How To Tell if Your Dog Has Lyme Disease From a Tick Bite

vet checking big white dog for lyme disease

Poor pupper has a bug bite. Here’s how to tell if it’s serious.

Editor’s note: We’re beyond paw-roud to offer this post as part of our partnership with Animal Humane Society (AHS). You may know ’em for their outstanding adoption offerings, but we’ve been blown away as we’ve learned about the additional services they offer to our community.

You and Fido just went for a hike in the great outdoors. Now you’re back and he has some sort of bite, but your not sure if it’s a tick bite.  We asked the veterinarians at Animal Humane Society (AHS) for advice.

Deer Tick Bite or Black Fly Bite?

how to tell if your dog has Lyme disease
Black fly bites. (Photo courtesy of Animal Humane Society)

If it’s a black fly bite, the mark will be a flat red circle about the size of a nickel. They are most commonly found on areas with less fur such as a dog’s underbelly, groin, and ears, particularly if they have ears that stand up. Black fly bites can be itchy and painful, but go away within a few days.

Deer tick bites look similar to black fly bites because dogs don’t get the tick bite bullseye like humans do. If a tick is still attached to your dog, you should remove it immediately. Use a tweezers or tick removal tool to grip the tick by the head as close to the skin as possible, then pull it out slowly without squishing it. Place it in rubbing alcohol to kill it.

Tick Bite Symptoms in Dogs

The two can appear mighty similar, so your best diagnosing tool is any accompanying symptoms. The sooner a tick is removed, the lower the chance of disease transmission is. The most common diseases caused by tick bites are Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and tick paralysis. Watch out for these symptoms, and contact a vet immediately if they appear:

  • A stiff walk with an arched back
  • Sensitivity to touch
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Fever, lack of appetite, and depression
  • Swollen lymph nodes close to the bite
  • Heart abnormalities
  • Joint swelling

How To Tell if Your Dog has Lyme Disease

Deer tick bites can turn into Lyme disease, a serious condition that induces kidney failure if left untreated, so it’s important to monitor your pup to see if he exhibits symptoms of the disease.

When dogs get Lyme disease, AHS vets say, it typically starts with fever, lethargy, and/or a sudden lameness in their legs. It’s tricky because these symptoms can come and go, sometimes lasting for a day or two and then reappearing a week later in the same limb or a different one. When this happens, it can make a pup’s joints swollen, warm, or painful.

If not caught and treated in time, kidney failure can set in, especially as the dog begins to show signs of vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss, and increased urination and thirst.

If you see your pup exhibit any of these symptoms, make a beeline for the vet to make sure he gets the treatment he needs.

Prevent Tick Bites 

Ticks can persist year-round, and the best protection is prevention. Keep your pup healthy with year-round flea and tick preventatives, consider a tick-repelling spray or collar, and check him regularly for ticks, especially after outdoor adventuring. Good human.

Featured photo: Anton Atanasov

animal humane society logoThis article was brought to you by the dog lovers at Animal Humane Society. Through low-cost spay and neuter services, wellness exams, training, expert advice and more, AHS is committed to helping pets and their families thrive together. Learn more and donate today.

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