Can Dogs Get Lyme Disease?

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Thousands of people are diagnosed each year with Lyme disease. It is often a debilitating condition that affects the entire body. People with Lyme suffer from body aches, which make everyday movement near impossible. Lyme disease can last for months for some people who are responsive to antibiotic treatments, but it can also last for many years for other people. The effects of Lyme disease are painful, often leaving people bed ridden as they suffer. If you’ve been hiking in tick ridden areas with your dog, or if you suffer from the effects of Lyme disease yourself, you might wonder if your dog is safe or destined to the same fate.

Can Dogs Get Lyme Disease?

YES!

Lyme disease is passed on by a tick bite. Certain ticks carry Lyme, and there is no way of knowing which ticks might have the disease. Lyme disease has been discovered around the world, and it is estimated millions of people and our pets suffer from the disease. If you live in an area where ticks are prevalent, your dog could also get Lyme disease.

Does My Dog Have Lyme Disease?

Lyme disease in dogs has the same symptoms people suffer when infected. Your dog will have stiff, sore joints. Lyme disease isn’t only uncomfortable; it can make joints swollen and painful, which can cause your dog to be lame and unwilling to move. Fever can also occur with Lyme. If you suspect your dog has been infected with Lyme disease, though they may experience the symptoms for months if treated with antibiotics early, Lyme disease can be treated, and your dog can feel better. Be sure to see your veterinarian right away if you suspect Lyme in your dog.

You can also read more here about Lyme disease.    

How Do I Treat My Dog’s Lyme Disease?

Your veterinarian will give your dog an antibody test to determine if your dog does, in fact, have Lyme disease. Treatment from your veterinarian will consist of antibiotics for two to four weeks. If symptoms do not show signs of improvement within the first 3 to 5 days, a different antibiotic may be given to your dog. Your veterinarian could also prescribe pain medication for your dog. Early detection is the best way to treat Lyme disease. Your dog may still experience signs and symptoms of Lyme disease for a few months after initial diagnosis, however, most dogs respond quickly with early detection and appropriate treatment.

Read more at our guide to Lyme Disease in Dogs and get your questions about Lyme disease answered by our in-house veterinarians.

How is Lyme Disease Similar in Dogs and Humans?

People and pets share very similar symptoms to Lyme disease, and we contract it in the same ways. Lyme disease is caused by bacteria carried by a black-legged tick also known as a deer tick. Symptoms manifest in various ways for people as well as for our pets. The most common symptom will be swollen joints and pain throughout the body. Humans and dogs both can experience fevers, nausea, loss of appetite, weight loss, irritability, and overall discomfort. Lyme disease is very similar for people and for our dogs.

How is Lyme Disease Different in Dogs and Humans?

Because the symptoms are similar between dogs and people, there aren't many differences dogs experience having Lyme disease than people experience with Lyme disease. However, most dogs will show signs of recovery early if the disease is caught and treated early. We, as humans, can sometimes suffer from Lyme disease for years. Humans also develop a rash that looks very similar to a bullseye at the tick bite site. Most dogs do not develop that circular rash or owners don't notice it after a tick bite because it's often hidden under thick dog fur.

Case Study

A dog has been hiking with its owner in the woods. The owner typically checks the dog for ticks as soon as they get home. However, this particular day the owner did not check the dog for ticks and a tick was found on the dog 3 days later. Because a tick has to bite and be attached for 12 to 24 hours to infect its host with the bacteria which causes Lyme disease, this dog had plenty of time to become infected with Lyme. The owner, being very diligent on every other hike he had taken the dog on, took the dog immediately to the vet who did blood testing to discover if Lyme disease was present. When test results came back positive, this dog was placed on an antibiotic, which fought Lyme disease from the very start. If the owner had waited until signs and symptoms had shown in the dog, it might have been longer for the dog to recover from Lyme disease. However, because this dog was diagnosed and treated early on, the suffering of Lyme disease wasn't as long or debilitating as many dogs or people experience.