Lyme disease in dogs: symptoms, treatment and prevention

What you should know about Lyme disease and some good tips can be found in this article. In addition, for this article we have obtained advice from the veterinarian Emin Jasarevic.

Tick Lyme disease
Table of Contents

Lyme disease is the most common tick-borne disease in dogs. 

The symptoms often appear months after the infection and are not always clearly assignable. Therefore, it is particularly important for the owner to consult the veterinarian immediately in case of suspicion.

What is Lyme disease?

Lyme disease, also called Lyme borreliosis or Lyme disease, is a bacterial infectious disease. It can occur in both humans and animals.

An infected Tick can transmit the disease through a sting only after about 16 to 24 hours. In the process, the pathogens Borrelia enter the blood of the dog and spread.

Depending on which organs they reach, different symptoms can occur. However, since these symptoms can also be triggered by other diseases, it is difficult to clearly identify Lyme disease.

The disease is not contagious. Therefore, it cannot be transmitted from one quadruped to another or to a human. However, the tick that caused Lyme disease can move to other living creatures and infect them as well.

On average, about 30 % of ticks in Germany carry the Borrelia bacteria. However, this can vary from region to region. That sounds frightening at first. However, the pathogen is not transmitted with every tick bite.

And even if a dog has been infected, the disease often does not break out. Because his immune system can fight the bacteria themselves.

Nevertheless, it is important that you check your protégé after each walk on Check ticks and remove them immediately.

How to recognize the signs


The first time after your pet is infected, the disease is asymptomatic. This is particularly dangerous, because it is therefore often not detected early enough.

Therefore, you should observe your dog's behavior after a tick bite even more closely in order to help him in time.

Only rarely does the so-called wandering redness occur in dogs. This is a round reddening of the skin around the tick bite that spreads over time. Unfortunately, this does not happen with every infection. In addition, it's hard to see under your pet's fur.

Only after several months do the first symptoms of inflammation appear 

The main symptoms are muscle and joint pain. You can recognize it by the fact that your furry friend moves less and possibly limps after lying down for a long time. The large joints such as elbows and knees are then swollen and very sensitive to pain.

To detect swollen lymph nodes, you should palpate them regularly on your pet. If the lymph nodes are below the ear, within the Lower jaw, in which Underarm region, before the Shoulder blade or in the Popliteal are noticeable and sensitive to pain, this could be a sign of Lyme disease.

Another symptom of inflammation could be fever. A body temperature of over 39 degrees Celsius is a cause for concern.

In case of infection, the nature of your dog changes noticeably 

He suddenly seems listless and listless. Because of limpness and tiredness he hardly moves. Often infected quadrupeds eat less or refuse food.

The leading symptom of the disease are Lameness on one or more limbs. These can also change. For example, one day your pet can't move his left front leg properly, the next day he has the same complaints on another leg.

More rarely, heart problems or diseases of the kidney occur. This only happens when the bacteria attack these organs as well.

Complaints to the spine can also occur. You can recognize this by the fact that your dog makes a "cat hump" more often.

Overall, Lyme disease causes a weakening of the immune system, which is why other diseases can also occur.

The main symptoms summarized:

  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Paralysis symptoms
  • Fever
  • swollen lymph nodes
  • inflamed and pain sensitive joints
  • Limpness, fatigue
  • Listlessness and listlessness
  • Loss of appetite to refusal of food
  • Change in the nature of the dog
  • discomfort of the spine ("cat's hump")
  • Weakening of the immune system
  • Heart problems (rare)
  • Kidney disease (rare)
If any of these symptoms appear in your charge after a tick bite, you should present him to a veterinarian immediately!
The symptoms occur in episodes. This means that there are phases in which your pelt-nose has no complaints.
Unfortunately, the symptoms of the disease are non-specific. This means that there is no sign that occurs only in Lyme disease. Therefore, other causes can usually not be excluded.

No clear diagnosis

Attention tick for dog

The veterinarian cannot confirm Lyme disease 100 %. Finally, there are many other possible causes that could cause these symptoms. Therefore, other diseases must first be ruled out before treatment for Lyme disease can begin. This type of diagnosis is also called Differential diagnosis called.

Other causes for the paralysis symptoms could be, for example, osteoarthritis or a hip malformation. Meningitis could also be responsible for the neurological symptoms. Heart muscle inflammation and kidney disease must also be ruled out.

A blood test is advisable

This tests whether there are Borrelia antibodies in the blood of your four-legged friend. However, it cannot be clearly said that the symptoms are also due to it. 

After all, the infection may have occurred much earlier and the immune system successfully fought the disease. In this case, no symptoms would have appeared, but the antibodies are still present in the blood years later.

The diagnosis is further complicated by possible co-infections. These are diseases transmitted by the same tick that caused Lyme disease.

The symptoms of the concomitant disease and Lyme disease can overlap. This usually leads to a more severe course of the disease. Examples of co-infections are babesiosis, early summer meningoencephalitis (FSME) and anaplasmosis.

The treatment of Lyme disease

A therapy against Lyme disease can only be started if all other diseases could be excluded. 

If the vet is still not sure if your dog actually has this disease, he will give him suspected Antibiotics against the Borrelia bacteria give

If the symptoms improve after a few days, you can most likely assume that the diagnosis is correct and your pet can now be treated.

Treatment of the disease is lengthy and can take several months. As a rule, the antibiotics are administered for one month. With an interval of about 3 months, this procedure is repeated 4-5 times depending on the improvement of symptoms.

The vet may recommend homeopathic, analgesic or anti-inflammatory medications for your faithful companion. Even if they do not cure the disease, they reduce the pain.

During the therapy you should not do any sports with your protégé. After all, his joints need to be protected. It is important that he has a lot of rest!

Your pet is probably suffering from stomach problems after taking antibiotics. You can help him by giving him probiotics like yogurt, antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids in addition to the normal food.

A full recovery is possible

However, not all bacteria can always be fought. Especially the Borrelia bacteria that have settled in the joints are stubborn. Therefore, a relapse can occur. Your dog must then be treated again with antibiotics.

Even if Lyme disease is not completely cured, your dog will have no symptoms for several years and will feel perfectly healthy. And that's the main thing, isn't it?

Your dog's life expectancy will not be limited by the therapy.

Nevertheless, it is important to prevent Lyme disease even after recovery. Because even after a successful therapy your dog is not immune to this disease.

6 Tips for prevention

1. tick repellent

In the warm seasons it is advisable to protect your dog externally against ticks. There are various means for this. Tick repellents offered in stores are not as effective as those from the vet. It's best to get advice from your vet!

If you want to bring your dog with Home remedies you want to treat, I can give you Coconut oil recommend. The lauric acids contained deter ticks and are also used in other tick repellents. Simply rub the coat with the oil. And don't worry if your pet licks it off. It is harmless and even contains some nutrients.

2. vaccination

Vaccination against Lyme disease is possible, but very controversial. It is only effective against certain strains of Borrelia and not against all strains occurring in our region. 

It is also best to consult your veterinarian on this topic to weigh the pros and cons.

3. check daily for ticks

Because ticks can hide well in the fur of your four-legged friend, you should check him very thoroughly for ticks. This is especially important in the warmer seasons. It is best to check the coat after every walk. Also note that ticks can be active earlier after a mild winter.

4. remove tick immediately

If you discover a tick on your pet, you should not wait long. The pathogens can only be transmitted after 16 to 24 hours. The risk of transmission is therefore low if you remove it immediately and very carefully.

5. borrelia tests

Borrelia tests for ticks are offered in the trade. With these you can check whether the tick that has bitten your dog is infected with the pathogens. However, these tests are not very conclusive, because the tick does not transmit the disease with every bite. This measure only provides clues, so that you observe your quadruped even more attentively.

6. pay attention to symptoms

Be sure to observe your pet's behavior after a tick bite! This way you can immediately consult a veterinarian as soon as the first symptoms appear. The earlier the disease is detected, the better it can be treated.

Even if you have not discovered a tick bite and are not sure whether the symptoms apply, you should ask your vet for advice. After all, you could save your dog some suffering and he will soon be healthy again and full of joy.

Frequently Asked Questions

Ticks can transmit various pathogens that can cause serious harm to your dog. Nerve inflammations, chronic diseases, joint inflammations, kidney failure, epileptic seizures, inflammatory eye diseases (up to retinal detachment), heart damage and unfortunately also a fatal course are not the exception with an infection.

Besides Lyme disease, there are pathogens of the rare viral disease TBE. Anaplasmosis and babesiosis are other diseases that can be dangerous for your dog. 

The vaccination protects your dog only against certain boreliosis origins, but not against anaplasmosis, FSME and babesiosis. Therefore, it is important to additionally pay attention to tick protection.

The one perfect tick remedy does not exist. That's why we've chosen to show you the pros and cons so that we can make your decision easier. Read our article above to find out more.

Spot-ons should be applied to your dog's neck in such a way that he cannot lick them. The chemicals they contain are harmful to your dog. Part his fur before applying.

Veterinarian’s Recommendation

Lyme disease is a disease that should not be underestimated in any case. 

However, if you carefully check your dog for ticks and pay extra attention to possible symptoms after a tick bite, Lyme disease will not be a threat to him. 

If you notice any signs, you should take your pet to the vet immediately. If the disease is detected early, he can be quickly treated against it and soon regain his zest for life.

Veterinarian Emin Jasarevic
Veterinarian Emin Jasarevic

I am a veterinarian and writer on animal health topics. Animals are my passion, and it is my personal goal to create medically accurate articles and videos to educate pet owners as much as possible.

Learn More

Share Now: