Lyme Disease in Dogs

Lyme Disease in Dogs

Lyme disease can be passed to your dog by the bite of a tick.

Lyme disease is a common problem in some parts of the United States. Lyme disease can infect both dogs and people. The disease requires the bite of a tick to be transmitted.

What Are the Symptoms of Lyme Disease in Dogs

The most common symptoms seen in canine Lyme disease are:

  • swollen painful joints
  • lameness that may shift from one leg to another
  • fever
  • lethargy
  • lack of appetite

The rash that is commonly seen in people with Lyme disease is very seldom noted in dogs.

Less frequently, Lyme disease can affect the kidneys of the infected dog, a syndrome known as Lyme disease nephritis. This is a more serious manifestation of Lyme disease and the kidney failure that results can be fatal for your dog.

Diagnosis of Canine Lyme Disease

Lyme disease is diagnosed with a blood test. The most commonly used test is known as the SNAP4Dx. In some areas, this test is done routinely as a screening test.

There is also a quantitative blood test known the C6 Lyme peptide assay. This is sometimes recommended if the SNAP4Dx proves to be positive.

What Does a Positive Test Result for Lyme Disease Mean for My Dog?

Many dogs test positive for Lyme disease. The majority of these dogs (perhaps as many as 85% of them) will never show signs of disease. A positive Lyme disease test in an otherwise healthy dog simply means that the dog has been bitten by a tick that was infected with Lyme disease. If this is the case with your dog, he needs to be observed closely for signs of disease.

Treatment of dogs that test positive for Lyme disease without showing any symptoms of disease is controversial. Some veterinarians believe that treatment is justified. Others feel there is no need to treat a dog that is otherwise healthy and may never become ill.

However, if your dog is showing signs of Lyme disease and has a positive blood test for the disease, your veterinarian will likely recommend treating your dog.

If your dog does test positive for Lyme disease, it is possible your veterinarian may recommend doing additional blood tests to evaluate your dog’s kidney function.

Treatment of Lyme Disease in a Dog

Treatment of a dog with Lyme disease involves the use of an antibiotic. Doxycycline is the most commonly used antibiotic for treating Lyme disease but there are other antibiotics that can also be effective in treating Lyme disease.

If your dog is showing signs of kidney disease as a result of infection with Lyme disease, he may require more aggressive treatment. This treatment will include intravenous fluid administration and other medications to control the symptoms of kidney disease.

Prevention of Lyme Disease in Dogs

Lyme disease can be prevented by preventing exposure to ticks. Products such as Frontline PlusĀ®, PromerisĀ®, AdvantageĀ® and other flea and tick preventives can be helpful. Avoidance of tick-infested areas is advisable also.

There is a vaccine available against Lyme disease also. However, its use is controversial and not all veterinarians recommend it. The Lyme disease vaccine is not a core vaccine and your dog’s risk of exposure to the disease needs to be evaluated if you are contemplating administering the vaccine for your dog.

Photo Courtesy of Chris P/

About Lorie Huston, DVM

Lorie Huston, DVM has written 88 posts in this blog.

Lorie Huston is a veterinarian with 20+ years of experience with dogs and cats. She is also a talented free-lance author and blogger and has contributed to numerous publications, including Pet Sitter's WORLD, FIDOFriendly, Dancing Dog Blog, Dawg Business and many others. Lorie is the featured pet care writer at, a contributing writer in Dog and Cat Diseases and Conditions at and the National Pet Health Examiner at In addition, she is a host of the popular podcast/review site, Animal Cafe.