Dogs Can Get Lyme Disease Too

Posted on: 2 June 2015


Ticks that become infected with a bacterium known as Borellia burgdorferi can transmit the bacteria to humans, cats, and dogs. Although Lyme disease is a common tick-transmitted disease, not all ticks carry the disease and some dogs are immune. But since there is no way to tell if a tick is infected or if your dog is at risk for the disease, it's important to learn the symptoms and how Lyme disease in canines is diagnosed and treated.

Worrisome Symptoms

Although symptoms of Lyme disease in dogs aren't always easy to recognize, take your dog to the veterinarian if you notice your pet:

  • Suddenly appears lame in one leg, or lameness shifts from one leg to another

  • Seems unwilling to move -- a sign of painful joints

  • Walks stiffly with back arched

  • Isn't eating

  • Appears weak and less active than usual

  • Is running a fever -- a hot, dry nose can be a sign

While symptoms don't appear immediately following a tick bite, once symptoms present, Lyme disease in dogs can lead to kidney disease and even renal failure if left untreated. In rare cases, some dogs suffer heart problems or experience seizures and other neurological problems.

A Difficult Diagnosis

A positive antibody test isn't always enough to diagnose the disease. Antibodies to Borellia burgdorferi can remain in your pet's blood long after exposure to the bacteria. Not all dogs infected with the bacteria get sick either.

In addition to the clinical signs of the disease, your dog's vet may order x-rays and diagnostic tests, including blood and urine tests, to rule out other conditions that have symptoms similar to those of Lyme disease. Your vet may also draw synovial fluid from inflamed joints or screen for kidney disease by checking for excess protein in your dog's urine.

Antibiotic Treatment

Veterinarians (such as those from All-Pets Hospital) treat dogs with Lyme disease with antibiotics. Doxycycline and amoxicillin are two antibiotics vets typically use to treat canine Lyme disease. Normally, dogs recover quickly if they are treated early; however, some dogs need a longer course of antibiotic drugs to relieve symptoms. Most dogs respond well to treatment, but sometimes symptoms reappear later and require another course of antibiotics.

What You Can Do

You can prevent your dog from getting Lyme or other diseases transmitted through tick bites by protecting your pet from ticks. Check your dog each day for ticks and remove any you find. Keep the grass and other vegetation in your lawn well trimmed, especially during tick season (spring through early autumn). Treat your lawn for ticks if you live in a wooded area or region of the US (northeastern states, Great Lakes area, and Pacific coastal states) where Lyme disease occurs more often, particularly if your dog loves to be in the outdoors.

Your dog's vet can prescribe a preventive topical spot-on treatment that repels and kills ticks. If you use a tick collar, follow the vet's instructions. The collar must be fitted tightly enough around your dog's neck to make contact with the skin.

You should not use tick collars on young puppies, aging dogs, or dogs that are pregnant, nursing, or taking certain medications. Watch your pet carefully, as tick collars contain pesticides that can cause skin irritation or other adverse reactions in dogs.