Dogs are often affected by tick bites and tickborne diseases. Unfortunately, there aren’t vaccines for all diseases transmitted by ticks, and there is no way of keeping dogs from carrying ticks into your house. Therefore, the best way to prevent diseases transmitted by ticks is by using a tick preventative.

Lyme disease is one of the most frequently transmitted diseases by ticks, but only about 5-10% of dogs experience symptoms. Lyme disease can harm your dog’s health by causing exhaustion, due to joint inflammation, lack of appetite, and even depression. In more serious cases, lyme disease can damage your pet’s kidneys. The best way to prevent lyme disease in dogs is by preventing tick bites.

What is Lyme Disease?

Lyme disease, scientifically known as Lyme borreliosis, is a bacterial infection that can be transmitted to dogs, humans, and other animals by ticks. Lyme disease occurs when a tick carrying the spiral-shaped bacterium, Borrelia burgdorferi, transmits the bacteria to a dog or human through a bite. Once the bacteria inhabits the bloodstream, it can travel to different areas of the body, causing issues in specific organs and joints.

Ticks that harbor Lyme disease are more commonly found in areas with tall grasses, thick brush, marshes, and heavily wooded areas. Once a tick has attached to a dog for 24-48 hours, it significantly raises the chances of getting Lyme disease.

Preventing Lyme Disease in Dogs

The best way to ensure your pet stays safe from Lyme disease is through tick-prevention. The following measures can help you protect your pet from ticks and Lyme disease:

  • Use a tick-prevention product. Our veterinarian will be happy to find a tick prevention product that suits your pet’s needs. Tick repellents are known as “acaricides”. Acaricides can come in the form of dusts, collars, sprays, and topical treatments and work by killing ticks on contact.  There are also oral tick preventatives that kill ticks that have taken a bloodmeal from your pet.
  • Vaccinate against Lyme disease. Depending on where you live, your pet’s health and habits, and other factors, it might be a good idea to vaccinate for Lyme disease.
  • Avoid areas where ticks linger. If possible, try to keep your dog away from tall grass, marshes, and brushy areas.
  • Don’t forget to landscape. Clear heavy shrubberies near your house and keep your lawn maintained to avoid creating a habitat for ticks.
  • Visible checks. Check yourself and your pets for ticks after spending a lot of time outside.

While Lyme disease vaccines are available for dogs, they aren’t necessarily recommended for every dog. We will be able to assess your pet’s health and make recommendations based on your unique needs.

If it is decided your pet will benefit from Lyme disease vaccinations, it will need an initial vaccination along with a booster 2-4 weeks later, which should be followed up with an annual booster.

Symptoms of Lyme Disease in Dogs

Signs of tick borne diseases usually will not appear for about a week to a month after your dog is bitten by a tick. With that said, you should pay close attention to your pet’s behavior for those days after you notice a tick bite.

The most common symptoms of Lyme disease in dogs are fever, lack of energy, and lameness from inflammation in the joints. Sometimes inflammation in the leg joints will last for segments of 3-4 days, then reoccur a month or so later, in the same leg or another leg. This is referred to as “shifting-leg lameness”. In some cases, symptoms from Lyme disease can lead to kidney failure, which can be lethal to your pet.

Visible symptoms of Lyme disease:

  • Stiff walking and arched back
  • Sensitivity when being pet
  • Trouble breathing
  • Fever, suppressed appetite, vomiting, or depression
  • Swollen lymph nodes near the site of the tick bite
  • Heart abnormality

If your pet is experiencing any of the symptoms above, you should schedule an appointment with our veterinarian as soon as possible.

Diagnosing Lyme Disease in Dogs

During your initial appointment, it will be important for you to give us a thorough history of your dog’s health, along with any symptoms or incidents of concern. This history will help us figure out which organs might be affected. From here, we will most likely run blood tests, a urinalysis, fecal exams, X-rays, and other diagnostic tests.

It also might be necessary to obtain fluid from the afflicted joints. In most cases of diagnosing Lyme disease, we will need to differentiate whether the joint pain is caused by arthritis, Lyme, degenerative joint diseases, or other inflammatory disorders. X-rays of the afflicted joints will help us examine for bone disorders.

Want to reduce your dog’s chances of getting Lyme disease through tick bites? Call our office today, and we will be happy to help you find a suitable tick prevention plan for your pet