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Lyme Disease in Dogs

By: Dr. Debra Primovic

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What to Watch For

The most consistent clinical sign in dogs includes lameness with swollen joints that are warm to the touch. Other symptoms may include heart, nervous system and kidney disease. Many dogs show no symptoms at all. Other signs include:

  • Recurrent lameness in a joint with complete recovery
  • Reluctance to move (pain)
  • Swelling in one or more joints
  • Anorexia
  • Fever
  • Lethargy
  • Depression

    Diagnosis

    Lyme disease is usually diagnosed by the presence of clinical symptoms and by blood tests. Diagnostic tests are also needed to exclude other diseases. After obtaining a history and performing a physical examination, your veterinarian may recommend the following diagnostic tests:

  • Blood tests for titers to Lyme disease (IFA or ELISA) may help to determine disease. This test detects the presence of antibodies against the bacteria. However, the test indicates exposure to the disease and does not always indicate infection.

  • Western blot test

  • Joint fluid analysis may be needed to exclude other causes of joint inflammation

    Treatment

    In the early stages of the disease, treatment with antibiotics is usually successful. Treatment will probably include:

  • Antibiotic therapy. This usually provides complete clinical recovery in 24 to 48 hours although antibiotics should be continued for 14 to 21 days (recommendations vary from 2 to 4 weeks). Antibiotics recommended may include tetracycline, doxycycline, minocycline, cephalexin, amoxicillin or ampicillin.
  • Treatment of Lyme disease must be individualized based on the severity of the condition. Dogs with clinical signs and a positive high titer should be treated with antibiotics. Treating serology-positive asymptomatic dogs is not recommended.

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