My dog tested positive for Lyme disease

Lyme disease is transmitted by tick bite, most commonly the deer tick.

May is National Lyme Disease Awareness Month.

Lyme disease is an infectious disease transmitted by tick bite, most commonly the deer tick. Particularly during the warm months many pets can be bitten by ticks carrying this disease. Lyme disease is most commonly seen in the northeast and mid-sections of the United States, but has been documented in many other states as well. Lyme disease is most commonly seen in dogs, as cats seem to be more resistant to the organism. Most pets that are naturally exposed to Lyme disease never develop any symptoms or get sick. Therefore if a pet “tests positive” for Lyme disease, it does not necessarily mean that a pet is sick or infected, or needs treatment.

For instance, many pets will get over the disease on their own but can remain positive on a blood test for months or years. Many veterinarians have a simple blood test that can tell you within minutes if your pet has been exposed to Lyme disease. Other laboratory tests such as a western blot or C6 blood test can be done; however, in my experience they are rarely needed in clinical practice.

In the event a Lyme disease positive pet is symptomatic then antibiotic therapy should be instituted. Signs and symptoms of Lyme disease in dogs can include:

  • Lethargy
  • Swollen glands
  • Fever
  • Limping (which can be a shifting lameness in different legs)
  • And occasionally kidney and heart/nervous system complications

In some situations involving Labradors and Golden Retrievers, dog breeds such as these appear to have a higher genetic predisposition to the kidney form of Lyme disease when compared to other breeds. Treatment usually consists of 3 to 6 weeks of antibiotic therapy, most commonly Doxycycline, which can also treat other hidden tick-borne diseases. There are vaccinations available for Lyme disease; however, in my opinion and experience the vaccinations may not be effective and I am concerned about long term autoimmune problems. It is for this reason the best prevention against Lyme disease is using year-round flea and tick control.

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204 Comments

  1. My 14 year old chihuahua has been on medication for kidney disease for over a year. He recently tested positive for Lyme and is on doxycycline. When tested, he had no symptoms. Lethargy and trouble walking began after two weeks on the antibiotic. What do you think about this?

    • Hi Jennifer. A POSITIVE test for Lyme disease does NOT mean that a pet has active clinical lyme disease or infection. It just means your pet was exposed at one point in his life. MOST pets exposed to lyme disease and testing positive NEVER get sick and many veterinarians erroneously diagnose lyme disease and place pets on antibiotics. I would strongly recommend a veterinary exam and recheck, and workup for other disorders, as there is likely something else going on here, including kidney and/or other geriatric diseases

  2. My 2 year old Blue Heeler/Corgi mix was just diagnosed with Lyme Disease and he is having trouble walking or even getting off the couch, is there anything i can do to make him more comfortable and maybe help with this? I feel so bad for him.

    • HI Kayla. I would follow your veterinarian’s directions in taking any prescribed medications and/or antibiotics such as doxycycline. If lyme disease TRULY the cause here, there should be rapid improvement within a few days of starting the antibiotic. Unfortunately, many veterinarians OVERdiagnose Lyme disease as a cause of symptoms in pets, as many pets may test positive but arent actually infected. IF your pet is not feeling better, I would return to vet for recheck and workup for other possible diagnoses here as a cause of the symptoms

  3. My Chuahuaha/Doxi was diagnosed with Lyme disease. She currently on a treatment of Doxicyclene can I still give her her Vectra-D for heartwaorm.

  4. My 10-year old Border Collie, Dokken, was diagnosed with chronic kidney failure in mid-May, 2016. Her kidney values on a blood test were HUGE indicating 4th stage kidney failure. She spent five days at an Animal Hospital near Philadelphia and had her kidneys flushed and the values brought down to a plateau. She looked great but three days later the kidney values were up, she would not eat, barely drink, not take her medication. She was put to sleep on June 14 after suffering two small seizures. She had tested positive for Lyme Disease every year since 2011 when she was initially given 90 days of Doxycline. I used Advantix periodically on her. She tested positive for Lyme Disease every year after 2011 until 2016. She was not prescribed any further medication or treatment. She did not exhibit any signs of Lyme Disease until mid-May 2016 when she appeared lethargic and listless and not her energetic self. Until that time she was always active. I no longer patronize the vet whom I had been going to with various dogs for 20 years. He should have been more vigilant with an older dog who had been diagnosed with Lyme Disease such as annual blood tests and bi-annual check-ups. If caught early there is a chance to manage kidney failure whether caused by Lyme Disease or not. I knew nothing about kidney failure in people or animals until this happened and fault myself also for not being more vigilant. However, it all comes down to a caring vet. I was devastated when I got a copy of the blood test and the vet did not contact me to discuss it but merely, at that time, said to make another appointment for a re-test in a week. I loved that dog and her sister both of whom were Border Collie mixes and true Border Collies — affectionate, energetic, and intelligent. I was fortunate to get them when they were 1-1/2 years old and to still have the sister, Vixen. But she and I are still sad.

    • HI Diana. Just seeing your questions now. Answering this one first. So sorry to hear of your recent tragic loss It does sound like you did everything possible for her. AS a fellow graduate of University of PA Veterinary School in Philly, you have a world renowned expert there on Lyme Disease who i learned from in Meryl Littman, VMD. The bottom line of all of this lyme hubra is that all veterinarians should really be doing on their lyme positive dogs, is monitoring periodically urine protein/creatinine ratios on the urines of dogs to pick up early protein loss in urine which RARELY happens on dogs exposed to lyme disease i.e called Immune glomerulonephropathy; All of the other fancy tests, etc that are constantly being redone and over or misinterpreted are a waste of time in my opinion and experience. The only rare sensitive patient that develops complications from Lyme disease typically involves the kidneys like this. Megarounds of antibiotics with doxycycline, etc are of no use in monitoring for this most important yet rare complication

  5. I left a comment about my Border Collie, Dokken, now deceased. Did you get it?

  6. Regarding my comment, above. My Border Collie, Dokken, was diagnosed with 4th stage Kidney Failure in mid-May, 2016. She was 10 years old and was put to sleep on June 14. Dokken had been diagnosed with chronic kidney failure after a blood test indicated HUGE kidney values. Dokken had tested positive for Lyme Disease in 2011 and, at that time, was given 90 tabs of 100 mg Doxycicline. She tested positive for Lyme Disease every year from thereafter until 2016 but was never given further medication. She exhibited no symptoms until mid-May when she became lethargic and listless and not her usual energetic Border Collie self. She spent five days at a veterinary hospital outside Philadelphia and they brought her kidney values down to a plateau. She seemed great but three days later her kidney values were up again and she would not eat, barely drink, not take her medication. After two small seizures I had to make the sad decision to have her put to sleep. It was devastating. I loved that dog and her sister, who I still have, whom I got when they were 1-1/2 years old. Border Collies are so affectionate, loyal and intelligent. I no longer visit this vet whom I have been going to for over 20 years with various dogs. He made no effort to discuss Dokken’s condition with me and merely said to make a second appointment the following week. He should have suggested annual blood tests for a dog testing positive with Lyme Disease and who was an older dog together with bi-annual checkups. Possibly that could have indicated a beginning problem (since some dogs do develop kidney failure with Lyme Disease) and could have been managed with medication and diet. The animal hospital diagnosis could not exactly determine the cause of Dokken’s kidney failure but suggested it could have been age, genetics, and a possible underlying occult infection (Lyme Disease?). I miss her terribly although I till have her sister. They were and are both great, sweet dogs and I was fortunate to have them for 8 plus years.

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