What You Need to Know About Lyme Disease in Dogs

Lyme disease can take a toll on your dog, just like it can in humans. Find out more about Lyme disease, how it is transmitted, and how it is treated and prevented by reading our Columbus, OH, animal hospital‘s article below.


Cause of Lyme Disease in Dogs

Lyme disease is an infection caused by the spirochete bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi, which is transmitted to humans and animals through the bite of infected black-legged ticks, also known as deer ticks. Deer ticks are distributed throughout the Midwest and eastern United States, as well as throughout Canada—with the highest proportion in Ontario.

Once in the bloodstream, Lyme disease is carried to many parts of the body (but is likely to localize in joints or kidneys).


Unfortunately, with most dogs that are infected with Lyme disease, it usually takes two to five months before dogs start showing any symptoms. By that time, the disease may be widespread throughout their body.

Many dogs affected with Lyme disease are taken to the vet by their owners because of generalized pain or disinterest in food. They are often said to look like they are walking on eggshells or limping. Affected dogs also often can have high fevers.

Other non-specific signs that may indicate a dog is suffering from Lyme disease (when the kidneys are targeted) include vomiting, lethargy, anorexia (lack of appetite), and weight loss. The kidney form of the disease is less common. While it is also often fatal, the signs can result when the organs target the kidneys.

Diagnosis of Lyme Disease in Dogs

The symptoms associated with Lyme disease can be caused by other diseases, so it’s important to get your dog to a vet for blood testing to confirm exactly what it is suffering from. The first test that will likely be done is an antibody test, which detects the presence of antibodies created by exposure to the Lyme disease organism. But false negatives can occur if the dog has not yet formed (or never formed) antibodies.

It’s recommended that a dog get tested no sooner than four weeks after a suspected tick bite happens. A follow-up test, known as a QC6 test, can be done to assess the numerical antibody levels.

General blood tests and urinary analysis can be done to measure kidney function and look for loss of protein in the urine.


Since the Lyme spirochete is a bacterium, it can be treated with antibiotics. Veterinarians will typically prescribe doxycycline (Doxirobe® or Vibramycin®), amoxicillin (Amoxi-Tabs®, Amoxi-Drop®, or Biomox ®), and azithromycin (Zithromax®).

Treatment usually lasts for four weeks.

Prevention of Lyme Disease in Dogs

Ticks are most often found in grassy, wooded, and sandy areas. And ticks find their way onto an animal by climbing on top of a leaf, blade of grass, or short trees and then waiting until they sense an animal or human that they can crawl or drop on.

There are products that can kill ticks and prevent the transmission of Lyme disease that you can get from your dog’s animal hospital. They include Frontline Plus® and Advantix®. There are both monthly oral and topical medications available, including Bravecto®, Nexgard®, and Simparica®.

Additionally, the Lyme vaccine may be recommended for dogs living in or that travel to endemic areas. It is initially given twice at two to four-week intervals and then annually.

Your veterinarian can advise you as to what the best preventative is for your dog to keep them safe.

How to Remove a Tick from Your Dog

Immediately after visiting a potentially tick-infected area, you should check your dog’s entire body. In the juvenile stage, ticks are only the size of a pinhead, but they are a little bigger in adulthood.

If you find a tick crawling on your pet, it has not fed yet. In that case, you should promptly remove it, place it in rubbing alcohol, or crush it between two solid surfaces.

However, if you find a tick that is already attached to your dog, you can grasp the tick with fine tweezers or your fingers near the skin and firmly pull it out. There are tools on the market (like Tick Twister® or Tick Key®) that can help in that process. However, an owner should take extra caution when removing a tick because twisting or jerking it may cause its mouthparts to break off and remain in the skin.

If you are unsure or unable to remove a tick, consult your veterinarian. And quick removal is important because Lyme disease does not appear to be transmitted until the tick has fed for approximately 12 to 24 hours. No matter what method you use, make sure that you also protect yourself by using a tissue or a disposable glove—as the tick’s contents and blood can pass through a wound or cut on your skin.

We’re Here to Help with Your Dog’s Lyme Disease Prevention

Although Lyme disease can often be treated with antibiotics, it’s best to protect your dog from the disease by either monthly preventatives in the form of topical treatments or chewable tablets or vaccination.

If your dog is not protected from getting infected, however, and you suspect that they have been bitten by a tick, either locate and remove it, or bring it to your vet immediately.

If your dog is in need of tick preventatives, give our Columbus, OH, animal hospital a call at (614) 451-1204.

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About North Kenny Veterinary Hospital

North Kenny Veterinary Hospital has been serving Columbus, OH pet families with exceptional veterinary medicine since the 1950s. We put a strong emphasis on preventive medicine as well as low-stress handling to help pets have a more pleasant veterinary experience. We use Fear Free techniques for every cat and dog to help reduce their anxiety and calm their nerves.

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