Dog Tick Lyme Disease Symptoms

A dog tick is a parasite which attaches to your dog's body, especially in areas with little or no hair, such as the ears or between the toes or skin folds. They attach to their hosts with their mouths and start feeding on their blood, releasing toxins into the host's bloodstream. Although there are a number of harmless ticks, most of them transmit diseases or cause severe health conditions by releasing neurotoxins (tick paralysis). Lyme disease is a serious condition in dogs which could even lead to neurological disorders or chronic arthritis. Therefore, when the first signs appear, you should consult your veterinarian.

What Causes Lyme Disease

Lyme disease is caused by a bacterium called Borrelia burgdorferi, which is transmitted through tick bites. The life of a tick consists of 4 stages: egg, larval stage, nymph stage and the adult tick. Regardless of the stage, the ticks attach to mammals and feed on blood.

It is believed that the tick transmits Lyme disease during the nymph stage, and that the main source for the bacteria causing Lyme disease is the white-footed mouse. The tick has to be attached to the dog for about 1 or 2 days in order to transmit the disease.

Dog Tick Lyme Disease Symptoms

Lyme disease symptoms usually appear long after the tick bite. The tick might be gone before you see any unusual behavior in your dog. Dogs that have been infested with the Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria usually display the following symptoms:

  • High fever
  • Lameness and fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Inflammation of the joints
  • Lethargy
  • Inflamed lymph nodes

Since symptoms occur later, when the tick might be gone and there might be no visible signs of the bite, it is crucial that you take your pet to the veterinarian for a correct diagnosis, as early as the first symptoms appear.

If Lyme disease is left untreated, it can cause severe or even fatal health conditions such as neurologic diseases, heart conditions, chronic arthritis or kidney failure.

Treatment of Lyme Disease

The treatment of Lyme disease consists of antibiotics: tetracycline, penicillin-derived antibiotics. Doxycycline and amoxicillin are the most commonly prescribed, but other similar antibiotics that your veterinarian might prescribe could also cure the disease. Usually treatment has to be administered for 14 to 30 days. Sometimes, even after a period of 30 days, the body might still have the bacteria and could relapse once the treatment is stopped. In these cases, the treatment should be continued for a longer period. It appears that there are dogs that don't completely get rid of the bacteria, even if they no longer exhibit signs of Lyme disease. If your dog has joint pain, adjacent pain killers can also be administered. 

Prevention of Lyme Disease

There are several ways to prevent the Lyme disease in your dog:

  • Vaccinate your dog against Lyme disease
  • Check your dog for ticks and remove them
  • Use tick repellent products