What Should You Know About Lyme Disease in Dogs?

A women is picking a tick on her dog's fur - Hampton Park Veterinary - Charleston, SC. Did you know that Lyme disease in dogs is the most common tick-borne disease in the United States? Lyme disease can cause fever, joint pain, and poor appetite, but sometimes dogs don’t experience many symptoms at all.

If you’re unfamiliar with Lyme disease, it’s essential to learn everything you can about the symptoms and treatment options. This way, you’ll know exactly how to keep your furry companion healthy long-term.

In this guide, you’ll learn everything you need to know about Lyme disease in dogs.

Lyme Disease in Dogs

Lyme disease is a bacterial illness that can occur in humans, dogs, cats, horses, and other domestic animals.

Lyme disease is caused by the Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria that are found in certain species of ticks. The deer tick is the most common type of tick that carries Lyme disease.

The tick carries this bacteria and transmits it to other animals when it bites them. Typically, an infected tick will cause Lyme disease  24 to 48 hours after it attaches to your dog.

Once this bacteria enters the bloodstream, it travels to different body parts. Your pet can have problems with specific organs and joint inflammation when this happens.

Where Can Dogs Pick up Ticks?

Ticks are typically found in thick brush, woods, marshes, and areas with tall grass. When your dog brushes up against tall blades of grass or a bush, the tick will quickly grab onto your dog.

Ticks can be found throughout the United States, especially in the midwest and northeast regions.

What Are the Signs of Lyme Disease in Dogs?

It’s important to realize that it can take time for a dog to show signs of Lyme disease. Often, dogs won’t show any signs of illness for weeks to months after an infected tick bite.

When dogs do show Lyme disease symptoms, you’ll typically notice problems like:

  • Fever
  • Acting tired
  • Inflammation of the joints
  • Problems walking
  • Poor appetite
  • Enlarged lymph nodes
  • Hypersensitive to touch

Serious complications aren’t common but can include kidney damage, heart damage, or problems with the nervous system.

What Should You Do if You Find a Tick on Your Dog?

If you find a tick on your dog, you’ll need to take steps to remove it as quickly as possible. First, you’ll need to wear gloves to protect yourself from coming into contact with the tick.

Next, get a pair of tweezers and grab the tick as close to the skin as possible. Then pull the tick out straight, using a steady force. Be careful not to leave anything behind, as this can cause an infection.

If you have a tick remover, you’ll need to place the remover against the skin, as close to the tick as possible. Slide the remover underneath the tick and pull it free.

You’ll need to place the tick in isopropyl alcohol and note the date you found the tick on your dog. Doing this is helpful for later in case your dog begins to display Lyme disease symptoms.

Be sure to clean your dog’s wound with an antiseptic solution once the tick is removed.

Some vets prefer that you keep the tick to they can identify it, so you’ll need to ask your veterinarian what they would like you to do.

Diagnosing Lyme Disease

If you suspect your dog may have Lyme disease symptoms or discover a tick on your pet, you’ll need to make an appointment with an experienced Charleston veterinarian.

Your vet will ask you to provide a complete history of your dog’s overall health, including any health conditions and medications. They’ll also ask you about the current symptoms your dog is experiencing and when the tick bite occurred.

Lyme disease is diagnosed by a blood test and specific signs and symptoms. Veterinarians often use a SNAP test that only requires a few drops of blood and takes a few minutes to complete.

However, it can take approximately 4 to 6 weeks after exposure to an infected tick for a blood test to show up as positive.

Therefore, to diagnose Lyme disease in pets, your vet will typically do a series of tests, such as:

  • Blood and urine chemistry tests
  • Complete blood count
  • X-rays
  • Fluid analysis of the joints
  • Fecal exam

Lyme Disease Treatment

Your vet will start treatment immediately if your dog is positive for Lyme disease. The most common Lyme disease medication is the antibiotic Doxycycline.

Some vets may prescribe another type of antibiotic, depending on your dog’s condition and medical history.

Treatment will take at least 30 days but can take longer, depending on the symptoms your dog is experiencing. Sometimes your vet might prescribe other medications like an anti-inflammatory if your dog has uncomfortable joint symptoms.

You should notice improvement within 3 to 5 days of starting antibiotic treatment. However, sometimes antibiotic treatment doesn’t completely eliminate the infection. If you see no improvement, you’ll need to take your dog back to the vet for another evaluation.

Lyme Disease Prevention

The first step to Lyme disease prevention is keeping your dog away from wooded areas with tall grass. If you like to take your dog hiking or camping in these areas, you’ll need to check your dog’s skin and coat daily for ticks.

One of the best ways to prevent Lyme disease is to use flea and tick prevention like collars, tablets, or chews. You can also consider getting a Lyme disease vaccine, but remember that some dogs aren’t good candidates for this vaccine.

You should talk to your vet to determine the best prevention methods for your dog.

Find an Experienced Vet in Charleston, SC

Now that you know more about Lyme disease in dogs, you’ll be able to form a prevention plan for your furry friend.

If you’re looking for an experienced veterinarian in Charleston, SC, you won’t need to look any further than Hampton Park Veterinary. We offer dog and cat wellness exams, disease management, dermatology, geriatric pet care, pet dental care, and more.

We take pride in using the latest technology in a warm and friendly environment. We look forward to being your Charleston veterinary clinic, so be sure to contact Hampton Park Veterinary to schedule an appointment!