Can Dogs Get Lyme Disease?

The quick answer is yes, they most certainly can.  The Lyme Disease is caused when a tick bites a host and transfers the bacteria borrelia burgdoferi.  Don’t worry, I can’t pronounce it either, that’s why we all call it Lyme Disease instead.  Lyme Disease is actually one of the most commonly transferred diseases by ticks in the entire world.  There are many different types of ticks, and most of the ones found particularly in North America are very likely to be hosts of the disease.  Lyme Disease is not the only one they carry, though, there are many others such as Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and canine ehrlichiosis.

The whole process starts when a tick feeds on an infected animal such as a rat or other small game then carries it as a host to the next animal it feeds on that can be infected (such as a human or dog).  Although not all ticks carry disease, you should assume that they do.  Your dog is at most risk if you are located in an area with high cases of Lyme Disease .  Here is a map from the CDC:


Most dogs are pretty good at defeating the bacteria that cause the disease, but about 1 of 10 dogs can develop Lyme based on a number of conditions at the time of infection.  Of  course, you should always check your dog if they are playing around in an area known to have ticks because catching them early on will greatly reduce the chances of your dog developing an infection from a tick bite.  And likewise, the more your dog is bitten by ticks, the more at risk they will be.  Usually, if you can catch the tick within the first 24 hours your dog will be okay and not develop Lyme Disease. It becomes much tougher to treat the disease the longer it is allowed to develop.  Unfortunately, many dogs will not show very obvious symptoms if they develop Lyme Disease, the telltale bullet ring rash on humans will, of course, be of no help with dogs.  Dogs may show sudden joint pain or a lame leg that lasts, a lack of appetite, general depression or laziness, or have a fever.  A dog’s joints are likely to become swollen and inflamed if they develop a serious case of Lyme Disease.

To avoid ticks, it is generally advisable to avoid areas they inhabit.  Ticks can usually be found in tall grass, wooded areas, or bushy areas.  They love to live in dead or rotting wood or vegetation, especially near a house.  Make sure you check your dog over any time you take them out and about in an area where there may also be ticks.  If your dog is frequently itching an area, make sure you check it!