Lymes disease in dogs and people

Lyme Disease in Dogs and people can be difficult to spot. But left untreated can lead to long term health issues for your dog and your family

What is Lymes disease?

Lyme disease is an illness caused by bacteria which is transmitted through a bite from an infected tick such as the black-legged tick or a deer tick; this bite could be to a human, dog or another mammal. Deer ticks rife because of the growth of the deer population. 

Ticks and Lyme disease are present throughout the world which means that anyone can catch the condition. However, it is not contagious, so it won’t transmit through people and pets in the same home.

What are the symptoms of Lymes disease in humans?

Lyme disease will often have a misdiagnosis as flu. The early symptoms of the disease are extremely flu-like such as a headache, tiredness, muscle pain and fever.

As it progresses the headache may worsen and include neck stiffness, and the patient may have arthritis, loss of muscle tone, inflammation, numbness or tingling and heart palpitations. 

I have been treated for Lyme disease myself after being unknowingly bitten while dog walking. I completely failed to notice despite being fully informed or so I thought! The bulls eye rash photographed below did not come up for a week. In the meantime another rash appeared and my legs and ankles become very swollen.

One of the easiest ways to spot Lyme disease in humans is a rash that is circular in appearance can grow up to twelve inches however in 30% of cases the rash will not be present. If you see this rash then go to the GP as a matter of urgency. Your GP will take it very seriously and there is a set protocol for the treatment. 

You will probably be started on Doxcycline for three weeks. Take them!

You can read the NICE guidelines for the treatment of Lyme disease here.

Lyme Disease in humans may cause a rash.

What are the symptoms of Lymes disease in dogs?

Symptoms in dogs include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Depression and fatigue
  • Painful joints, reluctance to move or a stiff walking action
  • Swollen and warm joints

If the infection goes untreated, then it may result in heart disease, kidney disease and disorders in the central nervous system.

The symptoms can take weeks or even months to appear, so you need to stay vigilant if you spot any ticks on your chihuahua.

Do all ticks carry the disease?

Don’t assume your dog is going to be infected if you find a tick. Not all ticks have Lyme disease bacteria. Guidelines suggest that ticks will need to be attached for 24 hours to infect a person or other animal, your chances of catching Lyme disease also depend on the type of tick, and where you were when the bite occurred. You could also pick up a nasty bacterial infection that is not actually Lymes disease.

As it takes a long time for a tick to infect with the bacteria, the urgency is key in removing the tick quickly, so check yourself, family and pets after walks in the countryside.

Why should dog owners look out for ticks?

Ticks are notoriously difficult to spot, they may be as small as a grain of sand, and if your dog has a long coat, it will make it much harder to spot. Ticks are common in lawns, bushes and shrubbery, stone walls and long grass. Ticks like to live on deer and mice so if you have these local to your area or regularly walk through these areas then you may be at greater risk.

If you have an inquisitive dog that loves to roam around outside, then there is an increased risk of Lyme disease and other infections from ticks.

What should I do if I find a tick on my dog?

You may not notice them at first as they are small when not engorged. They look like large pips and you won’t see the head and legs as they will be buried into your dogs skin.

Tick on Minnies nost

The most urgent and important thing to do is remove the tick. Protect your hands by wearing gloves and capture the tick as close to the skin as possible with a tick twister.

Don’t use tweezers as this can crush the tick and push the bacteria into your dog. There are spays around that suggest they freeze the tick and make it drop off, but my research suggests that this can make the tick panic and again push all the bacteria into the dog.

The easy way to remove them is to use a tick twister. They are as cheap as chips and available on Amazon or any good pharmacy. You slide the fork part between your dogs skin and the body of the tick and twist. Of all the options I have used these are the best.

This is the tick that you can see on Minnie’s face.

Twist and pull the body of the tick away in a smooth motion, so you pick up all of the tick and throw the tick away. Avoid crushing the tick as this may release the bacteria. there are plenty of videos on YouTube that show you how to remove them.

Wash your hands and clean the bite site with an alcohol wipe then put some antibacterial cream on it. 

From then on, keep an eye on your dog for Lyme disease symptoms and if any are prevalent, visit your vet urgently.

An engorged tick looks like a small grape. Don’t squash it. Remove it whole with a tick twister.

What is the treatment for Lyme disease in dogs?

If they are showing signs of illness, dogs will be prescribed antibiotics to kill the bacteria and fight the infection;  this may take many weeks to eradicate the symptoms and disease entirely. Your vet will conduct blood and urine tests for analysis of the illness and the recovery.

If left untreated it can result in a gradual shut down of internal organs which will result in death, so if you see any inflammation or sign of infection after a tick bite, seek treatment for your chi as soon as possible.

Can I prevent tick bites?

Yes and no, there are various topical pesticides you can put on your dog to kill ticks, recently a new collar has been made available without prescription, but I have seen feedback showing nasty skin burns on dogs. I would never put one on any of my dogs.

We have started using this and spraying it on the dogs before we go out for a walk. I also now put this around my ankles as well. It’s neem oil based. The best thing to do is check your dogs carefully for ticks after each walk. I carry a ‘tick pack’ in the car that has everything I need to remove a tick and clean the wound.

click photo for link

Canine Babesiosis has now made an appearance in the UK and is transferred to your dog through tick bite. You can read more about canine babesiosis here

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