Lyme Disease in Dogs: Symptoms, Tests, Treatment, and Prevention

As you are out enjoying the great outdoors with your dog give little thought to the possibilities of tick bites and Lyme disease.


As the weather gets warmer, more people find themselves wanting to spend time outdoors with their pets. As they are enjoying the great outdoors they give little or no thought to the possibilities of tick bites and Lyme disease.  The nymph and the adult of the small, hard-shell tick of the Ixodes species (The Deer tick which normally feeds on the white-footed mouse, the white-tailed deer, other mammals, and birds,) are responsible for transmitting the organism that causes Lyme disease.

Ticks search for host animals from the tips of grass and shrubs and latch on to animals or persons that brush against it as they pass by. Ticks only crawl; they do not fly or jump. Ticks feed on blood by inserting their mouthparts into the skin of a host animal. As they are feeding they pass the organism to their host if the tick is infected.

In areas where ticks are a problem, keeping a watch between the months of April through October for ticks is important. The best means of prevention is to keep the ticks off. Applying Tick sprays and dips to your dog can do this. A collar will only protect the head and neck so they are not a good source of protection against ticks.

Check your dog frequently for ticks. They are slow feeders: a complete blood meal can take several days. As they feed, their bodies slowly enlarge. As their bodies get bigger, the tick will become easier to find.

If you should find one, remove it at once using a pair of tweezers. Gently grasp the tick as close to the head as possible and then gently pull the tick straight out without crushing the tick. Crushing the tick while it's attached can cause the tick's body fluids to rush into your dog increasing the risk of being infected.  Don't try to burn the tick or put oil on it.

Signs of Lyme disease in dogs are:

Loss of appetite,
Sore joints,
Stiff gait

If your dog begins showing any of these signs, contact your vet right away. Antibiotics are the treatment of choice for Lyme disease in dogs, as in humans. Tetracyclines and penicillin-like antibiotics are very effective. Corticosteroids and other anti-inflammatory drugs are sometimes used to help with the stiffness in the joints caused by Lyme disease. Most dogs respond very well to treatment.  Complete recovery can be expected in the majority of cases.