Scary facts about Lyme disease in dogs

Lyme disease is a scary thought for people, with approximately 30,000 cases of the illness being reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) every year. But are you aware that Lyme disease can also affect dogs? Like in humans, it is transmitted by a bacterium spread through the bite of an infected tick. Here are some other disturbing facts you may not have known about Lyme disease in dogs


  • Tick nymphs very small

A tick nymph is smaller than the period at the end of this sentence – less than 2mm in length.


  • Lyme disease is transmitted quickly

It only takes 36-48 hours for an infected tick to be attached before Lyme disease can be transmitted.


  • Lyme disease is everywhere

Positive cases of Lyme disease in dogs have been reported in all 50 U.S. states and is found on every continent except Antarctica.


  • Many deer ticks are infected with Lyme disease

As many as 50% of adult female deer ticks (Ixodes scapularis) are infected with the bacterium which causes Lyme disease in dogs (and humans).


  • Deer ticks can survive in cold temperatures

Adult deer ticks have been known to survive temperatures freezing (32 °F).


  • Lyme disease can be fatal

Although it does not occur commonly in dogs, Lyme disease can cause kidney failure and death in severe cases. The most common sign of Lyme disease in dogs is arthritis, which causes sudden lameness, pain and sometimes swelling in one or more joints.

Protect Your Pet

Discuss with your veterinarian what are the best ways to protect your dog from Lyme disease, especially if you live in an area where it is endemic. There are several options that can fit your personal preferences and your pet’s lifestyle, including tick preventatives.


Symptoms of Lyme Disease in Dogs

Many dogs who develop Lyme disease have recurrent lameness due to inflammation of the joints. Sometimes the lameness lasts for only three to four days but recurs days to weeks later, either in the same leg or in other legs. This is known as “shifting-leg lameness.” One or more joints may be swollen, warm, and painful.

Some dogs may also develop kidney problems. Lyme disease sometimes leads to glomerulonephritis – inflammation and accompanying dysfunction of the kidney’s glomeruli (essentially, a blood filter). Eventually, kidney failure may set in as the dog begins to exhibit such signs as vomiting, diarrhea, lack of appetite, weight loss, increased urination and thirst, and abnormal fluid buildups.

Other symptoms associated with Lyme disease in dogs include:

  • Stiff walk with an arched back
  • Sensitivity to touch
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Fever, lack of appetite, and depression
  • Superficial lymph nodes close to the site of the infecting tick bite may be swollen
  • Heart abnormalities are reported, but rare
  • Nervous system complications (rare)

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