Can Your Dog Get Lyme Disease?

The short answer is…


Here’s what you need to know:

Although Lyme disease is among the most common tick borne illnesses globally, only about ten percent of affected dogs show symptoms. This disease is caused by the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi that resides inside the tick and then gets transmitted into the dog’s bloodstream via a tick bite. This is the very same bacteria that causes Lyme disease in humans.

Once the bacteria is in the bloodstream, it travels to various parts of the dog’s body and can cause inflammation in joints, problems in various organs and overall systemic illness as well. Ticks that are infected with the Lyme bacteria are likely to be found in thick brush, tall grass, wood and marshes and they get on your dog as he travels through these areas. Ticks cannot jump or fly, so they depend on a potential host walking through their habitat.

Even if a Lyme infected tick bites your dog, it takes about 24 to 48 hours of attachment before the disease can be transmitted. Although more cases of Lyme disease happen in the Northeast, upper Midwest and the Pacific coast, the potential for the disease exists in every state.

Symptoms of Lyme disease in dogs include loss of appetite, lameness, stiffness and pain, swelling of joints and fever. If left untreated, the disease can progress to kidney failure which can be fatal. The disease can also cause heart and nervous system problems as well.

Your veterinarian can diagnose Lyme disease using a combination of history and physical exam plus symptoms and diagnostic blood tests to see if antibiotic treatment is indicated. Antibiotics are given usually over about 30 days and sometimes much longer if the infection persists.

You or your family members cannot get Lyme disease from your dog, as the disease is only transmitted through the bite of an infected tick. Ticks also carry other diseases and it’s possible that a dog can be infected by more than one type of these diseases at a time.

The best thing to do is try to prevent your dog from getting Lyme. We’ll cover that coming up!

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By Ellen Britt

Dr. Ellen Britt has loved dogs since she was a child. She is particularly fond of the Northern breeds, especially Alaskan Malamutes. Ellen worked as a PA in Emergency and Occupational Medicine for two decades and holds a doctorate (Ed.D.) in biology.

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