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Lyme Disease in Dogs - Symptoms, Prevention, and Treatment

Written by Ella White

Last updated

We hate to think of our beloved pets being ill, but from time to time it’s bound to happen. Often, it’s something simple like an allergy or infection that’s easily cured by antibiotics. But if you’ve noticed your dog is tired, feverish, has lost interest in their food, or seems to be in pain, they might have Lyme disease. 

Found in both humans and animals and most commonly transmitted through tick bites, Lyme disease is caused by the bacterium Borrelia Burgdorferi, and can cause all manner of symptoms and problems for our pets. The disease has been reported across the world, including Europe, most of Asia, and all 50 states of the USA. And though humans can easily spot a tick on their skin, it’s not so easy to spot them in your dog’s fur. 

Which is why it’s especially important to actively check for them, particularly if you’ve been in an area where deer, mice, or voles are present. This is because the most common transmitter of Lyme disease is the deer tick – and if you don’t spot it quickly, the disease can lead to infections.

The symptoms of Lyme disease in dogs

Though not all dogs infected with Lyme disease will exhibit symptoms, there are some easy ways to spot the infection. Most pets that are carrying the bacteria will show one of more of the following:

  • Lethargy - if your dog is more tired or docile than usual it’s worth checking for Lyme disease
  • Painful or swollen joints - if your dog seems to be in pain, check their join areas for further evidence of Lyme disease
  • Fever - like humans, dogs infected with Lyme disease can present fever-like symptoms
  • Loss of appetite - you’ll always notice if your dog is off their food, and it could be a tell-tale sign
  • Lymph node swelling - if your dog’s lymph nodes are swollen, it could be a sign of the immune system gearing up to fight off an infection
  • Lameness in the legs - Lyme disease can cause a dog’s legs to go lame periodically. It can switch between limbs randomly and the symptom may come and go

The effects of Lyme disease in dogs

If the symptoms of Lyme disease are ignored, or the bacteria is allowed to spread due to no exhibited symptoms, the effects can be damaging for your dog’s long term health. In the same way humans can suffer life-long complications following a bout of Lyme disease, your dog could be permanently injured. 

Symptoms may show long before antibodies appear in blood results, and some dogs may present no antibodies despite being infected. If you think your dog has Lyme disease, you should consult a vet as soon as possible to avoid longer lasting effects.

The main effects of Lyme disease on your dog’s health include:

  • Kidney failure 
  • Heart problems
  • Nervous system issues including seizures or paralysis 
  • Permanent joint damage

Preventing Lyme disease in dogs

The first and most obvious way to prevent your dog contracting Lyme disease is to carefully check their coat for ticks after spending time outdoors. This is especially important if you spend a lot of time in grassy or woodland areas where deer ticks are more prominent. It takes 1-2 days for a tick to transmit its bacteria into a dog, so if you inspect their fur after every walk, you should easily be able to prevent transmission.

Ticks are most prevalent during spring and fall, and if they fall off your pet in your house, they may find a human as a host. So it’s important to brush your dog’s fur outside after walking. Humans cannot contract Lyme disease from their infected dog, but the ticks they carry can attach themselves to human skin. Wear gloves and don’t crush ticks with your bare hands. They can be as small as a pinhead so it’s important to look carefully when brushing out your dog’s coat.

Of course, keeping your dog on established walking trails and avoiding tall grassy areas or brushy undergrowth are easy ways to prevent exposure to ticks. But if you have an inquisitive pet that loves to explore the great outdoors, this can be easier said than done.

To supplement your close visual inspection for ticks, products can be purchased to reduce the chance of infection. These are especially useful if you live in an area that is prone to tick populations, or often walk in forests. Sprays, spot treatments, and oral products can all be administered to kill the tick’s infection.

Front of the Pack’s top supplement, The One, is made with curcumin and green tea extract which are antioxidants that support a healthy immune system and fight bacteria. It also contains glucosamine to relieve joint issues, so if you think your dog may have Lyme disease, The One could help ease the symptoms, but it isn’t a one stop solution so make sure to contact your primary care veterinarian as well. 

Treating Lyme disease in dogs

If you suspect your dog has a Lyme disease infection or is suffering any of the typical symptoms, it’s important to seek treatment as quickly as possible to prevent any long-term consequences. Typical treatments include 4-week courses of antibiotics. However, because the bacteria are difficult to remove, a second course of antibiotics may be needed for your pet to fully recover. And if their organs are affected further medication may be required. Since Lyme disease is not an uncommon ailment for dogs, your trusted veterinarian will be well versed in the best way to treat them

If you live in or frequent an area that’s known for Lyme disease infections, you can have your dog vaccinated against tick bites. It’s typically administered twice over a 2-4 week period, and an annual booster is required for full protection. 

We know that dog lovers want to do the best by their pets, and ticks can be hard to spot. So boosting their immune system with The One supplement, and following the guidelines around preventing tick infections make easy points to follow when it comes to protecting your dog’s health.