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7 Ugly Truths About Lyme Disease in Dogs


Did you know that a vaccination against Lyme disease in dogs is no guarantee that they won’t contract the illness?  Even so, it’s important to take every precaution available to help prevent dogs from contracting the disease.

Lyme disease doesn’t go away. Your dog can be treated for active symptoms, but the disease remains in the body for the lifetime of the dog. It’s no different if you or I were infected.

1. Vaccinations Are No Guarantee Against Lyme Disease in Dogs

It’s still important to have your dog vaccinated, and here’s why:

  • Lyme Disease is a common tick-borne disease worldwide.
  • The most common clinical effect of Lyme disease in dogs is inflammation of the joints.
  • Dogs may also suffer from lack of appetite and depression.
  • In some cases, Lyme disease causes damage to the kidneys.
  • Rarely, the disease will progress to the heart and/or nervous system.

2. Not All Ticks Carry Lyme Disease

  • The ticks that carry Lyme disease are the ones that transmit the bacteria known as

    Borrelia burgdorferi.

  • This microorganism is from the Spirochete family and resembles spiral-shaped worms. The only ticks known to carry this bacterium are the Eastern Black-Legged Tick (some call them Deer ticks), and the Western Black-Legged Tick.

    3. Lyme Disease has a Complicated Relationship With Dogs

  • Lyme Disease in dogs is a complicated situation in which many variables can take place.
  • Veterinarians feel that treating a dog as close to the time of infection as possible reduces the antibodies faster.
  • Lyme Disease doesn’t really ever go away, even with repeated antibiotics.
  • As with people, antibiotics work best when administered less than 48 hours after the bite.
  • Dogs who test positive, but who show no symptoms, are still treated with antibiotics to reduce the antibodies and minimize long-term clinical complications.

4. It’s Rare for a Dog to Die From Lyme Disease

This one surprised me. I always thought the diagnosis of Lyme disease in dogs was a death sentence, but research shows that is not true.

The prognosis is compromised if the bacterium damage the kidneys.  Regardless, your dog is still left with a permanent, painful disease that requires care and the possibility of repeated doses of antibiotics as flare-ups occur.

I suspect most veterinarians would prefer not to extend antibiotic use for fear of antibiotic resistance and further weakening of the dog’s immune system.

5. I Don’t Want to Go Outside Anymore!

I’ve felt like that myself; however, there are lots of things you can do to prevent tick bites from happening.

  • I use a monthly oral medication for my dogs and it works extremely well. The medication is absorbed into the dog’s fatty tissue (especially around the upper body and neck where ticks are most likely to bite). It’s safe for the dogs but fatal for the ticks.
  • Don’t let your dog romp through tall grass and keep your lawn mowed as short as possible.
  • Remember to also treat any cats in your house with topical tick treatments. Outside cats are the worst offenders because they carry ticks into the home, then flick them off with their rough tongues.
  • Check your pets regularly for ticks by combing through the fur. Personally, I take my fingers and run them all around the dogs’ ears neck and back. I check their armpits, groin, and top of the head.

6. Ticks Are Gross And I Don’t Want to Pick Them Off of My Dog!

They are really disgusting creatures and I don’t blame you. But for the sake of your dog, you have to.

  • Use tweezers
  • Grasp the tick as close to the dog’s skin as possible
  • Pull up and at a slight angle
  • It’s thought that if you pinch the tick’s abdomen to pull it out, the tick will release more toxins into the dog’s body.

As YUCK as it is, this requires attention. You can’t close your eyes and give it a yank because you could leave the head of the tick embedded in your dog, leaving it open to infection.

7. Check Yourself For Ticks

It’s important to check your clothes and your skin as soon as you enter the house. I’ve had ticks on my ankles just from taking a walk down the street where long grass lines the ditch. Obviously, if you live in a city, this isn’t going to be the case (hopefully!).

  • AT THE DOOR: Remove your hat, jacket, and socks.  Pull your socks inside out and scan for anything crawling. Look on the top and insides of your cap/hat. Lift the tongue of your shoes and look inside and around the shoe opening for ticks.
  • IN THE BATHROOM: Strip down completely. Ticks like to make their way to where there is the most blood flow. Check the back of your knees, buttocks, back, armpits, neck and hair.  Also check behind your ears.

To sum it all up, it’s only the Eastern black-legged tick and the Western black-legged tick that carries the bacterium that causes Lyme Disease.

Remember: Lyme Disease is the most prevalent, but it’s not the only disease carried by ticks.

As mentioned above, clinical signs of Lyme disease in dogs includes painful joints, stiff back and/or gait, lack of appetite and depression.

Ticks need to be removed from your pet ASAP. Have your dog vaccinated and tested for Lyme disease, especially if you live in an area where the tick population is endemic.

And finally, the best place to get advice on the best preventative tick treatments for your dog is at the veterinarian’s office.

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