Lyme disease and dogs—something you need to consider if you live in or are traveling to parts of the country where deer ticks are found. But don’t worry. We have all the info you need to protect your dog!


How Dogs Catch Lyme Disease

Lyme disease is caused by a bacterium that is carried by deer ticks (also known as black-legged ticks). And deer ticks are tiny! On average, they are about 3 millimeters wide. Or about the size of a sesame seed. 

As you hike in the woods or high grass, these minuscule menaces hitch a ride on your dog. When they bite your pup to feed on his blood, the bacteria travels into your dog’s bloodstream. Once there, the bacteria travels throughout the body, where it can cause problems in specific organs or joints as well as general illness.

Your dog can carry the Lyme disease bacteria in her body from two to five months before showing any symptoms. And believe me, Lyme is one souvenir you don’t want to bring home from your vacation!

Buster Hiking Snow King in Jackson, WY

Symptoms Of Lyme Disease In Dogs

Many dogs never show symptoms after contracting the bacteria that causes Lyme disease. Others have swollen and painful joints, lameness, weakness, lethargy, loss of appetite, or fever.

Lyme disease can also cause kidney and heart problems, but this is rare. And severe symptoms tend to appear when the pet has had the disease for a long time. But, in the worst case, Lyme disease can be fatal.

Symptoms, if they do turn up, can appear suddenly. And it’s easy to attribute joint stiffness to arthritis, especially if you have an older dog.

But stiffness due to Lyme disease can move from one joint to another, which you wouldn’t see with arthritis. So if your dog is lame on the right side one day and on the left side the next and you’ve visited a place where Lyme disease is common, you’ll want your vet to run a blood test.

READ MORE ⇒ What To Do If Your Pet Gets Sick While Traveling


Where Is Lyme Disease Common?

Lyme disease is most commonly diagnosed in the Middle Atlantic, New England, and the Upper Midwest. But it also appears to be increasing in the Pacific Northwest.

READ MORE ⇒ 10 Best Dog Friendly Beaches In Michigan

Treatment For Dogs with Lyme Disease

The typical treatment for Lyme disease is a course of antibiotics. A common choice is doxycycline. Your vet might also recommend alternative therapies to help support your dog’s immune system.

Unfortunately, this parasite is very good at hiding in the body, so you can’t count on the dog being cured after treatment. The symptoms can show up again months or years later. So you’ll have to be aware of the possibility of flare ups.

Buster the German Shepherd Dog laying on the floor in the veterinary clinic

Can You Get Lyme Disease From Your Dog?

Lyme disease cannot be transmitted directly from your dog to you. However, if a tick bites your dog and then bites you, you can become infected.

Protecting Your Dog From Lyme Disease

When you’re traveling with your pets, it pays to do a little research on the types of parasites you might encounter and be prepared. 

Before You Go

Several vaccinations are available for canine Lyme disease, though all vaccines carry their own risks. Deciding whether or not to vaccinate your pet is definitely a conversation to have with your veterinarian.

There are also a number of flea and tick preventative on the market. Most that I have researched claim to kill ticks within 48 hours of it having come into contact with your treated pet. And, according to the American Lyme Disease Foundation, ticks begin transmitting the Lyme disease bacteria an average of 36 to 48 hours after attaching. So treating your pet with a flea and tick preventative could reduce their chances of infection, though it’s not a guarantee.

And, if your dog is sensitive to conventional flea and tick preventives, try a natural insect repellent

A Brown labrador running with a stick in its mouth in a grass field

Avoiding Ticks While You’re Out And About

While hiking, encourage your dog to stick to trails. Though they love exploring ungroomed areas, they are more likely to pick up ticks in high grass and brushy undergrowth.

A brown dog exploring in a large grassy field in Sheyenne National Grassland

As further protection, brush your dog after any outings where ticks could be present. Then follow up the next day with a thorough check for any little buggers you might have missed.

It is easier to find ticks on dogs with light fur and short coats. So spend extra time going over your pups with double coats or dark fur.

Lyme Disease and Dogs - check your pup carefully after hiking

If you find a tick that has attached to your dog, it’s important to remove it thoroughly. We’ve found the best method is to use a tick twister (Amazon affiliate link). You can even buy a tick remover (Amazon affiliate link) that you can carry on your key chain.

Lyme Disease and Dogs - remove ticks to keep them safe

Protecting Yourself From Ticks

While you’re watching out for your dog, don’t forget to keep yourself safe, too! Treat your clothing and hiking gear with products including 0.5% permethrin (Amazon affiliate link). And tuck your pants legs into your socks to prevent ticks from crawling under your clothing. 

The CDC also recommends using DEET, picaridin, IR3535, Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus (OLE), para-menthane-diol (PMD), or 2-undecanone to repel ticks.

And after your outings, don’t forget to check yourself for ticks as well. Especially the backs of your knees, in your hair, behind ears, and anywhere that provides a good hiding place for pesky ticks.

Man walking dog on a pet friendly trail in Jim Thorpe, PA

Don’t Let Lyme Disease Affect Your Dog

May is Lyme disease Awareness Month. As you prepare for summer adventures with your pup, be mindful of protecting your dog (and yourself) from Lyme disease. Don’t let one of these little pests ruin your fun!

Visit our Amazon store to learn about more products we rely on to make traveling with pets easier, safer, and more fun!

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Category: Travel Tips / Tagged with: Camping, Health and Safety, Hiking