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Lyme disease is a tick-borne disease seen in dogs across the US. Although Lyme disease in people often leads to chronic symptoms such as joint pain, in dogs it is treatable. Today, our Thousand Oaks vets explain more about this common condition.

What is Lyme disease in dogs?

Lyme disease has been diagnosed in both dogs and humans in all states, but infection rates vary by state.  In the United States, the Upper Midwest, Pacific Coast, and Northeast regions have the highest number of Lyme disease cases in dogs.

Dogs contract Lyme disease through the bite of an infected tick. Ticks, including those carrying Lyme, are most often found in wooded and grassy areas including farm fields and forests. 

Ticks don't fly or jump, they find their prey by resting on the tips of grasses, shrubs, and leaves with their front legs outstretched waiting for direct contact with animals or people. As your pup brushes past, the tick simply grabs hold and latches on to your pet. 

Lyme disease is not contagious between dogs—or between dogs and people—however, an infected tick from one dog could make its way to another dog or a person, spreading the disease.

Symptoms of Lyme Disease in Dogs

Dogs often carry Lyme disease without showing any symptoms at all. That said, other dogs can suffer from a range of painful symptoms. If your dog has Lyme disease, these signs may be apparent. 

  • Lameness
  • Stiffness
  • High fever
  • Sensitivity to touch
  • Swollen inflamed joints
  • General lethargy or discomfort
  • Decreased appetite and depression 
  • Breathing difficulties

If your pooch is suffering from any of the symptoms listed above, contact your vet to book an examination.

If left untreated, the effects of Lyme disease in dogs can be serious or even life-threatening.  Untreated the condition can lead to kidney failure, serious heart problems, and neurological issues in dogs.

How is Lyme disease in dogs diagnosed?

If your veterinarian suspects that your pet has Lyme disease, they will review a complete medical history of your dog's health, discuss any instances when your dog may have come into contact with ticks, examine your pet's body for ticks, and then perform a battery of tests, which may include blood tests (C6 and Quant C6 tests), urine analysis, fecal exams, and radiographs. If your dog's symptoms include painful joints, your veterinarian may draw fluid from the affected joints for analysis.

What is the most common treatment for Lyme disease in dogs?

Lyme disease treatment in dogs typically involves a four-week course of doxycycline, a powerful antibiotic. If your dog's joints are especially painful, the vet may prescribe anti-inflammatory medication to help relieve the pain. In many cases, this treatment will alleviate any Lyme disease symptoms the dog is experiencing; however, in some cases, the infection will persist and additional medication may be required.

Other therapies may be used in your dog's treatment to address specific symptoms.

Does Lyme disease in dogs have a cure?

Unfortunately, antibiotic treatment is not always completely effective and does not always cure Lyme disease in dogs. Some dogs have been treated with doxycycline for months and still have positive antibody levels when tested.  Unfortunately, despite treatment, the infection can remain in the body for years, often causing future health problems. Early diagnosis may improve treatment efficacy.

Lyme disease can cause serious chronic health problems such as kidney, heart, and neurological problems; the most common is irreversible kidney failure known as glomerulonephritis. Kidney failure can lower a pet's quality of life and lifespan. If your dog has long-term Lyme disease symptoms, your veterinarian may refer him to an internal medicine specialist for a more advanced diagnosis and treatment. 

How can I protect my pup against Lyme disease?

One way to help prevent your dog from contracting Lyme disease is to keep him on tick prevention medication all year and talk to your veterinarian about getting him vaccinated against Lyme.

When you get home from walking your dog, check his or her skin for ticks. Removing ticks as soon as possible is an important step toward reducing disease transmission.

However, removing ticks isn't as simple as you might think. Contact your veterinarian for information on how to properly remove ticks from your dog (your veterinarian may ask that you keep the tick for testing).

Remember that Lyme disease affects humans much more severely than it does dogs! If you walk through areas with long grass or shrubs, check your skin for ticks on a regular basis. If you discover a tick attached to your skin, contact your doctor for advice on how to remove it. Lyme disease in humans can cause a wide range of painful chronic symptoms.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

If your dog is suffering from chronic or recurring health issues due to Lyme disease. our Thousand Oaks vets are here to help. Contact us today.

New Patients Welcome

VSEC Thousand Oaks is accepting new patients! Our board-certified specialists and experienced emergency veterinarians are passionate about restoring good health to animal companions.

Contact (805) 492-2436