Canine Lyme Disease: Symptoms | Prevention | Treatment

Dogs in nature

Spring is a hopeful time! Warmer weather, new life and longer days that offer the opportunity to take your dog for a stroll. This abundance is the perfect environment for the arrival of ticks. Ticks like moisture, so the seasonal rain in addition to rising temperatures create ideal conditions for their awakening. A tick will survive the winter in a dormant state, coming to life around 40 degrees. This parasitic arachnid is ready for attachment.

The Northeast and Midwest used to be the predominate areas for ticks in the U.S.  Due to global warming, it is becoming increasingly hard to control. Ticks cling to leaves and grasses by their third and fourth pairs of legs. They hold their first pair of legs outstretched waiting to grasp ahold of a passing host — your dog. And we don't want that because tick bites can cause severe health issues like Lyme disease.

Lyme disease is a challenging diagnosis for your dog because symptoms could potentially not show for 2-3 months. One of the most obvious signs that dogs exhibit is joint pain and swelling. A helpful pro tip to look for is joint pain that shifts around from day-to-day. If your dog limps on its front leg one day and its hind leg the next day, it may have contracted Lyme disease.

Common signs or symptoms:

  • Fever between 103-105
  • Lameness
  • Swelling in joints
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Severe progressive kidney disease
  • Depression

Prevention is the most important thing. I use a monthly topical called Revolution on my dogs Fergus and Brodie with success. (It’s the only FDA approved preventative for Lyme disease on the market.)  There is also a Lyme vaccine available through your veterinarian. Once your dog is infected with this bacteria, there is a high probability they will be infected for life. Finding these menacing predators early is important. Look at the eight common areas on your dog where ticks have a tendency to migrate on a regular basis.

Dog's Tick Trail:

  • Scalp
  • Ears (inside and out)
  • Under collar
  • Under legs
  • Elbows
  • Groin area
  • Between the toes
  • Under the tail

Staying ahead of tick attachments is the best way to avoid Lyme disease. If a tick is removed within 24 to 36 hour, it will not transmit disease. The best way to remove a tick is with a sharp tweezers or a tick removal tool like the  ZenPet Tornado. Get as close to the head as you can and pull them straight out. I put the removed tick into a jar of alcohol in case I would need to test the tick for Lyme disease at a later date. The alcohol slowly kills the tick (which is so satisfying to watch).

Here’s the good news! Lyme disease is treatable. If you have ever known someone who has contracted Lyme disease, then you probably know that treatment can be a long, complicated process. Thankfully, for dogs it’s much simpler. Lyme disease in dogs is typically treated with antibiotics.

Let's keep your dog tick-free by applying these practices. Being proactive offers you and your dog a greater chance of success with Lyme disease prevention. Regular tick inspections keeps your dog health and happy. This also provides a great opportunity for you to bond with your pet in a unique way.