts of the United States. Still, they are most prevalent in the northeastern and upper midwestern states, including Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Wisconsin, and Minnesota.

In green you can see the states of the US where Lyme diseases in dogs are prevalent

Ticks thrive in wooded areas with tall grasses and leaf litter.

They can also be found in suburban areas with overgrown lawns and gardens. If you live in an area where ticks are common, it’s essential to take preventative measures to protect your dog, such as using tick-repellent products and checking them regularly for ticks.

Tick larva wait patiently in leaves for a dog to hop on

Symptoms of Lyme Disease in Dogs

In the early stages, dogs may exhibit general symptoms such as lethargy, loss of appetite, and fever.

These symptoms may be mild or very noticeable. If you notice any of these, try to take your dog to the vet as soon as possible.

Early Signs and Symptoms to Look Out For

One of the most common signs that a dog may have contracted Lyme disease is lethargy. Dogs with Lyme disease will often seem tired and weak, even if they haven’t been doing anything strenuous. Another sign to watch out for is loss of appetite.

If your dog has been eating normally but suddenly loses interest in food, it could be a sign that something is wrong. Fever is another early symptom of Lyme disease in dogs.

Normal temperature for a dog, ranges between 100.5°F and 102.5°F (38 to 39.2 degrees Celsius); anything higher than this could indicate an infection or illness. Joint pain or swelling are also common early Lyme disease symptoms in dogs.

Having a dog thermometer at home is essential for monitoring your furry friend’s health and detecting potential issues early on.

Late Stage Symptoms and Complications

If left untreated, Lyme disease can progress into more severe complications such as kidney failure or heart problems. Kidney failure can lead to dehydration, weight loss, and lethargy, while heart problems can cause breathing difficulties and even sudden death.

If your dog shows any signs of late-stage complications, it’s essential to seek veterinary attention immediately.

You must note any changes in your pet’s behavior or when they start exhibiting abnormal symptoms so you can seek medical attention promptly if necessary.

Here is a list of symptoms of Lyme diseases in dogs:

  • Recurrent lameness or limping.
  • Stiffness and joint swelling, especially in the knees.
  • Fatigue and lethargy, with a noticeable decrease in energy levels.
  • Loss of appetite and weight loss.
  • Fever
  • Swollen lymph nodes.
  • Generalized discomfort or pain.
  • Difficulty breathing or coughing.
  • Neurological symptoms like seizures or unexplained behavioral changes.
  • Kidney problems or heart abnormalities (In some advanced cases)

Be aware that your dog may have combinations of these symptoms or even none and still be positive for Lyme disease.

Treatment Options for Dogs with Lyme Disease

If your dog has been diagnosed with Lyme disease, starting treatment as soon as possible is very important. A few different options are available for treating the disease, which can vary depending on the severity of the infection and the individual dog’s needs.

Antibiotics prescribed by a veterinarian

The most common form of treatment for Lyme disease in dogs is antibiotics prescribed by a veterinarian. The antibiotic type and treatment duration will depend on the severity of your dog’s symptoms and whether or not there are any complications, such as kidney damage.

Your vet may also recommend additional medications like anti-inflammatory drugs to help alleviate joint pain and swelling. Follow your veterinarian’s instructions carefully regarding medication dosage and frequency to ensure your dog receives appropriate treatment.

While antibiotics can effectively eliminate the bacteria causing Lyme disease, some dogs may experience side effects such as vomiting or diarrhea. If you notice any adverse reactions in your pet during treatment, contact your veterinarian immediately.

Home remedies to alleviate symptoms of Lyme disease

In addition to prescribed medications, several home remedies can help alleviate some of the symptoms associated with Lyme disease in dogs. One effective remedy is omega-3 fatty acid supplements with anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce joint pain and swelling.

Check this Omega-3 product for dogs on Amazon:

You can also try adding turmeric or ginger powder to your dog’s food as they both have natural anti-inflammatory properties as well. Another home remedy is providing plenty of rest for your pet while they recover.

Please encourage them to take it easy with plenty of naps throughout the day and limit their physical activity until they feel better. If your dog experiences a loss of appetite during their illness, try offering them small, frequent meals of high-quality, low-fat foods to keep their energy levels up.

You can also add some chicken broth or wet food to their kibble to make it more enticing. While home remedies can help alleviate symptoms, it is essential to remember that they should not replace prescribed medication and should only be used as a supplement to vet-approved treatment.

Prevention Tips for Dog Owners

How to avoid tick bites on your dog?

Ticks are the small, blood-sucking creatures that can cause Lyme disease in dogs. To avoid tick bites on your dog, there are a few steps you can take. First, use a tick-repellent product that is specifically formulated for dogs.

These products come in various forms, such as sprays, powders, and collars. They contain chemicals that repel ticks and make it harder for them to attach to your dog’s skin.

Another way to avoid tick bites is by regularly checking your dog for ticks. After spending time outside, run your hands through their fur and check for any bumps or lumps.

Ticks can be difficult to spot because they are small and often hide in hard-to-reach areas such as the ears or between the toes. Make sure you pay extra attention to these areas when checking for ticks.

Removing and killing ticks

Be prepared beforehand. Gather the necessary tools: gloves, tweezers, rubbing alcohol, and a container. Wear gloves to protect against infections, use fine-tipped tweezers for a secure grip, and disinfect the bite area after removal. Special tick removal tweezers can be found on Amazon (we highly recommend these ones).

Safety Precautions: Prioritize Your Pet’s Comfort

Ensure a well-lit area, sit comfortably with your dog, and avoid squeezing or twisting the tick. Don’t use oils, and be cautious of open wounds. These precautions minimize stress and risks associated with tick bites.

Wear gloves, grasp the tick near the skin’s surface, and pull gently upward with a tweezer without twisting or jerking. Finally, disinfect the bite area with rubbing alcohol or soap and water.

You can also explore our dedicated article for more in-depth information on tick removal techniques and tips to protect your furry friend from these pesky parasites. 

Now that you have taken the ticks off, here is how to kill them.

The most effective way to kill ticks is by drowning them in a container with rubbing alcohol or flushing them down the toilet. Avoid crushing the ticks with your fingers, as this can potentially release harmful pathogens.

Alcohol (ethanol) will kill ticks that you take off from your dog

How to reduce the risk of ticks in your yard

Ticks thrive in grassy areas and wooded regions where there is plenty of shade and moisture. One effective way to reduce the risk of ticks in your yard is by trimming grass and bushes regularly. Ticks love tall grass because it provides them with the perfect environment to breed and feed on animals. They love shaded areas and avoid sunlight.

Trimming grass and bushes

When trimming grass or bushes, make sure you wear protective clothing such as long sleeves, pants, gloves, and boots. This clothing prevents any potential exposure from coming into contact with ticks hiding in the foliage.

Another tip is cleaning up leaf litter around trees or bushes where your pets frequently play or rest. Ticks love to hide in leaf litter because it provides a cool and damp hiding spot protected from light.

Creating a tick-free zone

To create a tick-free zone, place wood chips or gravel around the perimeter of your yard. This creates an area where ticks cannot survive because they require moisture to live. Remove any unnecessary vegetation around the perimeter of your yard, such as bushes or overgrown trees that provide shade and shelter for ticks. Natural repellent products are specially designed to treat the lawn and scare away ticks or even kill them.

Conclusion: By following these simple prevention tips, you can significantly reduce the risk of your dog getting Lyme disease from ticks. Remember to check your dog for ticks regularly, use a tick-repellent (usually effective against mosquitoes and fleas as well) product, and keep your yard trimmed and tidy. Remember that Lyme disease is treatable if caught early, so if you notice any symptoms in your dog, seek veterinary care immediately.

Questions and Answers Q&A

Is it possible for a dog to fully recover from Lyme disease?

Yes, it is possible for a dog to fully recover from Lyme disease with proper medical treatment. Veterinarians typically prescribe antibiotics, most commonly doxycycline, and most dogs experience significant improvement within a few days of starting treatment. However, in some cases, symptoms may recur, requiring further treatment.

What are the three progression phases of Lyme disease in dogs?

The three stages of Lyme disease in dogs typically start with a rash and fever in the early stage. In the second, or acute, stage, dogs may develop more severe symptoms such as lameness, joint swelling, fever, and loss of appetite due to the infection spreading. The chronic phase can lead to serious health issues such as kidney, heart, and nervous system diseases if untreated.

How severe can Lyme disease become in dogs?

Lyme disease can be pretty severe in dogs. While many dogs show no symptoms, in others, it can cause a range of clinical manifestations, from mild lameness to severe kidney disease. Timely diagnosis and treatment are crucial to prevent complications and disease progression.

What methods are used to diagnose Lyme disease in dogs?

Lyme disease in dogs is typically detected through a blood test. This test identifies antibodies produced by the dog’s immune system in response to the infection. However, a positive test only confirms exposure to the bacteria and does not necessarily mean an active infection. Therefore, diagnosis is based on a combination of factors such as exposure to ticks, symptoms, and test results.

Wrapping Up: Important Takeaways on Lyme Disease in Dogs

Lyme disease is a serious dog condition that can lead to many complications if left untreated. It’s important to note that not all ticks carry the bacteria that causes Lyme disease, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry. Regularly checking your dog for ticks and using tick-repellent products can go a long way in preventing Lyme disease.

If you suspect your dog may have contracted Lyme disease, try to seek veterinary care as soon as possible. Early detection and treatment are vital in preventing the progression of the disease.

Antibiotics prescribed by a veterinarian are the most effective treatment option for dogs with Lyme disease. It’s also worth noting that some home remedies can help alleviate Lyme disease symptoms in dogs. These include giving your dog plenty of rest, providing supportive care such as heating pads or blankets, and ensuring they remain hydrated.

Remember to also keep up with regular veterinary check-ups and keep your yard free from tick-friendly environments. While it may seem daunting at first to think about the risk of Lyme disease in dogs, with proper care and attention, you can ensure your furry friend remains happy and healthy for years to come.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here