What are the Clinical Signs of Lyme Disease in Dogs?

Tick removed from the face of Maritime Animal Hospital patient in June 2015.

It’s summer here in Moncton, New Brunswick and there’s a lot of media reports about Lyme disease and its impact on people’s health. It can affect your dogs health too. What should you be watching for?

Symptoms of Lyme disease can take 2-5 months (or possibly longer) to appear, after the tick has transmitted the Borrelia bacteria. Those living in areas where the disease is more common feel some dogs get sick quicker if they were previously infected with the Borrelia bacteria.

Symptoms can include a rash, fever, and/or joint pain (often affecting more than 1 leg called polyarthritis). Lyme disease can be a cause of kidney and liver disease.

What Does a Positive Lyme test mean?

There is a test available in hospital to check if Lyme disease is a possible cause of your dog’s illness. It is not a definitive test though, becauseTick life cycle
POSITIVE results means  your dog has been exposed to Borrelia and this stimulated an immune response against the bacteria. It is not a guaratee that Lyme disease is why your dog is ill. The infection may have happened at some time in the past, and you may not have even been aware it was happening. A positive result is more significant if your pet has clinical symptoms like those above.

So, if your dog has a positive Lyme disease test, there are 3 possibilities:

  1. your dog has been exposed to Lyme disease but does not have an active infection at present;
  2. your dog has an active infection but will fall into the 90% of dogs who have no clinical signs;
  3. your dog has an active infection, is in the 10% of dogs who will have clinical signs but is just too early in the disease to show those signs.

A urine test to check for protein levels is a supporting test that can indicate whether there is a kidney disease related to Lyme disease present.

If your veterinarian decides your dog could be ill because of Lyme disease, treatment consists of several weeks of antibiotic therapy, plus pain medications or anti-inflammatory drugs. The majority of dogs will make a full recovery with no long lasting effects.

We hope this is helpful. If you have more questions, please call us at Maritime Animal Hospital at (506)389-2121.

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