What You Should Know About Lyme Disease in Dogs

As many dog owners know, Lyme disease can be a very serious issue for both people and their canine companions. It is caused by the Lyme bacterium, which is transmitted to humans through infected ticks, and it can cause debilitating symptoms in dogs.

What is Lyme disease in dogs?

Lyme disease is an infectious illness. It affects dogs, other animals, and also humans. Lyme disease in dogs consists of many symptoms which can include loss of fur, arthritis (in the dog’s joints), fever, and swollen lymph nodes to name a few. Lyme disease should be diagnosed by your veterinarian as soon as possible after noticing these signs especially if it has come on suddenly with no apparent cause for this change within your pet’s health status.

Early treatment will help prevent further complications caused by Lyme disease such as kidney failure later on down the road so not acting quickly enough could potentially lead to more problems for your pet to deal with making things much harder than they have to be since once Lyme disease causes damage to your pet’s organs it is often very difficult to reverse the effects of Lyme disease on dogs.

Early diagnosis, proper treatment, and a good prognosis can make Lyme disease more manageable but this will depend upon how quickly you react to the Lyme disease symptoms in your dog since once Lyme disease has taken hold chances are that things may not always be reversible.

Signs of Lyme Disease in Dogs

In humans, Lyme disease is characterized by a bullseye rash. In dogs, no such sign is present when they have Lyme disease. Instead of the rash appearing in one specific area of the body, it appears to spread out from where Lyme Disease was contracted and can appear on any part of the dog’s skin or just beneath their hair. Another common symptom that may be noticed in some cases is swollen lymph nodes near where Lyme Disease has appeared since these areas will become infected as well due to exposure to ticks carrying Lyme bacteria in them. Since this infection spreads so quickly throughout a dog’s system with symptoms very similar to flu-like effects (muscle aches/pains; fever; lack of energy), many dog owners can become unsure of how to proceed.

Possible Other Symptoms:

  • Sudden weight loss
  • Swollen lymph nodes near where Lyme disease has begun to spread/appear throughout the dog’s system
  • Aches and pains
  • Fever
  • Loss of energy/lethargy 
  • Swollen lymph nodes near Lyme disease site

Lyme Disease is a very serious issue for dogs and humans alike so it should be taken seriously when dog owners notice any signs that could indicate Lyme disease has entered their dog’s system. There are several steps you can take if your vet confirms Lyme Disease has entered into your pet’s body including taking antibiotics, changing eating habits, etc.

Treatment for Lyme Disease in Dogs 

is not the same for every dog. It is important to understand how Lyme disease affects dogs, and begin treatment as soon as possible. Here are some of the most common treatments that veterinarians use:

  • Antibiotics 
  • Pain medication 
  • Anti-inflammatory medications 
  • Supplementation with Omega Fatty Acids (EFAs) such as fish oil or flaxseed oil can reduce inflammation around joints and improve organ health. EFAs may also help protect against Lyme arthritis in long-term cases of Lyme disease in dogs. Vegetarian sources include ground raw walnuts, canned pumpkin puree, soybean oil, tofu cubes, and cooked quinoa can be used by owners who want to avoid giving their dog fish oil supplements.
  • Changes to a dog’s diet can improve Lyme disease in dogs. Avoiding foods that are high in refined carbohydrates and low-quality proteins while also increasing vegetables, fruit, omega fatty acids, and amino acids will help reduce inflammation caused by Lyme disease in dogs 
  • In addition to Lyme arthritis, there is some evidence suggesting Lyme disease causes degenerative myelopathy (DM). DM affects older dogs causing loss of coordination or even paralysis which worsens over time. It has been observed that treatment for Lyme Disease with antibiotics may have positive effects on these symptoms as well as pain relief from Lyme disease arthritis.
  • Lyme Disease can be treated effectively if caught early enough before the bacteria spreads through the body causing more damage than not treating at all. If you suspect that your dog has Lyme Disease it’s important to take him or her to see a veterinarian right away as they will need antibiotics from an oral or injectable form directly into their muscle tissue. In some cases, intravenous injections of antibiotics may be needed depending on how quickly the diagnosis was made and the severity of the case.

Preventing Your Dog From Getting Lyme Disease

Your dog could be at risk of Lyme disease if they spend a lot of time in wooded areas, or places with tall grasses. Lyme Disease is spread by ticks and can cause many issues such as arthritis, heart failure, and neurological problems for your pup! There are some steps that you can take to prevent Lyme disease from spreading: 

  • Keep an eye out for ticks when your dog goes outside 
  • Check daily after walks/hikes in the woods 
  • Never let pets sleep in their owner’s bed (or on furniture) without washing it beforehand because this would make them more likely to get ticks near where you lay down 
  • Use tick repellent and follow all label instructions carefully! Make sure it is safe for your dog’s size and age 
  • Have a veterinarian check your pet every year (at least) to make sure they are staying Lyme disease-free!
  • Pick up after yourself when in the woods with your dog, this will prevent ticks from spreading by coming into contact with their droppings. 
  • If possible send an email or text to family members before heading out on walks/hikes so that people know where you’ll be. This can help if someone spots a tick attached to your pup later on – making it easier to get them removed quickly. 
  • Keep pets away from areas of tall grasses because these provide perfect hiding places for ticks! 
  • Keep grass trimmed in areas of tall grasses near where your pets play so that ticks are less likely to come into contact with them.
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Dr. Jacob Hawthorne, DVM

Dr. Jacob Hawthorne, DVM is a certified veterinarian who graduated from the University of California - Davis Veterinary School in 2012. He specializes in nutrition and veterinary medicine for companion animals such as dogs, cats, rabbits, and more. He has been featured in websites such as PetMD, Yahoo News, Hills Pet, Daily Paws, and more. Learn more about Dr. Jacob Hawthorne, DVM.

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