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Lyme Disease in Dogs

Lyme Disease or Borrelia Burgdorferi is a common transmittable bacterial illness that humans and animals alike can become infected with. After a bite by an infected tick that has been attached for 24 to 48 hours, the infection can spread in the bloodstream to many different parts of the body affecting organs and even cause joint issues. Lyme can seriously affect the overall health and well-being of your pet; it is important to be aware of where ticks are most commonly found. 

While ticks can carry many different infections, one with the highest rate of infections is Lyme disease. In some areas, the rate of infected ticks can be as high as 50%. High infection areas tend to be in the North East of the United States, or more specifically the New England Area. The Pacific Coast and upper regions of the Midwest also mimic similar infection rates and high numbers of infected ticks, making up 95% of all reported cases from these regions. Be wary of densely forested or overgrown areas as they tend to be a breeding ground for ticks in general. Marshlands and overgrown or tall grass are also places to be on the lookout for as they accommodate many ticks. 

Vets have estimated that 50% of dogs are infected with Lyme in the areas where infected ticks flourish. While we are also susceptible to Lyme disease, our dogs are up to 100 times more likely to come across infected ticks. While numbers for the rate of infection are high, they are likely higher than accounted for as many dogs go untested or undiagnosed.

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Dangers of Lyme Disease in Dogs

Common Symptoms

Given that 5 to 10 % of animals with Lyme will ever show clinical symptoms of the disease it is important to be on the lookout for any differences in your dog. Signs can occur when the stage of the disease has turned into what would be considered a long-standing or chronic issue. This is usually 2 to 5 months after the initial infection, but signs can still develop even later. Make sure you are looking out for the most common and clear signs and reach out to your veterinarian if you have concerns. 

  • Lethargic / loss of energy
  • Newly developed stiffness 
  • Loss of appetite 
  • Swelling of the joints
  • Discomfort or pain 

If left untreated the risk of developing a more severe illness will arise. Paralysis, kidney failure, and developing neurological conditions are all more extreme health risks that can develop. This heightens their risk of developing life-altering illnesses that can affect their quality and length of life. 

There is no proven correlation between your dog giving you Lyme directly. However, the same infected ticks on your dog could potentially bite you as well. Use care and caution important to properly remove and flush the tick. 

Diagnosing Canine Lyme Disease

When it comes to diagnosis your vet will look at the clinical signs and symptoms your dog is displaying, and if they are pointing towards the signs of Lyme disease they can then order tests or lab work. Blood tests and serological tests like Lyme Multiplex Assay will help your vet determine if your dog has Lyme, and a QC6 Antibody test can even help your Veterinarian determine if and what kind of treatments are recommended. SNAP tests can also be used, as they require only a minimal about of blood for testing and provide rapid results in a few minutes. If these come back positive your Vet may still ask for more testing for even more information. 

Preventative Measures

ticks effect health

While you cannot do much about your location itself if you live in a tick hotspot, that doesn’t mean there aren’t options to assist in helping to prevent ticks from even attaching to your dog in the first place, whether with preventative medicines or changing up how you landscape.

1. Change Your Environment

A great way to reduce the likelihood your dog will make contact with ticks while in the yard is by making the environment you live in less livable for ticks. They like to stay and tend to thrive in tall grass and wooded areas. If you have places like this on your property be sure to keep your tall grass trimmed and lawn mowed regularly. Making sure your lawn isn’t littered with leaves will help to reduce hiding spots for ticks. If you are near a wooded area you will want to keep your outside furniture, play equipment, and dog equipment or houses away from it. The CDC has recommended that people whose yards have direct access to wood create a barrier of woodchips or gravel rocks  3ft wide in between the woods and the rest of the yard. 

2. Preventative Medications for Lyme Disease

While you can alter your yard to help decrease the number of ticks your pet will come into contact with, it is impossible to change public spaces you may take your dog to. Like the dog park, or hiking trails. That is why, in addition to the physical changes and upkeep to your yard your dog should have a periodic preventative put on them. Whether you get a liquid formula that needs to be spread on the back of your dog’s neck or a chewable pill both options will benefit your dog and assist in preventing ticks from staying on your dog. 

3. Lyme Vaccinations

In addition to monthly preventative medications dogs can also receive vaccinations to assist with the prevention of Lyme. Be aware that it usually is only recommended for pets who are in tick and Lyme-popular areas. The Lyme vaccine while able to assist in prevention has been noted to have a higher rate of adverse effects and be less effective than other vaccines given to dogs. To discover if the risks of a vaccine out weight the risk of your dog developing Lyme it is important to reach out to your veterinarian. for further discussion and advice.

4. Check for Ticks

Remember Lyme Disease can infect your dog 24 to 48 hours after your dog has been first bitten. Be sure you are checking your dog for ticks daily, if not every time you are taking them in and out of the house. Be sure to check around the face, neck, and ears as they are popular hiding spaces for ticks. Ticks can be found inside your dog’s ears and mouths so don’t forget to give those spots a once over. When you are at your Vets office for a visit you can also ask them to do a Tick check for a thorough search. 

5. Properly Remove Ticks

If you have found a tick latched to your dog you must be properly removing them so as not to accidentally cause infections. Once you have found a tick on your dog you will want to take it off immediately and in a safe fashion.

  1. Make sure any surrounding fur has been spread out so you have a clear view of the tick.
  2. Take either tweezers or a tick removal hook if available to help remove the tick. If you do need to use your hands be sure to wash them thoroughly after. 
  3. If you are using your hands or tools grab the tick by its head, as close to the skin as possible. 
  4. Once you have it grasped gently and slowly and steadily, you will want to pull straight upward. ***Be sure you do not squeeze the body of the tick as it could cause it to release the contents of its body into your dog’s bloodstream. 
  5. To safely dispose of the tick you can flush it down the toilet. Do not crush it as it could risk exposure to infection

Treatment for Lyme Disease… and If Left Untreated

If caught early enough they can get a treatment of antibiotics for around a month to assist them. These antibiotics may vary depending on what your Vet believes the best course of action for your dog is. Antibiotics like doxycycline, and amoxicillin, are often used, and then lastly they would prescribe azithromycin. If applied in a quick enough fashion this treatment can assist in curing your dog of Lyme Disease. 

Treatment for Lyme can vary when it comes to cost. On average treatment for Lyme appears to average around $400 for the initial round of Antibiotics. This is not on top of the additional vet visits and fees that you may incur during the rest of the process. Lyme can turn into an expensive illness. Especially when not caught in time as you may have continued medical expenses in order to help keep your dog as healthy as possible. Left untreated your dog will be exposed to developing a variety of issues that can develop into serious issues down the line.

  • Arthritis
  • Damage to the central nervous system
  • serious kidney issues
  • Lameness of limbs
  • Sensitivity to touch
  • Weight loss
  • Poor Health overall

According to – “Most pet insurance plans cover Lyme disease treatment so long as it is not a pre-existing condition so getting your dog on a pet insurance plan is most beneficial to you and your pup if you do so while they are healthy.”


While Lyme can be scary, being vigilant and proactive will help you significantly decrease your risk and your dog’s risk of being exposed to it. Checking your dog and yourself while maintaining preventative measures is a great way to keep you both happy and healthy. And decreases the likelihood of either you having to go through treatment for Lyme. Even if your dog does get bit by a tick, if you are quick to watch for symptoms and properly remove the tick early on you can still be in the clear! Thankfully even if your dog does have Lyme there is potential to cure it, or in the worst case continue treatment so they can live a happy and healthy life with you!

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