A bacterial infection spread by ticks, Lyme disease, also known as Borreliosis, can cause disabilities and serious illness if left untreated. While not all ticks carry Lyme disease, it is thought that a third of ticks in the UK carry some form of infectious disease that can affect dogs. Your dog is most at risk of Lyme disease between early spring and late autumn, as this is when ticks are most active, however, it can still be a threat well into winter. Ticks are mostly found in woodlands or areas with tall grass but can also appear in gardens and town parks. The Big Tick Project has an interactive map of the UK that enables you to see how prevalent cases of Lyme disease are in your area.
Lyme disease can affect both humans and dogs, but the symptoms do differ slightly. Humans are likely to suffer symptoms similar to the flu and will sometimes present a telltale rash where the tick bite occurred that has a red bull’s-eye ring around it. Lyme disease can be hard to diagnose in a dog as the effects can fluctuate in intensity for months after infection and may not appear immediately. Symptoms of Lyme disease in dogs include loss of appetite, fatigue, swollen joints, lameness and fever. Dogs are unlikely to get the red ‘bull’s-eye’ rash that is often an obvious indicator of Lyme disease in humans.
The best way to prevent your dog from getting Lyme disease is to use tick medication all year round. This is available in many forms, including collars and tablets. It’s also important that you check your pet regularly. It’s worth researching how to remove a tick properly and to carry a tick remover around with you. Some vets now offer an annual vaccine to help prevention. As always, if you are concerned about your dog’s health, consult your veterinarian.