Can my Pet Get Lyme Disease from Ticks?

April 8th 2019

What is Lyme disease?

Lyme disease is an inflammatory disease spread by ticks infected with the Borrelia Burgdorferi bacteria and is most commonly carried by Ixodes ticks, also known as blacklegged or deer ticks.

Deer ticks have brown and black bodies. However, when they are engorged they appear grey. Adults have 8 legs and baby ticks have six legs. They vary
between one to 20 mm in length.


How do pets get Lyme disease?

Pets can contract Lyme disease though a bite by a tick infected with the Borrelia bacteria.
Ticks are commonly found in low, moist areas, such as grassy areas or low-lying brush. They typically crawl onto your pet from the ground and attach themselves to your pet’s skin.

Your pet may have a tick

Check your pet routinely for ticks, especially if it has been in an area where ticks are commonly found.

Tick season is usually between May and October as a rule. However, ticks do become active as soon as the temperature rises above freezing.

The best way to discover a tick on your pet is by petting it and touching all over his or her body. Area’s mostly affected are near the ears, feet, legs and belly.

When found, remove it carefully with tweezers and submit the tick to your vet who then can have the tick checked for Borrelia.

Prevention is best 

There are a number of effective preventative products on the market that will prevent a tick from attaching itself to your pet. Check with your veterinarian as to which product will suit your pet the best. Preventatives against ticks are generally recommended during the active life cycle of the tick.

How do I know if my pet has Lyme disease? 

Not all ticks carry Lyme disease and not all ticks are readily found on a pet. So the potential is there for the disease to present itself without the owner being aware that their pet may have Lyme disease. To make matters worse the symptoms of Lyme disease are quite non-specific and a diagnosis of Lyme disease is not an easy task.

Your vet can perform a blood test looking for antibodies against Lyme disease.

What are the symptoms of Lyme disease?

Symptoms may not occur until months after a tick bite, which makes the diagnosis of Lyme disease very difficult.
Symptoms to be on lookout for are:
  • Fever.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Reduced energy.
  • Lameness (can be shifting, intermittent, and recurring)
  • Generalized stiffness, discomfort, or pain.
  • Swelling of joints.
  • Sometimes severe life threatening kidney disease

Do ticks carry Lyme disease in Alberta? 

  • In 2017 the Alberta Agriculture and Forestry’s Surveillance of Ticks on Companion Animals program received 1,942 ticks from 1,356 host companion animals

  •  Almost 80% of ticks submitted between April and July. The majority of the ticks (89 percent) were found on dogs and the remainder were found on cats, cows, horses rabbits, etc...

  • 413 host animals had associated travel outside of Alberta in the two weeks prior to the submission

  • Of the 288 ticks identified as possible carriers of B. Burgdorferi, 50 tested positive for presence of the bacteria*

According to the Canadian Lyme Disease Foundation, Lyme disease is most prevalent in eastern Canada and Manitoba, but infected ticks have been found across Canada
* Source: Alberta Government 
To view all of Alberta Agriculture and Forestry’s reports of Ticks on Companion Animals click here.

How to check your pet for ticks 

Check your pet’s skin for any ticks by brushing your hands through their fur. Look in their ears, under their armpits, between their toes and around their head.

What do I do if I find a tick on my pet?

Remove the tick using fine end tweezers or a tick removal hook.
The Canadian Lyme Disease Foundation sells a tick removal kit for pets for $18 online.
Never use your fingers to remove a tick. You can squeeze them too hard, breaking off the body and leaving the head behind, attached to your pet’s body. You also should not handle ticks with uncovered hands
Use warm water to clean the bite site. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap after removing the tick.
When the tick is removed, put it in a bag or container and see your veterinarian. If you do not feel confident removing the tick, you can have your veterinarian remove it.
Your pet should also be examined for signs of illness.

Your veterinarian can send the tick in for testing for Borrelia Burgdorferi, the bacteria that causes Lyme disease.
  • Try to burn the tick while it is attached to your pet’s skin
  • Try to suffocate the tick with vaseline or oil
  • Try to pull the tick off with your fingers

What is the treatment for Lyme disease in pets? 

If your dog is symptomatic your vet will likely treat a confirmed case of Lyme disease with an appropriate antibiotic for an average period of 30 days.

How can I prevent ticks from getting on my pet? 

There are a number of natural repellant on the Internet for tick prevention. There are also a variety of effective chemical repellants you can use.
Ask your vet about how the best way to keep ticks off your pet.
If you have tick-related questions, if you find a tick on your pet or if you are concerned your pet is showing symptoms as a result of a tick bite call us at (403) 615-8016.

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