Canine Lyme Disease Symptoms

by lmatthews on July 4, 2012

canine lyme disease symptoms

Protect your pooch from Lyme disease - check for ticks and remove any straight away.

Canine Lyme disease can be difficult to spot, especially because dogs, unlike humans, can’t really communicate their pain and suffering. Unfortunately, dogs may be more at risk of Lyme disease than their owners as they tend to ramble through tick-infested undergrowth, roll around in grass harboring ticks, and have ticks attached for longer when they do bite. Spotting a tick on a dog is pretty tricky, particularly if the dog has a long coat and dark fur. If you and your pooch are planning on hiking now summer’s here then watch out for these common symptoms of canine Lyme disease and remember to check yourself and your companion for ticks when returning from a ramble.

Lyme Disease Risk in Dogs

High risk areas in the US for canine Lyme disease include the southeastern and northeastern states, as well as California, although Lyme disease cases have occurred across the US. Ticks usually need to be attached to a dog for forty-eight hours before they transmit Borrelia and infect the dog with Lyme disease. This time may be shorter in Europe as the tick species there are more likely to carry the bacteria in their saliva rather than their gut. Daily tick checks make sense in Lyme endemic areas, for you and your dog. Ticks can also carry co-infections of Lyme disease and confuse diagnosis with concomitant canine Ehrlichiosis, Rickettsia, and Babesiosis as well as Borreliosis.

Symptoms of Lyme Disease in Dogs


Symptoms of Lyme disease in dogs include fever, swollen and tender joints and lymph nodes, loss of appetite, dehydration, listlessness, lameness, and behavioral abnormalities or confusion. Although some of these symptoms appear days after a tick bite, like in humans, other symptoms of canine Lyme disease may take weeks or months to occur. Dogs will naturally try to hide their symptoms as a defensive strategy and so the first sign may be a limp and whimpering from intense joint pain that has actually been present for some time. This lameness in dogs is usually in the front legs and it can switch legs as pain and swelling shift due to systemic inflammation. The dog’s shoulder joints may feel tender and swollen and warm to the touch and the lymph nodes may also be swollen and tender.

Preventing Lyme Disease in Dogs

Luckily, dogs can be vaccinated against Lyme disease if they live in a Lyme endemic area although there are concerns over the safety of Lyme disease vaccines for dogs. Performing regular tick checks and using tick repellents can help reduce the risk of Lyme disease in dogs but where it does occur it is usually treatable with antibiotics along with painkillers if the joint pain and other canine Lyme disease symptoms are particularly severe.

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