Lyme Disease and Your Dog

Lyme disease is probably the most common tick-borne diseases in the Northern Hemisphere.  You or your dog could be a victim to this dreadful disease.  It is caused by at least three species of spirochete bacteria belonging to the genus Borrelia.  This bacterium is carried by a tiny tick, commonly called the deer tick since deer are the most likely carriers.  Endemic regions in the United States are the Pacific and Atlantic Coast states and the Midwest.  Lyme Disease is also common in Europe and especially increasing in the UK.

Inflammation of joints or recurrent lameness is the dominant symptoms in dogs.  However Lyme disease can also affect the heart, kidneys or cause neurological disorders in your dog.  It is important to be aware of the wide variety of symptoms as well as the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of this debilitating disease in your pet.




Many dogs with Lyme disease present with recurrent lameness because of inflammation of their joints.  The effected joints in your dog may be tender to the touch.

Some dogs may develop inflammation in their kidneys which may even lead to total kidney failure.  Symptoms may include lack of appetite, weight loss, vomiting, diarrhea, increased urination and thirst and fluid buildup in the abdomen and legs of your dog.

Other symptoms of Lyme disease may include fever, difficulty breathing, or depression.


Blood and urine samples from your dog will be needed for determining if any organ systems have been affected.  Unfortunately, the specificity of the diagnostic test for the Lyme borrelia is not good.  Generally, the symptoms in your dog are frequently a better indicator or Lyme Disease than the blood test.


Antibiotics are the treatment of choice for Lyme disease in your dog.  Doxycycline is the most often used for at least three to four weeks.  However, your veterinarian should be knowledgeable about any current and updated treatments..  Unfortunately, symptoms to not always completely resolve in some dogs.  Even after the bacteria have been fully eradicated from your dog’s system, long-term joint pain may continue in your dog.


Keep your dog away from tick-infested areas such as woods or fields where the deer population may roam.  Groom you dog daily to check for ticks.  Run your hands carefully and slowly along their body, especially behind the ears and other skin folds and crevices.  Make sure you are in a well-lighted area.  You may need someone to hold and soothe your dog during your exam.  The deer tick is very tiny, often the size of a pencil point so you must be very diligent in checking your dog.  This is the best prevention for your dog carrying ticks into your home that could also infect you or your children with Lyme Disease.

If you find an attached tick, remove it very carefully with fine tweezers.  Grab the tick as closely to the dog’s skin as possible.  Pull it out slowly and gently.  Do not twist it or squeeze the body of the tick while still attached to your dog.  This could cause the tick to regurgitate the Borrelia bacteria that live in their gut back through your dog’s skin.  Do not apply Vaseline or alcohol or touch the tick with a burnt match as the same result may occur.

There are also protective sprays and collars that may help repel ticks.  There is also a vaccine currently available, but it is best to discuss this option with your veterinarian because he is most knowledgeable about the newest options for dogs.

As a pet owner, it is important to be aware of this disease and its ramification.  Prevention of Lyme disease is definitely the best course of action to ensure the health and well being of your dog.  Continue to walk your dog or allow him to roam, but make sure it is not in a tick-infested area.  And of course, continue to use your dog poop bag holder whenever you venture out with your dog.