Lyme Disease Symptoms in Animals

lyme disease symptoms in animals Cow & dog

Family pets can be exposed to Lyme disease in livestock and wild animals.

Lyme disease symptoms in animals are often very similar to adult symptoms of Lyme disease or Lyme disease symptoms in children. The difficulty detecting symptoms in animals however is that they cannot directly communicate how they are feeling, meaning that you have to be alert to subtle changes in your companion animals’ behaviour, especially if you think that they may have been exposed to Lyme disease infection. Lyme disease has been reported in dogs, cats, horses, cows, and goats and symptoms frequently include fever, lameness, joint soreness, listlessness and fatigue, loss of appetite, and swollen glands. Where infection spreads it can result in problems with the heart, liver, kidneys, eyes, and nervous system, with younger animals often at risk of acute issues such as kidney failure.


Chronic Lyme disease symptoms in animals may include unexplained weight loss, laminitis, spontaneous abortions, and poor fertility, particularly in horses and cows. Some of those caring for animals such as horses and dogs have also noted changes in mood and temperament following Lyme disease, which may be a symptom in itself or could stem from chronic pain from Lyme arthritis, or general fatigue and malaise. Just as in humans with Lyme disease, the symptoms in animals are likely to be intermittent and variable, making it difficult to judge whether they are all part of the same condition or are a reaction to long walks, other infection, environmental conditions, nutritional deficiencies, or other medical issue. The initial signs of Lyme disease may also be difficult to detect with any rash often concealed by an animal’s coat, and signs of fatigue frequently dismissed as a simple reaction to a long country walk or being away from home on a camping trip, for example.

Where Lyme disease is suspected in an animal it is important to seek medical attention and assessment as soon as possible in order to begin treatment. Antibiotic treatment for Lyme disease in animals is usually very effective, especially when started promptly, and most animals recover and experience no long-term adverse effects. Where treatment is delayed there may be more severe damage which is more difficult to repair and may need other medications or treatments to control, such as anti-inflammatory drugs or dialysis.

Lyme Disease Symptoms in Animals – Prevention

Lyme disease prevention is obviously preferable to having to have your animals suffer Lyme disease infection and require treatment. In areas endemic for Lyme disease it is wise to restrict outdoor exposure to ticks for all family members, including any animals in the house. This can mean putting up deer fences, clearing shrubbery and leaf piles around the house, keeping grass short, and avoiding areas of dense vegetation when out walking or camping. Prodigious use of tick-repellents is also wise, with permethrin very effective for tick control. Discussing tick-control products with your veterinarian will help in making decisions to safeguard your pets’ health and that of the rest of the family who may be exposed to ticks brought into the home on the coats of pets. Although Lyme disease is not contagious it may be transmitted to several family members from just one tick that is brought into the house.

Vigilance is of utmost importance, with both dogs and cats best checked daily for the presence of ticks. Brushing the animals’ fur over a light colored surface can help to identify any ticks that may be brushed off in order to destroy them safely. Ticks are most commonly found on the head and neck of an animals along with the ears, toes, armpits, and groin where ticks can hide and feed unobserved. Ticks are very small however and may be disguised against an animal’s fur. Where a tick feeds for a number of days it is likely to become more visible as it swells to the size of a small grape. An engorged tick is more likely to have been in place for a longer time and to have spread Borrelia bacteria and Lyme disease. Monitoring for symptoms in any animal from whom a tick has been removed is of paramount importance although Lyme disease symptoms in animals may take several weeks or months to appear.


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