Understanding Lyme Disease In Dogs

Read on to learn about Lyme disease in dogs, its causes, symptoms and treatment options are listed plus more.

Lyme disease is a common canine condition which occurs as a result of deer ticks. The ticks themselves do not cause the issues, but instead, the bacteria which they carry. The bacteria is spread through tick bites, which humans are not immune to either. Because Lyme disease is caused by bacteria, specific forms of antibiotic are most often employed for treatment, alongside removal of the ticks themselves.

A dog with Lyme disease will become lame, usually in one leg, with these symptoms passing after several days only to return at a later date in the same or different leg. This condition is known as “shifting leg lameness”. While this is one of the most prominent symptoms of Lyme disease in dogs, your pet may suffer additional bothersome symptoms. In rarer cases, the disease may begin to affect vital organs.


Deer Tick

Fig. 1: The Deer Tick (A.K.A. Black-Legged Tick).

Lyme disease is caused by the “deer tick”, also known as the “black-legged tick”. While it’s easy to make the mistake of believing the ticks are causing the physical symptoms, the disease is actually a result of the bacteria which is transmitted as they bite. This bacteria, known as B. burgdorferi, may not cause issues in a number of dogs. It is thought that almost half of all dogs in the New England area would test positive for the disease.

Please see Fig. 1 to help you identify the tick. Though these ticks are usually small in size, well-fed ticks can become engorged and unusually large.

Symptoms of Lyme disease in dogs

A dog with Lyme disease may not display any symptoms. In fact, it is common for vets to avoid treating dogs who appear healthy and display no physical symptoms despite being carriers of the disease.

Dogs who develop a clinical illness as a result of the disease may display lameness (or shifting leg lameness) as well as other symptoms. Here is a list of symptoms to look out for which may be a sign your dog has the illness:

  • Lameness
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Depression
  • Fever
  • Sensitive to touch
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Stiff walk with an arched gait

Serious vital organ complications are not common but in some cases kidney damage may occur, and in the most severe of cases, damage to the heart and central nervous system. Symptoms do not often occur right away, but instead may take around 2 months to develop.

The most commonly associated symptoms are lameness, fatigue, swollen lymph nodes and fever.


A simple screening test can determine the presence of Lyme disease. In some parts of New England where the disease is prevalent, vets recommend annual check-ups.

If your dog tests positive for Lyme disease, the vet may not always recommend treatment. Instead it is common for the vet to carry out another test to determine whether infection is recent. If the infection is not recent, and your dog is completely healthy, your vet may advise against antibiotic treatment. Physical symptoms usually present themselves after around 2 months of infection.


Because Lyme disease is caused by bacteria, vets use antibiotics to treat the condition. The most commonly used antibiotics when treating Lyme disease in dogs are amoxicillin and doxycycline for dogs.

The ticks, when discovered, may be removed with tweezers, or killed with Vectra 3D.


To protect your pet from Lyme disease, it is recommended that you take your pet for regular veterinary check-ups (especially if you live in an area where the disease is common) and regularly check your dog’s fur for deer ticks.

If you find a tick on your dog, you may use tweezers to carefully remove it, being careful not to crush or twist it as you do so. Upon removal of a tick, you should wash your hands thoroughly.

Kill ticks with Vectra 3D for dogs