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Dogs with Ticks and The Risk of Lyme Disease

Dogs can get ticks, it is a common problem dog owners have to deal with. Usually they can be found around the neck, head and ears but can also hide between his toes, in the groin area and the armpits. Some are obvious when you see them but some are so small they look just like a freckle. The reason why you need to remove those ticks is because there are several diseases they can transmit to your dog and on the most common is Lyme disease. Here we look at what Lyme disease is, its symptoms, how to look for and remove ticks and what to do if you think your dog has it.

Does Lyme Disease Just Affect Dogs?

No it does not. Any pet can develop Lyme disease and humans can too, so it is a good idea to check yourself for ticks too if you notice them in your dog. Symptoms of Lyme disease only show up in 5 to 10 per cent of dogs who are affected which makes it tricky to catch. In dogs Lyme disease can lead to lameness, depression and then potentially serious damage to the nervous system , heart and kidneys. As well as dogs and other pets not protected and kept outside Lyme disease can happen in cattle, humans and horses and is a global disease.


Dogs more Likely to be Affected

Lyme disease leading to kidney disease is more likely to happen to;

Bernese Mountain dogs

Labrador retrievers

Shetland sheepdogs

Golden retrievers

Younger dogs are more susceptible than senior dogs and in America dogs living in the areas in the Atlantic seaboard, upper Midwestern states and Pacific coastal states are more at risk.

Symptoms of Lyme Disease

Usual symptoms in a dog if they show up include;

Recurrent lameness

Inflamed joints that are painful

Shifting leg lameness

Kidney problems which exhibits with vomiting, loss of appetite, increased thirst, increased urination, diarrhea, loss of weight, fluid buildups

Swollen lymph nodes




Difficulty breathing

Stiff walk with an arched back

Heart abnormalities

Nervous system complications

The last two being much more rare than the rest. Symptoms do not always develop straight after a tick bite. It can take weeks or even months to show.

What Causes Lyme Disease

The ticks that carry the bacteria responsible called Borrelia burgdorferi bite and feed on the dog. If it is able to stay feeding there for two to three days this infection is passed on to the dog. As mentioned your dog will not immateriality start showing symptoms, it can take a while so if you spot ticks and remove them, you still need to monitor your dog over the next few months.

Diagnosing Your Dog

If you are concerned about your dog's health, have perhaps seen ticks on him or some symptoms corresponding to those mentioned here it is a good idea to take him to his vet to get a proper check up and diagnosis. Your vet will ask about his medical history and any incidents that might have led to his symptoms, carry out a physical exam and carry out other clinical tests to look for Lyme's or investigate the symptoms to see what is going on. Ty to be as detailed as you can in what you have observed as it all helps in an accurate diagnosis. He or she will also carry out blood tests, fecal examination, urinalysis, x-rays to look for abnormalities, and tests specific to Lyme disease diagnosis like serology. He or she may also draw fluids from joints that are swollen to exam.

Your vet will be focusing on whether the arthritis like symptoms are caused by another form of arthritis like osteochondrosis dissecans, another disease like degenerative joint disease or traumatic incident or whether it is Lyme disease.

Treating a Dog with Lyme Disease

If your vet confirms your dog is suffering from Lyme disease your dog will then be treated probably as an outpatient unless he has kidney disease that is severe and making his condition not stable enough to be allowed to go home with you. As an outpatient he will likely be prescribed an antibiotic like Doxycycline and the treatment will be as long as four weeks or even longer. If your dog is suffering from the lameness and is in a lot of pain your vet may also give you some pain relief to give him in the form of anti-inflammatory medication. You should see improvement in the joints within three to five days of treatment. If you see no signs of improvement take your dog back to his vet to have him re-evaluated.

The problem with Lyme disease is that while antibiotic treatment can be effective, sometimes it does not completely get rid of the bacteria responsible. You may see initial relief of symptoms but it could flare up again in the future some time and there is the increased risk then too for kidney disease to develop and become severe.

Preventing Lyme Disease – How to Remove Ticks

The best way to deal with Lyme disease is really to prevent it happening. There are several things you can do to help improve his chances of not getting this disease. First of all you can stop him from running around areas that are tick infested. Then there are sprays, topical methods and collars that repel and kill ticks that you can talk to your vet about. These options should be done with your vet's approval and advice and be sure you follow the instructions on them carefully. Another option is the Lyme vaccination. For some that is a controversial topic, but this is something you can talk about with your vet.


Removing ticks – Removing ticks needs to be done correctly to ensure you don’t squeeze it too hard and it bursts inside the dog leaving the bacteria behind in his blood stream. Check you dog's coat daily for ticks with your hand especially in the areas more prone. If you see any using tweezers grab the tick as close to your dog’s skin as possible. Gently pull it out but be careful not to squeeze too hard.