Dogs Can Get Lyme Disease, Too

Dogs Can Get Lyme Disease, Too
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Key Takeaways

  • Dogs are vulnerable to Lyme disease, just like humans

  • Canine cases have been reported in 39 states

  • Antibiotics can clear the infection

MONDAY, April 29, 2024 (HealthDay News) -- People worry about contracting Lyme disease from ticks, but they should be concerned for their furry friends as well, veterinarians say.

Dogs throughout the United States are increasingly vulnerable to the tick-borne illness, say experts from the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine at Virginia Tech.

Lyme disease was traditionally thought to be limited mostly to the northeastern United States, but positive cases of canine Lyme disease have now been reported in 39 states, vets report.

Dogs tend to be bitten by infected ticks in the early spring and late fall when adult ticks are most active, but animals and humans can contract Lyme disease any time of year, experts say.

Black-legged ticks, also known as deer ticks, are the most common carriers of Lyme disease, said Jenny Marin, a clinical assistant professor at the Veterinary Teaching Hospital at Virginia Tech.

“They are small -- about the size of a poppy seed -- and thrive in tall grasses and wooded areas,” Marin said in a university news release.

Symptoms of Lyme disease in dogs can include fever, painful or swollen joints, swollen lymph nodes, lethargy, loss of appetite and increased thirst and urination.

If left untreated, the disease can damage a dog’s kidneys, nervous system and heart, and cause chronic joint pain, vets warn.

Kidney damage from Lyme disease is typically fatal, and nervous system damage can cause seizure disorders.

Dogs produce antibodies for four to six weeks after infection, and tests looking for these antibodies help diagnose Lyme disease.

Lyme disease is treated with antibiotics, with a month-long regimen typically doing the job, vets said.

“While antibiotics are effective in most cases, it's critical to complete the entire course of treatment, even if symptoms improve, to prevent the recurrence of the disease and reduce the risk of complications,” Marin said. “Most symptoms clear up quickly with antibiotic treatment.”

Still, the best treatment is prevention. Vaccines are available against Lyme disease, as well as other products that can ward off ticks, vets say.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about Lyme disease.

SOURCE: Virginia Tech, news release, April 24, 2024

What This Means For You

Dog owners should have their pets vaccinated against Lyme disease, particularly if they live in an area with heavy tick exposure.

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