Canine Lyme Disease – Symptoms and Prevention


One of the most common diseases transmitted by ticks is Lyme disease. While humans are more likely to show symptoms than dogs are, it can still be quite debilitating to any dog that gets it. Here are some important facts about Lyme disease, how to know if your dog has it, and what to do to prevent it.

The Basics

Lyme disease (or Lyme borreliosis) occurs throughout the United States and part of Europe, but is most common in the upper Midwestern states, the Northeast, Middle Atlantic states, and Pacific coastal states. It’s mostly spread by infected deer ticks, though other ticks may also carry it.

While tick season lasts from spring through early fall, it can take up to five months after infection before symptoms appear. The ticks start small, but once one attaches, it will feed on your dog and grow in size. Ticks must feed for anywhere from 12 to 48 hours before transmitting the disease, but can stay attached for up to a week.

Lyme Disease Symptoms

The most common sign of Lyme disease in dogs is lameness, due to swollen, painful joints. The lameness might come and go, and might not always be in the same leg–this is called “shifting-leg lameness.”

Other symptoms include:

  • Stiff walk, with an arched back
  • Fever
  • Decreased appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Sensitive to touching
  • Swollen lymph nodes

Canine Lyme disease can lead to kidney disease and kidney failure, which have even more severe symptoms, and are not always treatable. If you think your dog might have Lyme disease, contact your veterinarian immediately. The sooner your dog begins treatment, the better the chance of recovery.

Methods of Prevention

Unless your dog never, ever goes outside, there is always a chance for infection. Dogs that are outdoors for long periods, particularly in woods, bush, or tall grass, will be more likely to be bitten.

Here are some ways to prevent your dog from infection:

  • Check your dog regularly for ticks, and remove any you find. They must be removed completely, including the head. (If possible, save the removed tick so it can be tested for the disease.)
  • Treat your yard. Cut tall grass, remove all weeds, trim bushes and shrubs, and rake away leaf litter.
  • Have your dog wear a flea/tick collar, or use spot-on treatment.
  • Talk with your veterinarian about the prevalence of tick-borne diseases in your area, and about any recommended preventative medication.

Treatment is going to be much more complicated and arduous than any preventive measures. Hopefully, you’ll be able to notice the signs before your dog gets really sick. Good luck, and stay healthy!

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  • Published:
  • Updated: 10/9/2018: 8:25:52 PM ET