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Lyme Disease in Dogs

When the weather is warmer and your dog spends more time outside, his chances of being bitten by a tick and contracting Lyme disease increase. But what exactly is Lyme disease and how can my dog get it? We'll explain.

What it is

Lyme disease is caused by bacteria called Borrelia burgdorferi which can be transmitted to a dog by a tick bite. The condition is primarily spread during tick season which is May through August, however ticks are active throughout the year so long as temperatures are above freezing. It is important to note that Lyme disease also affects humans, however it cannot be transferred directly from a dog to a human.

Signs of Lyme disease

The most common (and sometimes only) sign of Lyme disease is sudden lameness which can often appear in one leg and shift to another. Other indications include swollen, painful joints, weakness, fever, lethargy, enlarged lymph nodes, loss of appetite, and kidney problems. In some dogs, signs may not appear for up to 2-5 months after an infected tick bite.

Will my dog contract Lyme disease as soon as he is bitten by a tick?

No. Fortunately, a tick bite is not an automatic sentence to Lyme disease because:

  • Not all ticks are infected with the bacteria. Ticks become infected after feeding on infected mice and other animals. Only infected ticks pose a risk of Lyme disease.

  • Ticks must feed for at least 12 hours (or up to 48 hours) before the bacteria is transmitted.

How do I know if my dog has it?

There are several factors to look for when diagnosing Lyme disease.

  • Recent exposure to, or bites by ticks.

  • Signs of the disease, such as lameness.

  • Your veterinarian can take a blood test to look for antibodies to B. burgdorferi bacteria.

Treatment

Antibiotics will greatly improve the condition of your dog. While they may not completely clear the bacteria, the antibiotics will help to bring the dog to a state where there are no signs.

Prevention

The best prevention of Lyme disease is tick control. Finding and removing any ticks as soon as possible is very important.

Tick bites can be prevented altogether by using a monthly parasite preventive provided by your veterinarian.

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