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Lyme Disease in Dogs

Updated: Aug 10, 2021

What is Lyme Disease?

Lyme disease is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi and transmitted by infected blacklegged ticks. The disease can only be transmitted from bite of infected deer ticks, Ixodes scapularis, and must be attached for 36- 48 hours to transmit the disease. These ticks are commonly found in wooded areas and is very prevalent in the Northeast along with the Mid-Atlantic, North-Central, and Western regions of the United States. The clinical signs in pets include lethargy, joint inflammation, limping, decreased appetite, and fever. Clinical signs typically do not present until 2 to 5 months after infected tick bite.

Is there a potential concern for humans?

While your pet cannot directly transmit Lyme Disease to you, the fact that your pet has Lyme Disease says that you are both exposed to the ticks that transmit Lyme Disease. Meaning that the same ticks that bite your pet can also bite you. The reason it is seen more in pets than humans is because our pets are lower to the ground than we are, have long hair, and cannot remove ticks on their own or take showers like humans do. If an infected tick latches on to your pet but does not bite, it is possible for that tick to hop onto a human, bite, and transmit Lyme Disease. In the scenario that a human is infected, symptoms can occur as quickly as 3 days or take as long as 30 days to develop. Early symptoms in humans include a red “ring-like” skin rash, fever, exhaustion, joint or muscle aches and can progress to severe joint arthritis, heart palpations, nerve pain, and numbing if left untreated. Be sure to talk to your health care provider if you are experiencing symptoms.

What is the treatment protocol and how can Lyme Disease be prevented?

The treatment protocol for Lyme Disease for your pet is a month-long course of antibiotics, typically doxycycline. While clinical signs can still be expressed in the first few days of treatment, signs typically subside once treatment begins. Since the tick bite that transmitted the Lyme Disease occurred at minimum 8 weeks prior to expression of clinical signs and the tick is no longer on the animal, there is little risk to others. However, it is likely that if your animal was exposed to these ticks, then so were you. As for pet prevention, the best way to prevent ticks on pets is to apply a flea and tick preventative to your pet – a topical solution, oral tablet, or collar. To further reduce the chances that a tick bite will make your dog sick, check your pets for ticks daily (especially after they spend time outdoors), if you find a tick on your pet remove it right away, and reduce tick habitats in yards with a pesticide spray and good yard care. As for humans, know where to expect ticks, use an insect repellent, check clothing and body for ticks, and shower soon after being outdoors Common places ticks like hide on humans is under the arms, in and around the ears, inside belly button, back of knees, in and around hair, between the legs and around the waist. If you find a tick attached to your skin, there’s no need to panic, remove it as soon as possible using a fine-tipped tweezers, making sure you remove the whole tick.


Disclaimer: The information above has been gathered from veterinary textbooks, peer-reviewed journals and information pages from the Center for Disease Control. The goal of this blog post was to provide background information and public health concerns on Lyme Disease. This post is not considered a client recommendation nor can be used as a diagnostic and/or treatment tool for a pet. All pet owners must consult their veterinarians if necessary.

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