Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut elit tellus, luctus nec ullamcorper mattis, pulvinar dapibus leo.

Lyme Disease in Dogs: Symptoms and Treatment

Lyme disease is a prevalent tick-transmitted illness among dogs globally, yet only 5-10% of affected dogs exhibit symptoms, indicating that some may carry the disease without displaying signs. The transmission of Lyme disease has been documented in dogs across the United States and Europe, with the highest prevalence observed in the upper Midwestern states, the Atlantic seaboard, and the Pacific coastal states. Nonetheless, the disease is increasingly spreading and becoming more widespread throughout the United States. Here is essential information regarding the causes, prevention, symptoms to watch for, and available treatment options for Lyme disease in dogs.


Below are various symptoms and complications, both common and less common, associated with Lyme disease in dogs.

Most Common Symptoms

The primary symptoms of Lyme disease in dogs typically include:

  • Recurring lameness caused by joint inflammation
  • Fever
  • Overall sense of discomfort
  • Dogs affected by Lyme disease often experience intermittent lameness as a result of joint inflammation. This lameness may persist for 3-4 days before recurring days or weeks later, either in the same leg or in different ones, a condition known as “shifting-leg lameness.” Swelling, warmth, and pain may also be present in one or more joints.

Other Symptoms

Additionally, Lyme disease may manifest in dogs through the following symptoms:

  • Depressed mood
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Reduced appetite
  • Stiff gait accompanied by an arched back
  • Increased sensitivity to touch
  • Breathing difficulties

Kidney Damage Caused by Lyme Disease

Although rare, Lyme disease can lead to severe complications, including:

  • Kidney damage
  • Occasional occurrences of heart or nervous system disorders (though these are not extensively documented)
  • Lyme disease can sometimes result in glomerulonephritis, characterized by inflammation and dysfunction of the kidney’s glomeruli, which act as blood filters. As the disease progresses, dogs may develop symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, reduced appetite, weight loss, increased thirst and urination, and abnormal fluid retention, often presenting as swollen limbs, indicating kidney failure.

How Lyme Disease Is Transmitted

Lyme disease stems from the Borrelia burgdorferi species, a type of spirochete bacterium. This bacterium is transmitted by hard-shelled deer ticks (Ixodes spp.) through slow-feeding. Infection usually takes place after the tick carrying Borrelia has been attached to the dog for about 24 to 48 hours.


To diagnose Lyme disease in dogs, it’s crucial to provide your veterinarian with a comprehensive history of your dog’s health, which can offer insights into the affected organs. Typically, clinical diagnosis of Lyme disease involves a positive blood test for Lyme in conjunction with observable clinical signs associated with the illness. It’s noteworthy that tests may take 4-6 weeks to yield positive results following exposure. Hence, veterinarians employ a combination of diagnostic procedures, including:

  • Blood chemistry tests
  • Complete blood cell count
  • Urinalysis
  • Fecal examination

X-rays and specialized tests tailored to Lyme disease diagnosis (e.g., serology)

  • Additionally, fluid from affected joints might be extracted for further analysis.

Arthritis Caused by Lyme Disease

Arthritis can stem from various sources, and your veterinarian will concentrate on distinguishing arthritis triggered by Lyme disease from other inflammatory arthritic conditions like trauma and degenerative joint disease. Additionally, immune-mediated ailments will be evaluated as potential contributors to the symptoms. Your doctor will utilize X-rays of the affected joints to inspect the bones for any irregularities.


For dogs diagnosed with Lyme disease, outpatient treatment is standard unless their condition is unstable, such as severe kidney disease. Doxycycline is the primary antibiotic prescribed, although other antibiotics can also be effective. Treatment typically lasts a minimum of 4 weeks, with potential for longer courses in certain cases. Your veterinarian might also prescribe anti-inflammatories if your dog experiences significant discomfort. It’s important to note that antibiotic treatment may not always completely eradicate the Borrelia burgdorferi infection. Symptoms could temporarily improve only to recur later, with the risk of future kidney disease always present. Proper administration of antibiotics reduces the likelihood of chronic consequences. Improvement in acute joint inflammation caused by Borrelia should be noticeable within 3-5 days of antibiotic treatment. If there’s no improvement within this timeframe, your veterinarian will want to reassess your dog’s condition.


To prevent Lyme disease in dogs, try to avoid areas infested with ticks where the disease is prevalent. Check your dog’s fur and skin daily to detect and remove any ticks manually. The most reliable method for preventing Lyme disease and safeguarding pets from other tick-borne illnesses is by using flea and tick prevention measures. Your veterinarian can recommend various prescription options, including collars, topical solutions, and tablets or chews designed to kill and repel ticks. It’s crucial to use these products under veterinary supervision and follow the instructions on the label carefully. In regions with high tick populations, Lyme vaccines are available, although not all dogs may be suitable candidates for vaccination. Consult your veterinarian to determine if the Lyme vaccination is appropriate for your dog.

Scroll to Top