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Lyme Disease in Dogs

Springtime is right around the corner, and that means that tick season will be in high peak. Ticks can cause a variety of illnesses for your dog, and they can be difficult to find and remove. One of the most dangerous illnesses ticks can carry is called Lyme disease. Lyme disease in dogs is caused by a bacterium called Borrelia burgdoferi. When certain types of ticks bite your dog, this bacterium is passed through to the bloodstream from their saliva. The most common type of tick known to carry the Lyme disease causing bacteria is called the deer tick, which are very common in North America.

Deer ticks are much smaller than regular ticks, about the size of a sesame seed. If these ticks attach themselves to your dog for more than two days, Lyme disease may be contracted. The longer the tick is attached to your dog, the higher chance he has of contracting Lyme disease. There are a few different ways your dog may contract canine Lyme disease.

How did my dog get Lyme disease?

Because these ticks are so small, they often go unnoticed. It is important to understand where your dog may contract ticks from in order to inspect him and reduce the risk of Lyme disease. Deer ticks can be found any time of the year, but are most common in the spring and summer months, from about April to September. They thrive in dry and moist areas and prefer tall grass or large piles of wood.

If your dog has recently been walking through woodsy areas or playing in a field, he could potentially contract ticks. Once the tick attaches itself to your dog, Lyme disease can spread. Although not all ticks carry the Lyme disease bacteria, they may cause other illnesses such as anemia as well.

Certain breeds that contract Lyme disease develop severe reactions which are often fatal. These breeds include Shetland Sheepdogs, Labrador Retrievers and Golden Retrievers. Puppies are also much more at risk because they have weaker immune systems that cannot fight off infection as easily as a full grown dog. To prevent Lyme disease in puppies, be sure to have them vaccinated at 4 weeks of age.

Preventing Lyme disease in dogs

Although ticks may not always be prevented, there are some ways you can help reduce the risk of ticks that may carry Lyme disease bacteria.

  • Have your dog vaccinated if your area is prone to ticks. This should be done when he is a puppy. Talk to your vet for more information when you are considering vaccinations.
  • If you walk in the woods, stick to trails or cleared areas. Avoid letting your dog play in the dense, grassy areas.
  • Keep your lawn tidy. Mow your lawn regularly, pluck weeds, and keep grass and wood piles out of your yard.
  • Clear your yard of any dead vegetation or shrubbery.
  • You can use sprays to clear your trees, bushes and yard from ticks. These can be done professionally, or purchased at your local hardware store. Be sure to keep your dog out of this area while you are spraying.
  • Keep your garbage’s tightly closed and clear any dead animals that may be around. These two factors may encourage wild animals to enter your yard and spread ticks to your dog.
  • If you have recently taken your dog outdoors in grassy or woodsy areas, be sure to do a check of his fur when you get home. This is especially important in the Spring and Summer months.
  • Remember that ticks, especially deer ticks, are very small and can easily be missed. They may resemble freckles or dirt, so check them out even if you are unsure.
  • If your dog has a tick, remove it right away and clean the area. Keep an eye out for symptoms within the next few days. If your dog displays symptoms, take him to the veterinarian immediately.

For more information about ticks on dogs, Lyme disease in dogs, symptoms and treatment options, visit

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