4 min read


Can Dogs be Treated for Lyme Disease?



4 min read


Can Dogs be Treated for Lyme Disease?


Odds are, you've probably heard of Lyme disease before, but did you know it's a disease that doesn't just affect humans? Lyme disease can affect your perfect pooch, too. The good news? Lyme disease is treatable for canines, and while the actual treatment process isn't fun, it's definitely something you can take care of. 

Lyme disease is a tick-transmitted disease that's caused by bacteria that leads to a terrible infection in pups.The bacteria in question, known as borrelia burgdorferi, can typically transmit when a hard-shelled deer tick has been attached to your pup for 2-3 days. 

If you're unsure about the severity of Lyme disease, don't know how to tell if your dog has it, and want to be kept abreast of the signs that your dog may exhibit with Lyme disease, read on! We've outlined a few key details to educate you on Lyme disease, what it is, how it affects your pooch, and what to do if you think your pup has it. 


Signs Your Pooch May Have Lyme Disease

We know it can be difficult to keep ticks off your pup, especially if you have an adventurous little guy who can't get enough of the outdoors, but Lyme disease is a direct condition that results from ticks being attached to your pooch. 

Before we get into the signs of how to tell if your pup has Lyme disease, we wanted to emphasize our point - check your pup for ticks whenever he comes in from being outside! It's important to keep an eye out for signs that you might have missed ticks, too. 

If you notice any significant changes in your pup's appetite, that's one of the first signs something is off. Additionally, if he's changed the way he's walking (arches his back, seems stiff) that's also an indicator he might be suffering from Lyme disease. 

He might have difficulty breathing, have a fever, seem depressed,  have nervous system complications or heart abnormalities (both rare, but reported), and might be sensitive to touch. His superficial lymph nodes that are close to the infected area might swell or close as well.

Body Language

Your dog may be trying to give you subtle body language cues to let you know that something just isn't right. If you're concerned that your dog may be suffering from Lyme disease, make sure he's not exhibiting any of these specific signs:

  • Staring
  • Shaking
  • Cowering
  • Panting
  • Scratching
  • Pacing
  • Weakness

Other Signs

If your dog is suffering from Lyme Disease, you can guarantee he'll be giving you more body language signs than those, though. When checking your dog for cues, keep an eye out for:

  • Heart Abnormalities
  • Nervous System Complications
  • Infected Or Swollen Areas Around Tick Bite
  • Swollen Or Closed Lymph Nodes
  • Difficulty Breathing
  • Sensitivity To Touch
  • Stiff Walk And Arched Back
  • Muscle Stiffness Or Rigidity
  • Fever
  • Irregular Heartbeat

The History of Lyme Disease in Dogs


When it comes to determining if your doggo has lyme disease or not, there are very specific tests they'll give your pup to decide on treatment.

According to research, only about 10 percent of Lyme-positive dogs will ever develop clinical illness from infection with the Lyme organism, and because of this, many veterinarians will argue that treatment isn't always necessary for healthy dogs. If your dog tests positive, don't panic, that just means that your dog has been exposed to the organism that can cause the lyme disease, not the actual illness itself. 

However, a second test can help determine if your dog needs further treatment. This test is highly sensitive, making false positives unlikely, and identifies a specific antibody that is produced by the body only after natural exposure from the bite of a deer tick. These two tests have historically been used to determine whether or not your dog requires treatment.

The Science Behind Lyme Disease in Dogs


It's important to understand how Lyme disease works to gain a better understanding of how the condition affects your dog. Not only can Lyme disease affect your dog, it can affect you too. 

The spirochete bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi is transmitted to humans and doggos by the nymph and adult stages of the black-legged tick, called the lxodes scapularis. These ticks are known as deer ticks or black-legged ticks, and they attach to their hosts, feast and engorge on the blood of their host, and then drop off to lay eggs and repopulate.

These ticks will attach to your dogs, and if left on for more than two days, can transmit Lyme disease to your canine. Much of the infection can come from tiny nymphs - immature ticks that are less than 2mm in size and can be hard to see. They feed specifically during the spring and summer months when your dog is likely out and about.

How to Train Your Dog to Deal with Lyme Disease


Training your dog to deal with Lyme Disease comes before and after he contracts it. You want to make sure your dog is used to being checked for ticks and is comfortable with tick removal. Removing ticks can be an annoying, or painful, process for your dog. Make sure when you do this, you use tweezers and grab the tick as close to the skin as possible. Then, pull straight out - don't twist or crush the tick in the process. Reward your dog heavily after this to associate it as a positive experience for your pup. 

Make sure that if your dog does contract Lyme Disease, he's comfortable taking the antibiotics the vet will give him. Teach your dog a game of throw-and-catch to make pill eating more fun, train him to eat it with his food, or even teach him to take the pill from your hand like a treat!

Additionally, make sure your dog is comfortable with topical anti-tick treatments and understands the command "no" or "leave it" so that he knows not to lick any of the areas you've applied to the topical treatment.

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Written by a Great Dane lover Hanna Marcus

Veterinary reviewed by:

Published: 02/06/2018, edited: 04/06/2020

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