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All Dog

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The most common tick transmitted disease in the world is Lyme disease (Ticks). Common with many other diseases, it is a bacteria which the infected tick spreads through bite. For Dogs, it is the hard shelled, slow-feeding deer tick infected and carrying the Borrelia Burgdorferi bacteria which causes Lyme disease and must have been attached and feeding from the dog for 18 hours minimum.

Lyme disease has been recognised in Europe since the 19th century in Humans. To date, Borrelia Burgdorferi is divided into 15 genospecies.

In the USA, tissue samples taken from a white-footed mouse in Massachusetts from 1894 showed that the mouse was infected with Lyme disease following DNA testing

In Dogs, Lyme disease is caused by a spirochete (bacteria) species of the Borrelia burgdorferi group which is corkscrew-shaped. Among the spirochetes, it is most closely related to B. hermsii, causing tick-borne relapsing fever commonly found in the south-western parts of the USA.

In Europe, the UK has seen a rise in Lyme disease following the relaxation of European pet travel regulations. Family pets taken on holiday within Europe are no longer required to undergo tick-treatment before returning to the UK. In a recent survey, 54% of people were unaware that Lyme disease affected dogs as well as themselves. In the UK, there has been a common understanding of when outbreaks occur due to seasons, this however has changed with the arrival of ticks that do not have set breeding seasons but are able to breed all year. The worry is that a large amount of diseases are spread by ticks, removing one barrier has allowed for the influx of so many health risks to our pets that without attention, tick-spread disease may be at the starting post!



There are several forms of Lyme disease and the signs of Lyme disease will depend largely upon the breed of dog, as some breeds are more prone to show specific signs and suffer from different ailments as a result of the same tick bite. The symptoms of Lyme disease in humans differ from those in dogs, so a sign-watch cannot be made of compared, as well as the disease showing much later following an infected tick bite in dogs, commonly taking between 2 and 5 months for signs to show.

Common signs are; Sensitivity to touch, breathing difficulty, arched back and stiffness when walking, lack of appetite, fever, inflammation of the joints, loss of appetite. Rare symptoms are Nervous system effects and heart abnormalities including blocks whilst Kidney disease is more prevalent in Bernese Mountain dogs and both golden and Labrador retrievers.

The symptoms of Lyme disease may cause some dogs to suffer recurrent lameness due to joint inflammation. Some dogs may however suffer acute lameness which after 3-4 days seems to clear before recurring days or weeks later either in the same or different legs, This is commonly known as ‘shifting leg lameness’. Feeling the joints it can usually be found to be swollen and warm. This effect of Lyme disease can be treated effectively with antibiotics.

Some dogs will develop kidney problems which, if left undiagnosed and untreated, can lead to glomerulonephritis, which causes inflammation and dysfunction of the kidney's blood filter (glomeruli). This will result in total kidney failure and exhibit signs such as diarrhoea and vomiting, weight loss with complete lack of appetite, severe thirst and increased urination, fluid build-up in the abdomen and bodily tissues, especially the legs and under the skin.


There currently exists no single diagnostic test that will show Lyme disease as bo eing the cause of the dog’s illness. There may be many causes of lameness for example and other health issue signs.

The starting point for diagnosing Lyme disease will be a thorough check of your dog’s health history and travel movements. This will allow your veterinary to narrow down possible causes of the health issue. Just as with anyone showing signs of a fever, not mentioning to the doctor that you have just returned from a Malaria prone country can lead to your death as a great many serious illnesses show flu symptoms. A test will not show what the problem is unless the test is specifically looking for that type of problem. Therefore, it is up to the dog carer, owner, parent, to let the veterinary know exactly what the dog has been doing and where you have been travelling etc.

Once a veterinary has the history, they may diagnose the possibility of Lyme disease and run a complete blood profile, including a chemical blood profile, a complete blood count, and a urinalysis. These tests will be used to look for the presence of bacteria, parasites, and fungi in the bloodstream. Fluid from the affected joints may also be drawn for analysis. X-rays of the painful joints may also allow your doctor to examine the bones for damage or disorder. .

Oddly, Cats can develop Lyme disease, but even in areas considered endemic for Lyme disease they very rarely contract any signs of Lyme disease. Whilst horses have contracted Lyme disease without appearing to cause any significant problems.

If you know that your dog has been bitten by a tick, then the condition of the skin near the tick-bite site will be an important indicator, including whether the wound is still open, or whether fragments of a tick can be found in the wound.


The very good news is that Lyme disease treatment, once diagnosed, is very simple and straightforward. The dog will not usually need to held for treatment unless there are complications or kidney problems, hence the essential need to diagnoses ASAP and prevent Lyme disease from maturing and taking a greater hold. Antibiotic treatment commonly tetracycline or penicillin based from 14 to 30 days will be prescribed. Recent studies have shown that certain dogs will not be clear of the bacterial organism at 30 days and so will need to continue for longer and until clear.

It has also been found that some dogs may never completely be clear of Borrelia burgdorferi despite antibiotic treatment, however, they may never show any further signs of the disease.

Sometimes long-term joint pain may continue even once the bacteria has been fully eradicated from your dog's system, the disease having left its damage behind. 

It is important to recognise the severity of the disease and treat your recovering dog accordingly by keeping them warm and dry, and keeping total control of their movements and activity until there are clear signs of an improvement. You will need to almost pamper your dog, but being declared clear of the disease has to be seen as the ultimate goal which any caring owner will recognise.


Lyme disease can be prevented. In tick endemic zones, the use of vaccination and tick control programs are essential for maintained good health. Dogs that have been infected and treated to being now clear, can become infected again and must be protected.


Some veterinarians have criticized the ineffectiveness of Lyme vaccines and do not recommend their use, which can be rather confusing for an owner. However, whilst there have been some dogs that contracted Lyme disease even after being vaccinated against it, signs are that the vaccinated dogs are still less likely to contract Lyme disease than unvaccinated dogs.

Vaccinations can be started from the age of 12 weeks and it is recommended that two doses be given three weeks apart, followed by annual boosters. Due to the risks of over-vaccination, it is highly recommended that vaccination be given to dogs that are expected to be exposed in areas known to have Lyme disease as a problem.

When possible, find out if Lyme Borresliosis exists in your area. If you regularly go for days out in particular areas, check again if this particular tick is known to exist or indeed be prevalent. Do your homework for regularly visited areas, especially if you are going to let your dog run free or even if on the lead, moving through vegetation and nature.

Using insecticides on the dog that repel ticks is another method. In recent years the use of topical insecticides, often applied to the back or nape of the dog, will last an entire month for effective protection. Certain brands can only be used under a veterinarian’s supervision, however, whether you seek the advice of a paid-for veterinarian or one of the many charitable veterinarian organisations, you can find out which will be best for your dog and breed. Insecticides as repellents are an effective part of keeping your dog safe, but it does not exclude the need for physical examinations for ticks being present on your dogs.  

TICK CONTROL is probably the best way of preventing Lyme disease. It must not be forgotten that ticks carry a wide range of diseases, therefore checking your dog for ticks will help prevent more than solely Lyme disease.  For those that consider financial means as the main reasons for not visiting a veterinarian, checking your dog for ticks as a regular act, essentially after visiting the great outdoors, will save a great amount in funds and indeed in your dog suffering.

Tick-control cannot be underestimated as a preventative act against Lyme disease. PLUS.. you are also protecting yourself by keeping your home tick free.

In 2013, the UK launched its first Lyme disease vaccine, for which we have no details as yet.