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canine Lyme disease

Lyme disease in dogs

Are you and your dog both at risk for Lyme? It's terrible to think so, yet those energizing hikes through the forest that you and your canine pal adore may be putting you at a greater risk for infection. Even if you're not a frequent hiker, you know how man's best friend loves to rummage through the bushes around the edge of the yard and snuffle through piles of leaves. Hedges and leaf piles are prime hiding spots for ticks.

Lyme is endemic in the northeastern US, and increasing incidences of the illness are being reported in northern California and the Pacific northwest. Dogs living in other parts of the country may be at less of a risk for exposure. But before you allow yourself to believe your dog is out of the woods (so to speak), bear in mind that Lyme infection has been reported in every state.

Lyme in dogs manifests differently than in humans. When bitten by an infected tick, 30 - 50% of people will develop a skin rash and flu-like symptoms. However, dogs are not likely to develop symptoms for many weeks or months. Your dog might exhibit signs of arthritis from painful joint inflammation, or he might run a fever. Your veterinarian can prescribe a course of antibiotics such as doxycycline or Amoxicillin, which many dogs respond well to. As in humans, all the bacteria may not be killed with this course. Long term or chronic Lyme may or may not be a problem for our beloved buddies.

  • According to an article by Wendy C. Brooks, DVM, DipABVP Educational Director of VeterinaryPartner.com, dogs do not tend to develop neurologic or heart issues.
  • However, kidney disease may occur in response to stimulation by latent pathogens over a long period of time.

Preventing Lyme infection might be possible with the use of powerful tick repellents and collars. However, even if you use these agents you should take the time to check your dog daily for ticks whenever you think there has been exposure. There is no hard evidence to prove that a tick must be attached for 48 hours before it can spew its Lyme bacteria into the animal on which it's feeding. If the tick is disturbed while feeding, it may dump its toxins into the bloodstream of the host animal.

  • If you find a tick on your pet, grasp the tick firmly but gently with a tweezers and pull it straight out without twisting or turning it.
  • Never suffocate the tick by putting anything on it, such as Vaseline or soap. Doing so may cause it to unload its bacteria before you remove it.


The bad news is that diagnosing Lyme disease in dogs is as tricky as it is for humans. Spirochetes are notorious for being able to hide masterfully from the host's immune system. Therefore, detecting antibodies to the Lyme bacteria is nearly impossible. If you and your vet suspect that your furry buddy might have Lyme, the good news is that a 2 - 4 week course of antibiotics should bring your pet relief from symptoms quickly, within 48 hours.
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