Lyme Disease in Dogs

Posted on 4/6/2021 by
avatarBecky Lea

The weather is getting warmer and your dog is begging to sniff the fresh air and play some ball with you. But before the two (or more) of you get back out into the great beyond, a review of a few facts might be smart. If you love dogs, this is a must-read Q and A.

What is Lyme disease?

Lyme disease, also known as Canine Lyme, is a bacterial infection primarily transmitted by Ixodes ticks, known as deer or bear ticks, on the east coast. On the West Coast, they are known as black-legged ticks. According to petmd, ticks are most prevalent in the upper Midwestern states (including Michigan), the Atlantic seaboard, and the Pacific coastal states.

Are ticks hard to find?

Not really. Hosts, i.e., you or your dog, can come into contact with a tick in any wooded area, high grass, low shrubs, bushes, leaf piles, and low-hanging tree branches. Watch out around your bird feeder; it attracts wildlife and sets ticks up with a nice perch for hunting hosts.

Where on my dog would I find a tick?

Ticks like dark and warm areas, so after each outing, check under your dog's front legs (also known to pet people as "armpits." You may also discover ticks inside your dog's groin area or between his toes. Pay close attention to the areas around his ears, eyes, and eyelids, and even under his collar. Ticks are not able to jump, fly, or drop from trees. They can only crawl and climb - or hitch a ride to a new host while feeding on your pet.

What are the symptoms of Canine Lyme disease?

It takes about 24-48 hours for a tick to be attached to your dog before infection sets in and creates issues. Watch your pet for a fever, loss of appetite, painful or swollen joints, difficulty walking, swollen lymph nodes, aggression, or lethargy.

How common is Lyme disease in dogs?

Lyme disease is one of the most common tick-transmitted diseases and is seen more frequently these days. However, it only causes symptoms in 5-10% of affected dogs. Your dog could have Lyme disease but never show it.

Can I get Lyme disease from my dog?

No. Your dog can't transmit Lyme to you or another dog. However, dogs can bring ticks that carry Lyme into your home that could jump off onto you, bite you, and infect you.

What should I do if I find a tick on my dog?

Tick removal (from a dog or human) is tricky and must be done carefully. The professionals discourage the old ways, such as blowing out a lit match and touching it to the tick. More appropriate is the tweezers method. Use fine-point tweezers if you have them. Grab the tick as close to the dog's skin as possible, and very slowly and gently, pull the tick straight up. Doing it this way will prevent the tick's "mouth" from breaking off and remaining in your dog's skin.

An even better method might be a tick removal hook. You can find different types online, such as a Tick Twister or the Tick Stick. These hooks are helpful because of their ease and quickness of use with dogs.

Is there a test for Canine Lyme?

According to the American Kennel Club, there are two blood tests veterinarians can do to see if your dog has contracted Lyme disease - the C6 Test and Quant C6 test. They may do one or both. The C6 test detects antibodies against a protein called "C6". The antibodies can be seen three to five weeks after a tick bites your dog. If antibodies are found in your dog's blood, he probably has an active Lyme infection.

Are there medications/treatments for Lyme disease in dogs?

Some people mistakenly think Lyme disease eventually goes away. Once blood work verifies the disease or symptoms show up, your dog will need vet attention promptly. If left untreated, Canine Lyme can damage the kidneys and other organs and be fatal.

It's common for vets to use a 3-day regime of antibiotic therapy to help with the symptoms of Lyme. Tetracycline is the most common antibiotic used to treat Lyme disease in dogs and humans. Anti-inflammatories and other medications are used as needed.

If my dog has had Lyme disease, can he get it again?

Yes. While most dogs recover, some may never be free from Lyme disease. That's why prevention is so important. Lyme vaccinations are available but not always appropriate for all dogs. Your vet will let you know if they're a viable option for your pet.

Also, check out the variety of prescription and over-the-counter flea and tick preventatives, such as collars, topical solutions, tablets, or chews. Ask your veterinarian for suggestions specific to your canine and his health.