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Dog Facts

Do dogs get Lyme disease?

tickThe answer is yes!

Lyme disease is a tick-borne bacterial disease that was first recognized inhumans in Lyme, Connecticut, in 1975 and in dogs in 1984.

The Lyme disease bacterium is transmitted to your dog by the tiny deer tick and probably, although less commonly, by other species of ticks, too. Deer ticks live on white-tailed deer and white-footed mice in the wild. They are very small — no larger than the head of a pin — making them hard to see, especially in a dog’s thick coat. A dog’s greatest chance of becoming infected is from May to September, when the ticks are most active, but transmission can also occur at other times.

Although many dogs get infected with the Lyme bacterium, only a few develop Lyme disease. Typical acute infection results in swollen joints, lameness, and muscle pain. However, the bacterium can also cause vague symptoms such as fever, loss of appetite, and lethargy, which can make infection difficult to diagnose in a timely fashion.

If your dog is suddenly lame without evidence of trauma; has a hot, swollen joint; or has a fever, especially if you know he was recently bitten by a tick, take him to the veterinarian.

If Lyme disease is undiagnosed or left untreated, permanent damage to the joints can occur, and the bacterium also can spread to the heart and kidneys. Infected dogs should be treated with appropriate antibiotics as soon as possible.

Examine your dog daily for ticks during the spring and summer months, and remove them gently. To remove a tick, use tweezers to grab the insect as close to your dog’s skin as possible, and pull straight out, without squeezing or twisting.