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June 7, 2021

How to Recognize Lyme Disease Symptoms in Dogs

  • Tips
  • Symptoms
  • Dog
Bernese Mountain Dog outside in grassy area with tongue out

Are you a dog owner who lives in a heavily wooded area with lots of water or thick undergrowth? If so, it's vital to recognize the symptoms of Lyme disease. Diagnosis is often tricky because the signs are not always obvious. To learn more about this dangerous disease, read the following:

What is Lyme Disease?

Lyme disease is a crippling, and sometimes fatal, tick-borne disease that affects a variety of animals. In areas of dense vegetation, marshlands, and thick forests, Lyme disease is one of the most common canine diseases.

A bacterium called Borrelia burgdorferi carried inside certain ticks, like the black-legged "deer" tick, causes Lyme disease. The disease can cause severe problems for your dog, like cardiac and neurological disorders. If left untreated, Lyme disease can lead to kidney failure, which is often fatal.1

How it's Transmitted

Disease-carrying ticks spread Lyme disease. Ticks pick up Lyme disease from other animals like deer, mice or squirrels. When a tick bites a host, they pass the disease into the host's bloodstream. Once in the bloodstream, the disease moves throughout the host's body to specific organs or locations like the joints.

Ticks cannot jump or fly, only crawl or climb. They wait on the edges of tall grass blades or other vegetation. When a host walks by, the tick scrambles onto its victim and searches for a place to bite. A disease-carrying tick can take up to 12 or more hours before passing the infection into its host.2 However, an infected dog cannot give Lyme disease to another dog or human. But the tick that infected your dog can pass along the disease if it ends up in your home.  


A healthy dog may not show signs of Lyme disease until long after a tick bit it. In extreme cases, the disease can remain dormant for up to one year.2 Keep in mind, by the time your dog shows symptoms, the condition is usually widespread. You must know what to watch out for.

Lyme Disease Symptoms to Look Out for in Dogs

  • Lack of energy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Soreness or stiff joints
  • Lameness
  • Trouble getting off the floor, jumping or using stairs
  • Limping
  • Swelling (of the lymph glands or joints)
  • Fever (often erratic)
  • Generalized pain (can come and go)

These symptoms can mean other things are ailing your dog. Proper diagnosis often requires the expertise of a veterinarian, who will perform a physical evaluation and likely order diagnostic testing of blood and urine.

The good news is that Lyme disease is treatable through a long course of antibiotics (four weeks). Most dogs make a full recovery, but another round of antibiotics will be necessary if symptoms return.1


The best way to deal with Lyme disease is to avoid getting it. So how can you prevent lyme disease in dogs?

The following are some excellent best-practice tips:

  • Don't let your dog run free in areas where ticks are prevalent.
  • Keep your dog on a leash and stay on the trails.
  • Check yourself and your dog after every outing.
  • Ticks like to hide between toes, in ears, on heads, on bellies or under tails.
  • If you find a tick, remove it right away. Remember, it can take over 12 hours before a disease-carrying tick can infect your dog.
  • Use tweezers and grasp the tick close to your dog's skin. Pull the tick straight out. Do not twist or jerk, which can leave parts of the tick in your dog's skin.
  • Take your dog to your vet for a tick examination or removal.
  • Ask your vet for an appropriate flea and tick guard product.
  • You can put chewable tick preventatives in your dog's food.
  • If you live in a tick-infested area, ask your veterinarian about getting your dog a Lyme disease vaccine.

Now you know the importance of recognizing the symptoms of Lyme disease in your dog. This disease can be fatal if left untreated. Fortunately, Lyme disease is curable with antibiotics, but you must get your dog to your vet if they show any symptoms. Finally, practice preventative measures to make sure your dog never contracts Lyme disease.


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