Symptoms and Treatment of Lyme Disease in Dogs

Leaf litter is a perfect hiding place for ticks.

If there's any chance your pet may have been exposed to ticks, then you should learn more about Lyme disease in dogs.

About Lyme Disease in Dogs

Lyme disease in dogs is a serious infection that is contracted through tick bites. Once a tick has penetrated the skin, a type of bacteria known as a spirochete has the opportunity to enter the bloodstream, causing the onset of the disease with symptoms very similar to those experienced with dog flu.

If left untreated, Lyme disease in dogs leads to heart and kidney problems, as well as other neurological disorders that resemble the symptoms of senility or dementia.

How to Recognize the Disease

You're ahead of the game if you already know your dog has been bitten by a tick, but it isn't always possible to know when your dog has been exposed.

Ticks typically attach themselves to your pet, fill up on blood, then drop off and sneak away to either complete the next stage of their growth cycle or begin breeding. That is why it's so important to check your dog for these parasites, especially if you and your pet have visited a park or other wooded areas.

Symptoms of Lyme disease in dogs may include:

  • Fever
  • Sudden lameness/soreness
  • Reluctance to take part in activities
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Swollen lymph glands
  • Less frequent urination
  • Dark gold/brown urine

Getting a Diagnosis

Getting a confirmed diagnosis of Lyme disease in dogs may take more than one try. The disease can be detected with a blood test: however, it takes time for the bacteria to build up sufficiently in the bloodstream to be detected, even after the onset of early symptoms. Therefore, if your pet tests negative but the symptoms of Lyme disease persist or increase, further testing is needed to confirm a diagnosis.

Treatment for Infected Dogs

Luckily, this disease is treatable with antibiotics such as penicillin, tetracycline, and erythromycin.

Treatment is far more effective in the early stages of the disease, and relief usually comes quickly. The further advanced the disease is before treatment, the more damage done to the dog's system, and although the pet may survive, it will likely have health complications the rest of its life.

An Ounce of Prevention...

Although there is no sure fire way to keep ticks away from your dog, there are a few things you can do to help protect him.

  • Avoid wooded areas, especially places known to carry a high tick population.
  • Have your dog vaccinated against Lyme disease.
  • Have your pet wear a flea and tick collar, or keep him on a topical preventative such as Frontline.
  • Check your dog for ticks periodically, and remove them as quickly as possible.


Lyme disease in dogs requires swift action to keep its painful, degenerative symptoms from progressing, but it is treatable. Be sure you know the symptoms of Lyme disease, so you can recognize them as soon as they begin to appear and seek immediate treatment. Checking your dog for ticks on a weekly basis, along with practicing other methods of tick control, including having your dog vaccinated for the disease, should also help keep your pet happy and healthy in the years to come.

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Symptoms and Treatment of Lyme Disease in Dogs