Lyme Disease in Dogs: The Definitive Guide

It’s true that warm and sunny weather brings joy to everyone. However, it also brings certain concerns especially when we talk about a dog’s health.

Lyme disease in dogs is definitely one of the most common diseases that cause symptoms in only 10% of affected dogs.

Therefore, it’s extremely important to notice and recognize on time the first signs of this disease.

What is Lyme Disease?

Lyme disease is caused by black-legged ticks that are infected by bacteria called Borrelia burgdorferi.

It presents a dangerous condition that may turn out to be fatal for a dog if not treated on time. The ticks are barely noticeable, and their size usually ranges from the size of a sand grain to sesame seed. The season of ticks lasts from spring until the end of the summer.

Since they can be found on trees and in the grass, dogs are on a higher risk to get them. Ticks search for dark and warm places on everyone’s bodies so they can go unnoticed.

When an infected tick attaches and bites a dog or a person, the bacteria go through the bloodstream and cause problems in specific organs and body parts such as joints.

The History of Lyme Disease

This type of disease was first discovered in 1975 in the city of Lyme, Connecticut. The disease has been previously spotted in deers and bears, and later became transmitted to dogs, people, and other mammals as well.

Two types of ticks could be carriers of so-called Lyme disease.

The first one is called Ixodes scapularis, and another one is Ixodes pacificus. Even though Lyme disease was discovered in the USA, today can be found all over the World.

What are the most common symptoms of Lyme disease in dogs?

Otherwise called Lyme borreliosis, this type of condition is followed by several symptoms, and some of them are:

-High body temperature-

A dog’s body temperature usually ranges about 101-102 degrees. If you’ve noticed that your furry friend’s tummy became unusual hot, it’s always the sign of an underlying problem.


Shivering not always needs to point out to infection and inflammation that happens inside the dog’s body. It might occur in winter when a dog’s feeling cold too.

However, in this case, a dog’s shivers are connected to his high body temperature and several other symptoms.

-Diarrhea, vomiting, and loss of appetite-

Besides a dog might get diarrhea, he can also show blood in his stool and start vomiting. These two symptoms are always followed by abdominal pain and the dog’s loss of appetite.

-Reduced Energy and Sleepiness-

It’s true that our dogs can’t tell us what bothers them, so their loss of energy and constant sleeping should be alarming signs.

-Painful and Swollen Joints-

A dog’s joints first show the symptoms of LD. The tumescence can be determined by performing an X-ray examination.

-Pain All Over the Body-

Due to overall body weakness, your four-legged friend can feel pain and inability to move his body parts.

-Swollen Lymph Nodes-

A dog that has been attacked by an infected tick usually develops an infection after 48 hours. Although the symptoms can become exposed a few months later, swollen lymph nodes on the neck and belly could be the alarming signs.

-Heart Arrhythmias-

Since a dog with Lyme disease gets tired more often, his heart also feels sort of weakness due to a bacteria in the bloodstream and develops arrhythmias.

It could be very tricky to discover a tick on dog’s coat, especially if you own a long-haired or curly-haired breed with thick fur. Sometimes, the symptoms can appear several months after infection and may vary from mild to severe.

In case when a dog suffers from severe Lyme disease, he/she can get experience issues with the central nervous system, kidneys, and even heart disease.

How to prevent Lyme disease?

1. Regular grooming

It might sound like a cliché; however, regular grooming of your dog’s fur can much help in preventing ticks. By regular grooming your pooch, you remove not only the dead and dull hair but also dust, different environmental allergens such as pollen.

2. Avoid tick rich areas

Since ticks live in bushes, high grass, and trees, it could be of great help to avoid walking through such areas during the tick season. It refers not only on your furry friend but also on you.

3. Buying anti-tick collar

Anti-tick collars present a great option for protecting a dog during a tick season. They contain essential oils and dog-safe pesticides that don’t seem attractive to these annoying creatures, so they quickly leave the dog’s fur after their nervous system has been attacked. Anti-tick collars usually last 6 to 8 months and are an excellent way of your dog’s coat protection without constant application.

4. Buying anti-tick sprays

In case you’ve noticed that your pooch doesn’t seem comfortable by wearing an anti-tick collar, you might consider putting anti-tick spay for protection. However, before you make a final decision in choosing both spay or collar, we recommend you to ask your vet for advice. There’s always a possibility to develop an allergy in dog breeds that have a tendency to suffer from them.

5. Vaccination

Lyme disease vaccinations probably present a permanent solution especially if you live in areas that are rich in ticks.

6. Daily check your dog’s coat for ticks

When a tick attaches to a dog’s skin, it usually needs 48 hours to transmit the bacteria. Therefore, the daily checking of your four-legged friend’s fur will definitely prevent him from getting Lyme disease.

7. Keep your yard grass short

Since ticks live in high grass, it’s highly advisable to keep your grass and trees trimmed.

How to remove a tick?

If you’ve noticed a tick on your dog’s coat, the best solution is to take him to the vet for removal. However, in case you’re unable to do that before the first 48 hours, and you need to do it by yourself, we advise you not to use petroleum jelly, alcohol, and other products.

You’ll need tweezers, rubber gloves, soap, and water. Rubber gloves are important to wear to protect your hands. Even a small amount of infected tick’s blood can transmit the infection. You should gently pull the body of the tick by paying attention; there is no leg left in the skin.

A tick’s head presents the main part to pull, so you need to make sure you remove it correctly. Do It gently to escape the tick’s crushing and put it in a jar. After you’ve done, wash the place with soap and luke water.

It’s also advisable to test the tick whether it was infected by any of bacteria.

How to determine Lyme disease in a dog?

Since the symptoms of this type of disease can easily get mixed with Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and other tick-borne diseases, your vet will need to perform a couple of checks to determine your dog’s condition.

  • Additional tests include checking the level of blood sugar, and chemistry tests referred to pancreas, liver, and kidneys.
  • X-ray test to determine if a dog’s joints show significant abnormalities.
  • Urine test to exclude urinal infection and to check for kidney’s functioning. The presence of Proteinuria and Microalbuminuria are clear signs for a dog’s suffering .from LD.
  • Fecal examination for bacteria
  • Testing the fluid from affected dog’s joints

What is the best treatment for Lyme disease?/ How to best treat a Lyme disease in dogs?

The treatment of Lyme disease in dogs includes antibiotic therapy that should be taken for 4 to 6 weeks. It some severe cases, the treatment may last up to 8 weeks. The vets usually prescribe antibiotics called doxycycline, minocycline, amoxicillin, or cefovecin sodium.

It might sound strange, but a dog affected by Lyme disease should not take pain relief medicines and corticosteroids because they can mask the dog’s true condition.

It’s also important to mention that Lyme disease can be healed and then return at a later date. That’s why it is highly important to follow your vet’s instruction and stick to the prescribed therapy.

Unfortunately, a dog that suffered from LD may develop arthritis or certain kidney disease in the future.

Wrapping up

The obligation of every dog owner is to timely notice changes in a dog’s behavior. Although they might look harmless at first, that’s actually your dog’s type of sending you messages about his health.
Therefore, our sincere advice is to listen to your furry friend’s needs and regularly check his coat for different changes. Remember that only good and responsible prevention will always keep your pet far away from issues. Ticks might look tiny, but they actually bring a lot of creepy things!

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