Lyme Disease in Dogs: What it is and How to Protect Your Pet

Have you ever heard of Lyme disease? Did you know that it is a common health problem in many dogs? Would you know how to recognize Lyme disease if it occurred in your pet, and do you know how to protect your pet from this serious condition?

In the article below, we’ll explore everything you need to know about Lyme disease in dogs. With the help of this information, you can prepare to protect your pet from this health problem and learn when you might need to see a vet for the issue, too.

lyme disease in dogs

What Causes Lyme Disease in Dogs?

Lyme disease is a bacterial illness that is carried by several types of ticks. It is possible for humans and other animals to catch Lyme disease from ticks too, but it is considerably more prevalent in dogs.

When an infected tick bites a healthy dog and buries itself into the skin, it spreads the infection from its own body to the dog’s blood. As the infection moves through the dog’s body, it contributes to the symptoms that are commonly associated with Lyme disease and can make your dog very sick.

What are the Risk Factors Involved in Lyme Disease?

If your any of these fit your dog’s lifestyle, then they could be at a higher risk for Lyme disease. 

Spends Time Outside

Dogs who spend a lot of time outdoors, especially in the woods or wilderness, are more prone to Lyme disease than those that do not. Since ticks are found in tall grass and some trees, exposure to these environments increases a dog’s risk.

Where You Live or Visit

Dogs who live in or visit the Northeastern, Upper Midwestern, and Pacific Northwestern parts of the United States are at a greater risk of Lyme disease than others. This is simply because Lyme is more common in these locations.

Regular Grooming is Important

Dogs who are not regularly groomed may be at a slightly increased risk of Lyme disease, since it is less likely for their bodies to be checked carefully for tick bites.

What are the Most Common Symptoms When Dogs Have Lyme Disease?

Below are some of the most common symptoms that a dog may have Lyme disease. 


Like most health problems in dogs, a fever is one of the earliest signs of Lyme disease. It is typically accompanied by at least one of the other symptoms on this list, but not always.

Lethargy and Loss of Appetite

Lethargy and loss of appetite are quick to follow fever in a dog who is sick with Lyme disease. Since these two symptoms can be associated with almost every other health problem in dogs, too, it is important to go to the vet when you first notice them in your pet.

Joint Swelling and Tenderness

Joint swelling is common in Lyme disease that has progressed slightly. When the infection reaches your dog’s joints, it may cause them to swell, turn red, and become very tender to the touch. Your dog may experience pain, stiffness, and decreased overall mobility as a result. These symptoms can mimic arthritis, so it’s important to have your vet check your dog thoroughly when you first notice joint problems.


Lameness is a sign of later Lyme disease. Dogs who are dealing with unmanaged Lyme disease may lose the ability to use one or more legs. This problem may come and go, or it may come and stay, depending on the severity of the disease at the time.

How are Dogs Diagnosed with Lyme Disease and What is the Prognosis?

The most common method of diagnosing Lyme disease in dogs is bloodwork. This bloodwork tests for antibodies that indicate the dog’s body is fighting off Lyme disease. Veterinarians may also ask you about your dog’s symptoms and examine your dog’s body for signs of tick bites.

While proper treatment can help your dog recover in several weeks, the condition can be lifelong in some pets. Your pet may need management for chronic pain as a result.

How to Protect Your Pet from Lyme Disease

  • Check your dog’s body after spending time outside, especially in tall grasses.
  • Remove ticks from your dog right away if you spot them. If they have buried fully, try to save the tick, and take it to the vet to determine what type it is.
  • Have your dog vaccinated against Lyme disease. This vaccination is one of the best ways to prevent your pet from contracting this illness.

In Conclusion 

Based on this information, it’s easy to see why Lyme disease threatens so many dogs. It is found commonly in many locations with high tick populations, and it causes serious, chronic symptoms that are difficult for many pet owners to manage.

With the help of a Heart + Paw vet, you can manage your dog’s symptoms before they get out of hand. Additionally, the vet can help you choose the best method of protecting your dog from Lyme disease, so you never have to worry about it in the first place. Although prevention is the best solution, experienced vets can work with you to give your dog a great life even after a Lyme diagnosis, too. Use the online form to book an appointment at one of our Heart + Paw locations today!

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Heart + Paw was founded in 2018 by Chief Veterinary Officer Dr. George Melillo, who currently serves the Mid-Atlantic area. Heart + Paw offers a combination of veterinary care, pet grooming, and dog daycare to help be a resource in your pet parenthood journey.

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