Lyme Disease In Dogs – Can Dogs Get It?
Many of us are aware that ticks can spread illnesses through their bite.
Lyme disease is one of the many diseases that ticks can harbor, infecting both humans and dogs with a simple bite.
Lyme disease is a realistic threat in many parts of the country, making it so important for dog owners to be educated on the details of this condition.
In this article we will get into the details of Lyme disease in our canine friends, and help you better understand your dog’s prognosis if they are diagnosed with this tick-borne illness.
What Is Lyme Disease?
Lyme disease, or Lyme borreliosis, is a bacteria that is transmitted to a host through the bite of an infected tick.
This bacterial illness is caused by Borrelia burgdorferi, which is a spirochete bacterium that can infect humans, dogs, and many other living creatures.
Once this bacterium invades the bloodstream, a slew of complicated symptoms can develop.
Can Dogs Get Lyme Disease?
Yes, our beloved pups can be infected with Lyme disease.
Lyme disease infections in dogs are growing more and more common as the years go by, though only 5-10% of dogs will develop severe symptoms.
When a dog does develop Lyme disease symptoms, their disease can manifest in many ways.
This condition can not only impact a dog’s quality of life, but it can even be fatal in some cases.
Which Ticks Carry Lyme Disease?
Though many different species of ticks can carry infectious agents, not all ticks will carry Lyme disease.
The most common species of tick that carries Lyme disease in the United States is the black-legged tick, or most commonly known as the deer tick.
These ticks can be found in varying sizes based on their life stage, with some being as small as a pinpoint.
Because of this, these types of ticks can be hard to spot on your pup.
Where Is Lyme Disease Most Often Found?
Lyme disease can be found throughout the country, but it is most commonly reported in the Northeast, the Pacific coast, and the upper Midwest.
Over 90% of Lyme disease cases in dogs come from these regions, but it has been found in every state.
It is important to note that changes with deforestation and wild animal populations have caused shifts in these numbers, leading to an increase of Lyme cases in other regions.
Because of this, it’s important to be aware of Lyme disease no matter where you and your pup are located.
What Are The Symptoms Of Lyme Disease In Dogs?
When we hear about Lyme disease cases in humans, we are often warned about a bullseye shaped rash that appears around the tick bite.
This often leads to an urgent trip to a doctor, and ultimately a Lyme disease diagnosis if it fits.
Unfortunately, it is not as simple for our canine friends.
Lyme disease in dogs does not manifest in the form of a rash or other outward symptoms that can be seen on a physical exam.
Lyme disease symptoms can be subtle and often generalized, making it a bit more challenging to detect.
Some of the most common signs of Lyme disease in dogs include:
- Lameness including limping, leg sensitivity, weight shifting, and intermittent limping
- Joint stiffness
- Exhausting easily after exercise
- Swelling of the joints
- Weight loss
As you can see, the standard symptoms of Lyme disease can be vague.
Discussing these symptoms with your veterinarian can help them put Lyme disease on their radar, as well as analyzing the risk of exposure in your region.
How Long After A Tick Bite Will Dogs Get Sick?
If an infected tick has been on your dog’s body for 24-48 hours, they have the ability to spread Lyme disease to your pup.
Once the bacteria makes its way into your dog’s bloodstream, the clinical signs typically develop anywhere from 2-5 months after infection.
Some dogs have been known to develop symptoms years after their tick bite, proving just how varied this disease can be.
Not only can it take months for symptoms of Lyme disease to develop in dogs, but the clinical signs can come and go if the disease is left untreated.
For example, a dog’s limp may disappear suddenly, only to return months later with a vengeance.
Can Dogs Give Humans Lyme Disease?
There is no evidence that dogs can transmit Lyme disease to humans directly, but you can become infected if one of their ticks latch onto your skin.
Lyme disease is spread through the bite of an infected tick, so dog owners with an infected pup are more at risk of being exposed.
While your pup’s Lyme disease may not be contagious, the ticks that have fed on an infected dog are always a threat.
How To Diagnose Lyme Disease In Dogs
As we mentioned above, Lyme disease is a bit more challenging to detect in our furry friends.
Most cases of Lyme disease in dogs are diagnosed with a combination of reviewing their clinical signs, assessing their risk of exposure to Lyme disease, and a series of blood tests.
However, some blood tests may only be positive when their body has produced a detectable level of antibodies, meaning false negatives are common.
If your veterinarian fears Lyme disease in your canine friend, the standard diagnostic options they will explore include the C6 SNAP test and the Quantitative C6 test.
The C6 SNAP test is a preliminary test that can be performed in their office, while the QC6 test will require a blood sample to be examined in a lab.
The snap test searches for the presence of antibodies released by the Lyme disease bacterium, while the QC6 can measure the specific levels of antibodies present.
This can also help your vet determine how aggressive their treatment will need to be.
It’s also important to note that your veterinarian may suggest performing a full panel of blood work to measure their kidney enzymes, as some cases of Lyme disease can have a devastating impact on the dog’s kidney function.
Can You Treat Lyme Disease In Dogs?
Because the agent responsible for Lyme disease is a bacteria, this means the condition can be treated with the use of antibiotics.
The standard course of treatment involves 30 days of antibiotic therapy, using doxycycline, amoxicillin, and azithromycin.
Many pet owners see improvements in their dogs symptoms in as little as 5 days after antibiotics are administered, with most pups making a full recovery after the 30 days.
However, some dogs will require a longer course of antibiotics, which is why it is so important to test their antibody levels again once they have completed their initial treatment.
Can You Prevent Lyme Disease In Dogs?
The best way to prevent Lyme disease in your dog is by protecting them against infected ticks.
Adequate flea and tick prevention is essential in preventing tick-borne illness, as an approved tick repellent will prevent the tick from attaching long enough to spread disease.
You can speak with your vet about which tick prevention is best for your furry friend at your next wellness exam.
Not only is flea and tick prevention essential in preventing tick-borne illness, but so is avoidance of areas that are known to harbor a large amount of ticks.
Some of the most high risk areas include any regions with tall foliage, as this is the easiest way for a tick to come in contact with your dog’s fur.
Not only should you avoid these areas when possible, but you should always search your dog’s fur for any ticks after your outdoor adventures.
If you live in an area with a high rate of Lyme disease infections, you can speak with your veterinarian about the Lyme disease vaccine for dogs.
The vaccine is not 100% effective, meaning it’s important to have your dog on tick prevention in addition to administering the vaccine.
As you can see, Lyme disease is a serious threat to our canine friend’s health.
Monthly flea and tick prevention is essential for preventing any tick-borne illness, as well as an understanding of the Lyme disease threat in your area.
My name is Amber. I am a dedicated animal lover that turned my passion into my career. I am a Licensed Vet Tech with 10 years of experience in veterinary medicine, but I recently took my career online to help spread accurate information on animal care. With how vast the online world is, I have a strong desire to ensure that the reader always walks away with helpful pet advice. With the experience I’ve gained from my time in this field, I have been able to travel the world, offering my services to as many animal rescues as I can find. If I am not at my laptop, or back home visiting family, you can find me somewhere in the world, cuddling every furry friend that I can find! Read more about us here.