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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217 Comments

  1. My 7 year old basset became lethargic and unable to walk with no appetite. We took her to emergency vet on Labor Day and they ran tests for 3 days but never diagnosed her with Lyme disease. The vet did place her on a week of doxycycline along with some other antibiotics and pain meds. He released her and I took her home and spoke with my regular vet. She said it sounds like she had Lyme disease but no one mentioned an extended dose of antibiotics. Tonight (2 1/2 weeks later) she died after I rushed her to emergency vet. My question is if I had extended her doxycycline dosage, would it had prevented her death. She was breathing heavily and had blood tinged drool when she died. I’m beside myself if I could have prevented this.

  2. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianSeptember 19, 2014 at 11:57 am

    I highly doubt she had lyme disease, as dogs with lyme dont typically die like this so quickly. More likely she had some sort of tumor, given her breed, most likely in chest or abdomen, like the spleen. Hemangiosarcoma is a malignancy in dogs that an present this way. Only a necropsy can give you exact cause but Ihighly doubt she had lyme disease.

  3. Jersey is our Medium shorthair Dauschund, about 6 years old. About 1.5months ago she woke up and was limping on front leg. It got better on it’s own after about a day or so. About a week later she was limping again on the opposite front leg. It too went away on it’s own. About 3-4 weeks ago she seemed to not be feeling well, was running a temp of about 105. We took her to the emergency vet and $1700 later they said she may have an enlarged spleen and could have lymphoma. We did send off slides of an asprid of the spleen but it was negative for anything bad (not sure what they looked for specifically). We followed up with our regular vet and he said the spleen was enlarged but it was uniform, so unlikely a tumor or anything like that. We have had her on antibiotics for about two weeks and she has seemed 100% normal. He said continue these antibiotics for about 30 days. Well this morning she woke up and is suddenly holding her back leg up. (Went to bed 100% fine last night). We figured maybe it will get better on it’s own again like the last two times with the front legs. I checked on her a couple hours later and she was obviously in pain so I rushed her into the vet. She felt all around and nothing made the dog yelp, she said everything “felt” fine but did prescribe some meloxidyl liquid. I gave it about half hour ago but poor dog is still moaning and won’t lay still. I don’t know if the different leg pains and the fever are associated, or associated with today’s new symptom. She is otherwise a good healthy fun dog so I don’t know what has been going on. Hopefully someone can help. We are quickly going broke after spending upwards of $3000 now with no real answers or resolution. 🙁

  4. Oh also a tick test was done and sent off that took two days. They said it was negative. We live in Colorado and I’m told ticks aren’t really a problem here. (I’ve never even seen one myself). We did go camping a few months ago and afterwards checked the dog. She does have a small bump in her armpit. But it hasn’t grown or changed since then. It’s underneath the skin.

  5. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianSeptember 22, 2014 at 12:41 am

    Given the breed, sounds like a back problem or disc issue which often does not even show up on routine x rays, although certainly your local vet can look for these on x rays. I would ask your vet for trial with pain meds like metacam, gabapentin and tramadol for a few weeks and see if limping goes away. If not, may need MRI of spine

  6. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianSeptember 22, 2014 at 12:42 am

    See my last response

  7. Hello, my 5 year old Golden Retriever has tested positive for Lyme disease each of the last three years, including today. He has never showed symptoms and we were told by many that it was normal. This is the first year that he tested positive for Ehrlichiosis (or at least having the antibody). Should we be concerned, or is it a similar situation to the Lyme disease positive test? He has no symptoms and is in great overall health. I’ve been told by a former vet (now virologist) that we shouldn’t worry or do the additional tests unless he shows some signs on illness. Is that a solid plan? Thanks!

  8. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianSeptember 26, 2014 at 9:28 pm

    Excellent questions. Answer would depend on which veterinary internal medicine specialist you speak to. Most vets DONT treat positive lyme tests, unless symptomatic. As for Ehrlichiosis, most vets will treat with 3 to 4 weeks of doxycycline, even if asymptomatic, due to the potential severity of this disease.

  9. Ive been enjoying reading this post its been quite informative. A few month ago my beagle 5-7y/o) tested positive for lyme and they talked me into doing another test for it as well. I was supposed to get a script for doxycycline but this was right at the time of the price spike and I couldnt afford $250 on top of the $400 from the appappointment. I felt very pressured and deceived by my vet, my dogs only sypmtom is lethargy but thats even hardly noticeable because hes never been super active. the only other concern I had was hes gotten very white this year but the vet didnt care. Do you think I need to treat it? Also have minocycline from my other dog would I be able to give him that? thanks

  10. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianSeptember 29, 2014 at 3:56 pm

    Minocycline is fine to use as a substitute. Check with your local vet…. Actually many other cheap antibiotics kill the bacteria that causes lyme disease just as well i.e amoxicillin, cephalexin, etc. Doxy covers other tick born diseases but these other two antibiotics work for lyme just as well!!!

  11. hi,my 35lbs shelti was just diagnosed with lyme disease.the vet told me to put my dog on a diet and he gave me a script for minocycline 100mlx2 a day.my dog did well but on the third day he started throwing up.i called my vet and they told me to give the dog pepcid ac ,feed the dog and wait 20 min before giving him the minocycline,i tried that and he still threw everything up.oh my dog was tested twice for lyme in 1 week and his quantitive c6 antibody test result was 51-u/ml. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

  12. Hi my parents 5 yr old neapolitan mastiff was tested positive for lyme about 2 months ago. She had no real symptoms and it was just found during her routine check up. My parents put her on doxycycline for a normal cycle and she took it relatively fine.

    Recently for about 5-6 days or so she has been on and off limping on her front right leg. She doesn’t whimper at all on her own and doesn’t whimper when I try touching her to see if something is sore (maybe because shes such a large dog).

    Not sure if I should be worried or not. The limping isn’t consistent. Sometimes I can’t tell if she is limping or not, sometimes its obvious. She has had a decent amount of changes though. The week before she started limping I started walking her fairly regularly on the sidewalk. My parents also got a new couch and now the couch is off limits for her. So she typically lays on her doggy bed on her side now.

  13. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianOctober 4, 2014 at 3:31 pm

    The limping should be checked out by a vet. Could be soft tissue injury from over exertion. I doubt secondary to lyme issue.

  14. Hey, I have a 4 yearold american bully…..she had been yeping and flea biting around her body leaving me to think she may have got bit my a tick maybe 3-5 days ago…., she is indoor dog 90% of the time, still eating and drinking normally but been acting lazy the last day or two…….what do you think? any home remedies? also do you think its a tick? or if it is will it cure herself without meds?

  15. Update: shes eating fine and drining fine….wont get up on stuff…yelping/whining at different times randomly…stool is normal…..being lazy and the whining getting more often or whatever hurting her more…..has a little bit of a fever and runny nose.

  16. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianOctober 26, 2014 at 8:26 pm

    I would see vet for recheck and possibly additional prescription pain medications.

  17. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianOctober 26, 2014 at 8:31 pm

    Best to have vet check and evaluation before I can make any specific recommendations. I would not assume tick born disease unless evaluated by vet. Hard to say if from tick bite or something else which is why a vet exam is recommended.

  18. I have an 8 month old boxer/beagle and recently discovered what looks to be 2 deer ticks on her neck. I removed them with tweezers and used rubbing alcohol and antibacterial soap. Both areas are read and scabby. My kids said they seen the 1st one over a week ago and thought it was a mole. Although she has no symptoms of Lyme disease, looking at the time line, I am fearful of her being infected. Please advise.

  19. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianOctober 28, 2014 at 3:17 pm

    Most dogs who are exposed to lyme disease have NO symptoms of lyme and get over it find on their own. I would just monitor her, and see your vet if signs of lethargy or limping develop. I would recommend good tick prevention such as the pill Nexguard from 1800petmeds.

  20. I have a four month old German shepherd who started limping with one leg and now both for the past three days. He also seems very lethargic , I have noticed he finds it very hard to get off his hind legs.
    We are in India in a small town and there isn’t many vets around. Plz help and advise
    Many thanks

  21. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianNovember 3, 2014 at 4:07 pm

    Many possibilities from an injury to hip dysplasia. Unfortunately not much I can tell you to do over the internet, as this is one that needs a vet exam. You could try a natural remedy called Traumeel from 1800petmeds to see if it can help.

  22. Hi Dr. Dym!

    My 5 yr old basset began limping on his left rear leg Saturday. Monday I took him in to the vet & the blood test came back for Lyme disease and he also has a yeast infection in between his toes on the same side as his lame leg. My vet believes limping is from L.D., & gave us antibiotics as well as ointment for the yeast infection. It’s now Thursday & he still has a limp and definitely isn’t himself–seems depressed & doesn’t have much of an appetite. Have you had experience with dogs not improving to the treatment from Lyme disease? Is it possible his limp is just from the yeast infection & will take more time to heal? The vet did an extensive exam of his hind legs & felt no other abnormalities. Thanks in advance!

  23. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianNovember 13, 2014 at 11:13 pm

    HI Hailey. In my experience and opinion, lyme disease is WAY overidiagnosed as a cause of lameness in dogs. In many areas of the country MANY dogs are naturally exposed to lyme disease, and may test positive, but most NEVER develop any symptoms or get sick. The yeast infection is a possibility as a cause, as well as soft tissue injury, etc. The antibiotic most commonly used for lyme disease i.e doxycycline may cause loss of appetite in some pets. I would have a vet recheck and evaluation to tweak the meds and explore another cause or diagnosis of the lameness.

  24. Our 6 year old, 29 lb Beagle, Ellie was diagnosed with Lyme Disease, is in incredible pain and has been on antibiotics as well as Rimadyl for one week. The vet said she should be greatly better in 48-72 hours but after a week she isn’t showing any improvement, is still in great pain, unable to move much at all and doesn’t have much of an appetite. Does this sound like Lyme? Is it normal for a dog not to improve in this timeframe or should we be concerned?
    Thank you!

  25. I took my 3y.o. Basset hound to the vet today after I noticed a decrease in appetite, lethargic behavior, and quivering. She tested positive in the snap test for Lyme, so she was given 30 day dose of doxy. My only concern is the quivering, I’ve researched and haven’t seen any mention of quivering being an associated side effect. Please advise me as to this being normal, or should I get a second opinion? I don’t feel like the quivering was addressed by the vet as it should have been because it was a major contributing factor to me noticing something wasn’t right with my dog.

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