Lyme Disease in Dogs: Symptoms and Treatment

Lyme disease is also called tick-borne borreliosis. This is an infectious disease transmitted by ixodid ticks. The disease can affect not only dogs, but also people. The insidiousness of the pathology lies in the fact that the symptoms of the disease are diverse and appear after a considerable period of time (several weeks or a month). Therefore, it is not always possible to immediately compare the clinical manifestations with a previously obtained bite. As a result, the dog does not receive adequate treatment on time, which leads to the progression of Lyme disease and the development of negative consequences.

General characteristics

Lyme disease in dogs and other animals, as well as in humans, occurs after being bitten by an infected ixodid tick. Also infected are forest and domestic animals that have free range. The disease is not transmitted by contact, so a person should not be afraid of infection if a pathology is detected in a pet. However, safety precautions must be observed.

Symptoms of borreliosis do not appear immediately and at the initial stage may be similar to usual malaise. Over time, the disease will progress, affecting various organs, which can also complicate the diagnosis. Therefore, to begin timely treatment, it is necessary to record episodes of tick attacks on the dog and, in case of deterioration of health, consult a veterinarian. The specialist must inform about a previously received bite, even if it occurred 1-1.5 months ago.

Lyme disease (borreliosis) is caused by spirochetes (a special type of bacteria) of the genus Borrelia burgdorferi. The causative agent enters the body of an animal or person with the saliva of an infected tick. With the flow of lymph and blood, the pathogen is transferred to various organs, causing a disruption in their work. When they die, Borrelia secrete endotoxin, which provokes pathological reactions of the immune system.

Borrelia burgdorferi

Infection pathways

The disease is most prevalent in the Northern Hemisphere. Ixodid ticks, which are the main carriers of infection, are equally common on the American and Eurasian continents. They migrate with the help of birds. They are most often found in mixed forests, in areas with tall grass.

Seasonal activity of the ixodid tick begins in early spring, decays during the heatwave in mid-summer, and resumes in September. The greatest chance of contracting Lyme disease is in May, when the grass is tall enough so that the parasite can safely move to mammals.

Borrelia live in the intestines of ixodid ticks, as a result of which infection in the first day after a bite may not occur. Therefore, it is important to inspect the dog after a walk and immediately pull out ticks (along with chelicera).

A person becomes infected with borreliosis also after a tick bite. If a dog has been infected, then it is not dangerous to humans. However, it should be borne in mind that there is a chance of infection through the conjunctiva of the eye when a pathogen enters it. This can occur when the mite body is crushed when the host extracts it from the animal. Therefore, it is necessary to remove parasites as carefully as possible, trying not to violate their integrity.

Due to the fact that the pathogen can be in the dog’s body for a long time, there is a chance of transmission during a blood transfusion. Also, cases of intrauterine infection have been recorded. However, most often in this case, fetal death occurs.

Clinical manifestations

Lyme disease in dogs is characterized by an asymptomatic course. The disease can not show itself for a long period or disguise itself as various types of ailments, developing into a chronic form. Symptoms usually occur during the acute phase and may have the following form:

  • fever, high body temperature;
  • general lethargy, depression;
  • poor appetite, which soon progresses to a complete rejection of food;
  • muscle soreness;
  • soreness and pathological enlargement of large joints (elbow, knee, hock, etc.).

With the development of Lyme disease in a dog, the symptoms become more pronounced:

  • purulent arthritis (inflammatory joint damage) is observed in the animal;
  • synovitis (inflammation of the synovial membrane of the joint);
  • lameness;
  • swollen lymph nodes.

Joint pathology is the most characteristic sign of Lyme disease in dogs. The joints that are located immediately near the site of the bite are the first to be affected. Over time, the infection reaches remote areas of the body.

Note. Joint pain, arthritis, and lameness can be paroxysmal, returning even years after a course of treatment.

With the progression of infection, a malfunction of many organs and systems occurs. Most often, changes are observed in muscle tissues, cardiovascular and nervous systems.

The combination of neurological pathologies with chronic arthritis gives reason to suspect Lyme disease in an animal.


A characteristic sign of the disease in humans is migratory ring-shaped erythema. Its presence confirms the development of borreliosis, therefore, a person is prescribed an appropriate treatment without delay.

It is difficult to find erythema migrans in a dog because of its coat. Therefore, laboratory and instrumental methods of research are used to diagnose the disease in animals.

It is quite difficult to detect the parasite in the tissues of the animal, since it is very small in size and is present in the tissues in spore form. To identify it, use serological blood tests, PCR diagnostics, electron microscopy. A good result shows a study using indirect immunofluorescence. With it, you can identify the causative agent of infection through specific antibodies that are labeled with fluorescein.

Radiography can determine the presence of arthritis in various joints. In the early stages, visual changes may not be observed. However, a specialist will be able to note worsening gait and chromate.

In a general blood test, leukocytosis can be noted, and in a biochemical analysis - an increase in the level of indicators of liver samples.


Only a specialist can cure Lyme disease. Pathology requires long-term therapy with tight control over the dynamics of the condition.

To eliminate the disease, antibiotic therapy is used. Drugs are prescribed for up to 4 weeks, and if necessary, the course is extended. It is also possible to change the type of antibiotic if the chosen one does not initially give the desired result or the pet does not tolerate it.

Important! Against the background of antibiotic therapy, a worsening of the condition due to the mass death of borrelia is possible. As they die, they secrete endotoxin.

It is possible to maintain high titers of antibodies after completing the full course of treatment. This is normal, as the dog’s body is very susceptible to Borrelia. However, they will still be less than the original ones.

In parallel, symptomatic therapy is prescribed, which may include various types of drugs, depending on the location of the parasite's activity:

  • antispasmodics;
  • painkillers;
  • non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs;
  • immunostimulants;
  • vitamins
  • solutions for infusion.


The most effective way to prevent Lyme disease is to use insecticides and repellents. The modern market for pet supplies is saturated with various types of topical agents that can rid the animal of parasites and prevent their attack.

Means are represented by collars, sprays and drops at the withers. They act locally, that is, they do not enter the circulatory system. Their service life can range from several weeks to several months. It is very important to start processing the dog at the very beginning of the season of activity of ixodid ticks (April-May) and maintain until the autumn cold.

Watch the video: Symptoms of Lyme Disease in Dogs- And Why It's SO Dangerous - Professional Dog Training Tips (April 2020).