Pet Health

Lyme Disease in Joliet

Written by Dr. Adam Abou-Youssef Apr 27 • 4 minute read

Is Lyme disease a concern in Joliet? You betcha.

Over the last seven years, we’ve seen cases skyrocket, nearly tripling. In 2019, Cook and Will counties reported over 3,000 cases of Lyme disease in dogs!

What is Lyme disease?

Lyme disease is the most common tick-borne disease in Illinois. It is a bacterial disease that affects pet’s immune systems and can be fatal without treatment. 

Pets with symptoms of Lyme disease can develop severe joint problems that show up as a limp, or even being unable to walk. Some pets develop rapidly progressive kidney disease that can be fatal within a few days.

How do dogs get Lyme disease?

Dogs are exposed to Lyme disease through tick bites—in fact, they are exposed to several bacterial diseases this way, but Lyme is the most common in our area.

Some dogs do show early signs of exposure (similar to people), with a transient fever and [more rarely] a bulls-eye ring on the skin. These signs are mild, so usually go unobserved. This allows Lyme disease to escape early detection and treatment, and develop into chronic Lyme disease.

Not all pets exposed to Lyme disease become ill. Some infections can be cleared by the body’s immune system. Unfortunately, this is not true of all cases, especially if pets are repeatedly exposed through tick bites. When the infection is not cleared, it has the potential to make pets dangerous ill.


How can I prevent Lyme in my dog?

Prevention is a three-step process, which lowers the risk to your dog by 99% (!!!):

1. Prevent bites

The last few years have yielded excellent tick prevention options. We now have access to medications that can safely prevent tick bites in pets year round, that are available in topical, oral, and collar forms.

Using a preventative year round is the best bet to minimize bites, as we now see ticks on dogs 12 months a year.

We’ll talk about your options during your dog’s annual exam, but please feel free to call if you need a recommendation now – keeping pets protected is our number one priority!

2. Remove ticks

No preventative is perfect, and if your pet is in areas with a high number of ticks, she is likely to have the occasional bite. Check your pet daily, especially when going into wooded or bushy areas and remove any ticks you find. Tick spoons are a great tool to have on hand for this purpose and make the task easy!

3. Vaccinate

Lyme disease is the only tick-borne disease we can vaccinate against. The vaccine isn’t perfect, but it does reduce the risk of infection significantly, and is very safe for dogs.

Even if your pet has already tested positive for Lyme disease, consider vaccination. Pets who contract Lyme disease repeatedly are MUCH more likely to become sick, and the vaccine is a powerful guard against this risk.

The vaccine is initially given as two doses, a few weeks apart from each other, then boostered once a year. Some pets are a little sore after the vaccine (though less severe than our own reaction to Tetanus boosters!), but otherwise handle it very well.


Can my dog be tested for Lyme disease?

We test canine patients once a year for tick-borne diseases. These screening tests check for the three most common infections, including Lyme disease, and are run on a small blood sample. If your pet has been exposed, we can run additional tests to check treatment is needed and if your pet is at risk of severe complications.

If your pet needs to be treated, we will monitor blood values to make sure treatment was successful and discuss how to prevent future infections.

If your dog has been bitten by a tick, let us know! Tests for lyme disease take a couple weeks to give reliable results, so we may recommend coming in a month after the bite to check for infection and avoid the risk of your pet getting sick later.



Lyme disease is a scary infection, but we have a whole chest of tools to fight it. If your pet needs preventative, vaccination, or you have questions -- let us know! We're here to help you decide what options are best to keep your dog safe and healthy.

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