What Is Lyme Disease In Dogs?

Springtime is almost upon us which means Lyme disease in dogs is starting to rear its ugly head.

Lyme disease is one of the most tick infested diseases, and an infection caused by the Borrelia burgdorferi bacterium carried by them. Whilst it's not fatal, it's important to address as quickly as possible by scheduling a visit to your local veterinarian who may prescribe a course of antibiotics.

For some reason, young dogs appear to be more susceptible to Lyme disease rather than older dogs.

So let's look at the symptoms of Lyme disease, and what we can do to prevent this nasty disease.

Lyme Disease - The Symptoms

Once a tick problem becomes more than just a skin irritation and turns into Lyme disease, symptoms of this illness are not always evident (only 5 - 10% of affected dogs show any symptoms), but they can include the following:

  • Fever and lack of appetite
  • Listlessness & depression
  • Lameness along with pain
  • Swelling in one or more joints
  • Skin inflammation around the tick bite may be visible

Types Of Ticks

Lets have a look at the different types of ticks...

Deer Tick

The small deer tick, is often called the black-legged tick. It may be small, but this tick can transmit Lyme disease and anaplasmosis. The deer tick is commonly found in the northeastern, mid-Atlantic and upper midwestern regions of the United States.


Western Black-Legged Tick

The western black-legged tick is found throughout California, and in other western states along the coast and inland, as well as in Canada. It's the principle cause of Lyme disease in these regions.


American Dog Tick

The American dog tick is common in most states east of the Rocky Mountains. It is also found in California, Idaho and Washington, as well as Canada. It transmits the severe illness, Rocky Mountain spotted fever.


Brown Dog Tick

This tick is found throughout the United States and Canada, and is unusual because it can complete it's entire life-cycle in your home! Often a dog which has been away from home returns with a few ticks, which multiply rapidly, causing an infestation. A fully blood-fed female brown dog tick can lay up to 5,000 eggs!


Lone Star Tick

The Lone Star tick is widely distributed across the eastern, southeastern and midwestern U.S.A. It gets its name from the small white “star” that is visible on the backs of females. Lone star ticks are three-host ticks, feeding on different hosts during the larval, nymphal, and adult stages.


Gulf Coast Tick

The Gulf Coast (named because they were found only in the southeastern states) has spread, via infested cattle to Kansas and Oklahoma. They've even been found in Delaware and Maryland. They feed on a variety of birds and mammals, and will readily bite humans. They are known to transmit several diseases.

Types of Ticks Source: Black-legged tick (Ixodes scapularis), lone star tick (Amblyomma americanum) and brown dog tick (Rhipicephalus sanguineus) images supplied by the Armed Forces Pest Management Board. afpmb.org. Photographer: James L. Occi.

Gulf Coast tick (Amblyomma maculatum) photograph courtesy of James Gathany, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Where Do Dog Ticks Come From?

As mentioned earlier, dog ticks are responsible for spreading Lyme disease, these creepy little critters get under the skin, sucking up as much blood as they can whilst causing much irritation and illness to their intended victim.

Ticks spend most of their lives with their mouths buried inside a mammal’s flesh, feeding on their blood.  Although ticks are very small, they expand to about 50 times their normal size after they have finished feeding.

The Danger Of Ticks

Ticks are dangerous parasites, they are flat insects that are more or less the size of a small kernel of corn.  Although they are small at first, ticks actually expand to many times their normal size right after a good meal.

Dog ticks can live from anywhere between ten and twenty three weeks, depending on their ability to find a victim on which they would prey on.

With enough warm climates, ticks can breed at any time, all year round in fact. In addition to causing skin irritation and itching, ticks can do severe damage to a dog.

To prevent tick exposure, use a flea and tick spray that is recommended by your vet before taking your dog into an area containing thick vegetation.  Also keep your grass and plants well trimmed, this decreases the amount of ticks you and your dog may run into.

6 Helpful Suggestions To Help Keep Ticks At Bay

Fortunately, there are several ways to keep ticks from feeding on your furry friend, below are six helpful suggestions to keep ticks at bay:

1.  Before they get into their victims, ticks like to stay several feet off the ground on top of vegetation along roadsides and paths.  They patiently remain there waiting for your dog to come along.  In order to give the ticks fewer chances to hop and attach themselves to your dog, always keep your grass trimmed to a short height.

2.  When hiking with your dog, stay on the trails and make sure that your dog remains with you.  Avoid wooded areas and long grasses where ticks are waiting.

3.  Before going to an area where ticks are standing by, protect your dog’s coat by spraying it with insecticides that can kill ticks on contact.  Consult with your vet before you administer the insecticide.

4.  If you happen to see ticks, lightly spray your dog with a tick insecticide and then comb his coat using a fine-toothed comb.  There are some pet stores that sell combs which are used specifically for ticks, they are also great for catching fleas.

5.  Sometimes you can actually see the tick while it’s feeding on your dog.  In this case, quickly remove the tick.  The longer for the tick to feed on your dog, the more likely it will transmit Lyme disease and other types of illness.

6. The most effective way of removing a tick is by aiming for the tick’s head using a pair of tweezers, whilst gently pulling it out.  This way, the tick comes out in one piece and leaves no mess on your pet.

In Summary...

It's important to keep your furry friend tick free to avoid Lyme Disease, where possible try to avoid your dog roaming in areas infested by ticks where Lyme disease is common.

Check your dog for ticks regularly, once a day preferably, and remove by hand if necessary. If you think your dog may have Lyme disease schedule a visit with your local veterinarian.

Remember, prevention is better than cure, so keep your furry friend happy and healthy by checking him regularly.