Lyme Disease

Lyme disease is caused by a bacteria (Borrelia burgdorferi) transmitted through a tick bite, the majority being a very tiny tick commonly called the Deer Tick, or Black-legged Tick. Often, pet owners do not know this tick is present. Smaller than the head of a pin, these ticks are hard to see! They don’t glow in the dark. They don’t make the dog itch.

Clinical Signs

Clinical Signs of Lyme disease are usually delayed for several months but start to occur about 2 months after exposure and should show up by 5 to 6 months after a dog is bitten by a tick carrying the bacteria. The reported early signs of Lyme disease in dogs are loss of appetite, fever and lethargy. Lameness may occur at the same time or may occur later. In some dogs, enlargement of the lymph nodes occurs. In dogs, skin signs, heart disease, kidney problems and neurological signs are reported to be rare.

In people, lyme disease also causes headaches, skin sensitivity, sensitivity to light and depression. We could assume these symptoms may be present in a dog also. One 5 year old Rottweiler, Murphy, was diagnosed early because of a change in temperament. This normally happy, affectionate dog became grumpy and miserable and even started becoming aggressive. Instead of treating this as a behavioral problem, the owner immediately took Murphy to the vet for a thorough checkup. Lyme Disease was diagnosed and treatment started. The dog’s sweet personality returned within a few days.

If you notice unusual behavior or lameness in your dog, consult your veterinarian. A positive blood test can be diagnostic when appropriate symptoms are present. Fortunately, most dogs treated in the early stages of the disease will respond rapidly.


Prompt removal of ticks decreases the chances of getting Lyme disease. The proper and easiest method is to grasp the tick with fine tweezers, as near the skin as you can, and gently pull it straight out. Be careful not to squeeze the tick when removing it which could result in more bacteria being injected.

The tick does not borrow into or under the skin, but attaches itself with 2 pincher-like mouth parts. Do not try to remove the tick with your fingers or attempt to remove with lighted cigarettes, matches, nail polish, or Vaseline.

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