What To Do If Your Dog Gets Lyme Disease

It’s true! Dogs can get Lyme disease or Lyme borreliosis as it’s scientifically called. Lyme disease is a bacterial illness that can affect humans, dogs, deer, and other species affected by tick bites.

Knowing how to get rid of ticks quickly can prevent Lyme disease in dogs. If you suspect your dog has Lyme disease, don’t panic. There are lots of ways to get rid of ticks and stop tick bites. As long as dog owners handle tick infestations quickly, they can prevent spreading Lyme disease in their dogs.

In this article, you’ll find ways to prevent and eliminate ticks on your dogs with cited, vet-recommended resources on dog Lyme disease. Here, you’ll also find information on:

  • How dogs get Lyme disease 
  • Symptoms of tick bites and Lyme disease
  • Testing for Lyme disease  
  • Preventing tick bites and Lyme disease
  • Treatments Lyme disease    

How Do Dogs Get Lyme Disease

Once a tick bites a dog, a bacteria called Borrelia burgdorferi gets into a dog or human’s bloodstream. The bacteria then travels to various parts of the body and begins to infect different organs and joints. 

Ticks don’t jump or fly the way fleas do, they’re a little harder to notice. Ticks wait for a host to pass by as they hide in vegetation like a bush. Once a host such as a dog brushes by, the tick quickly grabs onto the dog and gets to work. 

Tick infestations are more common in the Northeast, Upper Midwest, and the Pacific coast. In fact, over 95% of dog Lyme disease cases occur in these regions. However, this doesn’t mean that if you live elsewhere, your dog will never have Lyme disease or deal with ticks. 

If you live in an area that was recently developed or has been deforested, you’ll be at a higher risk. Migrating deer, birds, and other wildlife affected by ticks often wander into developed areas, or on common walking trails. If the wildlife that wanders close to your property carries an infected tick, your dog is still at-risk of catching Lyme disease. 

Symptoms of Tick Bite and Lyme Disease in Dogs

Only around 5-10% of dogs show symptoms of Lyme disease. Even if your dog carries Lyme disease, they might not show signs of having it. This is why it’s important to check your dog for ticks and take measures towards preventing ticks. 

When checking your dog for ticks, run your hand over their coat looking for any bumps or irregularities. Ticks can hide in between paws and in ears, so be sure to look for small, round, reddish-brown bugs. 

Symptoms of Lyme disease in dogs includes:

  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lack of energy
  • Lameness
  • Stiffness from discomfort and pain
  • Swollen joints

Unlike Lyme disease in humans, dogs won’t have to endure months of pain and discomfort. If handled correctly, dogs will only experience symptoms and illness for a few days to a few weeks. 

Risks of Lyme Disease in Dogs

Although most dogs can recover quite quickly from Lyme disease, some dogs can develop more extreme symptoms. Lyme disease in some dogs can lead to glomerulonephritis, affecting a dog’s kidney function and blood filter. This can eventually lead to kidney failure. 

Signs of extreme symptoms of kidney failure include: 

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • loss of appetite and weight loss
  • increased urination and thirst
  • swollen limbs from fluid buildup 

Swollen limbs and fluid buildup can cause arthritis and other inflammatory disorders. 

Testing for Lyme Disease in Dogs

To test for Lyme disease in dogs, vets will perform a C6 Test and a Quant C6 test. They may perform other tests such as:

  • Blood tests
  • Blood cell count
  • Urinalysis
  • Fecal examination
  • X-rays 
  • Drawing fluids from swollen joints

If your dog develops symptoms of Lyme disease or develops a tick infestation, you may want to get yourself and other family members tested as well. Households can develop “co-infections” with other tick-borne diseases if the tick has more than one disease-causing bacteria. This can also put both you and your dog at-risk of further infecting your household and becoming sick. 

Preventing Ticks and Lyme Disease in Dogs

Every dog owner, regardless of how at-risk your pet is, should take steps towards preventing ticks and fleas with medications and topical treatments. In addition to using your vet’s recommended products, owners should also: 

  • Inspect dogs and self for ticks after walks through the woods or grassy areas.
  • Remove ticks as quickly as possible. Be sure to remove them properly and safely. 
  • Get your vet to conduct a full tick evaluation if you find one. 
  • Use all vet-recommended tick and flea prevention products. 
  • Keep the grass on your property cut short and avoid overgrown patches of grass. 
  • Make sure your dog has all the updated vaccinations and shots. 

Pest control technicians also recommend cleaning both inside and outside your home if you find a tick on your dog. Make your home tick-free by:

  • Keeping all vegetation trimmed
  • Removing dead, rotted, scraggly, and overgrown plants and leaves
  • Storing firewood properly at least 15 feet away from your home   
  • Inspect places for moisture buildup and use an absorbent mulch to clear the area
  • Cleaning all bedding, clothes, linens, and dog toys with hot soapy water

If you do find a tick, do not crush it- it will attract more ticks by releasing a pheromone. If you find one, flush it down the toilet or put it in an air-tight container to see if you can get it tested. 

Finally, ask your neighbors if they’ve had issues with tick infestations, especially if you live in a forested, newly developed, or deer-habited area. If your neighbors find that they also have issues with ticks, you should call a pest control company to do preventive maintenance around your property. 

Pest Brigade works with exterminators across the country and can find you a tick expert in your area. To speak to an exterminator today, call the number at the top of your screen. 

Treating Lyme Disease in Dogs 

Vets use an antibiotic called Doxycycline to treat Lyme disease in dogs. Not all dogs will be treated, as there’s little research on Lyme disease in dogs and the effects of Doxycycline. Upon diagnosis, your vet will discuss treatment options and their recommended course of action. 

Labs and Golden Retrievers are at a higher risk of developing extreme symptoms and should always be treated. This is because these breeds commonly develop issues with arthritis and fluid buildup. 

Treatment for Lyme disease in dogs usually takes at least 4 weeks or longer. During this time your vet may also prescribe anti-inflammatory or other pain medications to help with comfortability.