The tick issue in the United States is becoming a massive problem. Ticks are showing up in places they have never been before and infecting humans and animals with Lyme disease more than ever.
Lyme disease can be very hard to detect and treat, specifically in dogs. Prevention is key to keeping your beloved dog safe, but the prevention of this disease and from ticks actually biting is very difficult. That being said, just because your dog is diagnosed as Lyme positive does not mean they aren't treatable or that they will even be affected in a negative way.
Signs of a Dog with Lyme Disease
There are a few common signs and symptoms that dogs will begin to show if they are affected by Lyme disease. However, it is important to note that many dogs who may be carrying Lyme disease will never show any symptoms and the disease will not affect them. In fact, only about 5-10% of dogs affected with Lyme disease will ever show any actual symptoms.
However, if your dog does begin to show signs of Lyme disease, you may begin to notice your dog limping on one leg one day, and then another day they will limp on the other leg. This is due to inflammation of the joints and the pain from that often shifts. Your dogs may also have a lack of appetite, they may be losing weight, they might pee and drink more water than normal, and they may vomit and very loose stools.
Furthermore, your dog may also walk with an arched back or like they are very stiff, have a sensitivity to touch, fever, depression, trouble breathing, abnormal heartbeat and nervous system complications - although these are very rare.
Your pooch may also feel very lethargic and tired all the time and just not be acting like their normal, happy, and energetic selves.
History of Dogs and Lyme Disease
Lyme disease has been around for more than 5,300 years. However, the United States only recognized this disease with an actual name in the 1960s and 1970s. In the 1970s, adults, and kids in Lyme, CT. began experiencing symptoms that we know today as Lyme disease. Doctors could not figure out what the cause was and people were becoming very ill. They finally discovered that all the patients had recently been bitten by a tick and determined this was the cause of the symptoms.
By the 2000s, Lyme disease had become an even bigger issue and had spread to more parts of the US at a rapid rate. Today, this troubling disease is growing and infecting even more people and dogs. There are about 329,000 cases of reported Lyme disease every year and the number of dogs affected with Lyme is likely even more as it is much harder to find ticks on dogs and many dogs don't even show symptoms or effects of Lyme even if they do have the disease.
Many dog owners report many issues with finding ticks on their dog constantly, especially those who live in the North East region of the US. Many natural tick repellants and chemical repellents are reported as not actually working to keeps ticks off dogs when they are outside.
Science Behind Dogs and Lyme Disease
Lyme disease is most commonly transmitted to a dog from the deer tick, although all varieties of ticks can carry the disease. Deer ticks are particularly small, making them very hard to spot on your dog's skin or fur. In order for the disease to be transmitted to your dog, the tick must bite them and take a blood meal. The tick usually must be attached and taking its blood meal from your dog for 24-48 hours, but it can take up to 3 days after the bite. This means the faster you find the tick on your dog, the less likely they will be infected with Lyme.
Once the bacteria get into the dog's bloodstream, it is carried to most parts of the body and particularly affects the joints.
If your dog tests positive for Lyme disease, this does not mean your dog has a death sentence. Most dogs will be treated at home with a series of antibiotics. The most common medication is Doxycycline, but there are other medication options as well.
Treatment plans generally run four weeks and sometimes longer depending on how tricky the case is to cure. Your dog may also get an antiinflammatory for the time to help with any pain and swelling in the joints.
Safety Tips and Prevention for Dogs and Ticks
Although it is impossible to 100% prevent your dog from ever picking up a tick, particularly in high-risk geographical locations, there are quite a few steps to help reduce the risk of tick bites and Lyme disease.
The best thing you can do is have your dog on a tick medication recommended by your pet. There are many safe options on the market. There are topical and chewable options that are generally administered at home every month or every few months. Yes, these medications come with risks, but they also can help keep your dog much safer. Just remember, for these medications to work, the tick must bite your dog first.
You should try to keep your dog out of tall grasses, from brushing up against trees and plants, walking in the woods, and trotting through bunches of dead leaves on the ground. These are all prime locations of where ticks like to live. Keeping them out of these high-risk areas can really reduce the number of ticks they pick up while outside. Keep your dog on a paved walking trail when out for a walk or walk in a neighborhood with short grasses, sidewalk, and pavement.
You can also explore natural tick repellants as well. Clove, cinnamon, rose geranium (Pelargonium graveolens), eucalyptus, and more are all said to ward off ticks. Rose geranium is claimed to be one of the most powerful natural tick repellants.
Perhaps one of the easiest and most effective ways to prevent your dog from contracting Lyme disease is to check them for ticks on a daily basis. Try and look through their fur in a well-lit area once a day. Use a brush and your fingers to feel all over your dog's skin. Be on the lookout and feel for any abnormal lumps and bumps on the skin, as these could be attached ticks. Remember to feel around their butt, genitals, ears, eyes, mouth, and in between their toes, as ticks like hiding in warm and dark places. Ticks also like to attach to a dog's neck area and belly, so pay particular attention to these areas too.
Always remember, the faster you find a tick that has attached to your dog, the less likely they are to contract Lyme disease.
Written by a Samoyed lover Kayla Costanzo
Veterinary reviewed by:
Published: 04/16/2018, edited: 04/06/2020