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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219 Comments

  1. Nonsteroidal anti inflammatory drugs of the aspirin class such as the prescription drugs metacam, rimadyl, etc are sometimes used for pain, etc but if a dog is not eating can be risky. The use of over the counter aspirin or any of these are to be discussed with your local veterinarian, and the decision to use them will be based on symptom history, etc There are also appetite stimulants that are occasionally used like prescription mirtazipine, which your vet would need to prescribe, however from the little bit of information given here, I question that there is something else; ‘OTHER than a diagnosis of “lyme disease” that could be causing the symptom here. I recommend a recheck exam with your local vet

  2. My 7 year old standard poodle has tested positive for lyme. He has no symptoms. My vet was not going to prescribe antibiotics at this time as he mentioned that they are not typically effective at removing the lyme entirely from the body. However, I suspect, due to all of my questioning he then said that we could run a course of antibiotics for 30 days.
    Am I putting my dog at risk of other complications by giving the antibiotic? Health issues down the road, etc.? Dosage is 100mg twice a day.

  3. Forgot to say it is doxycycline.

  4. And, once I start, must I finish the antibiotic the full 30 days or does it increase the risk that it would make a superbug.

  5. All excellent questions. You could ask your vet for a more accurate confirmatory test sent out to lab such as a PCR lyme test or C6 antibody test, which is believed to be more clinically relevant to actual infection, rather than simply prior exposure on a simple heartworm combination 4Dx test done by many vets in their offices. Most experts in our field dont advise blanketly treating asymptomatic patients for 30 days with antibiotics, although opinions will vary across the country. As for superbug and/or other risks of 30 day doxy course, that is always a rare possibility, which is why I personally take using antibiotics for any length of time very seriously. Good luck with your decision on this

  6. I have a 2 1/2 yr old boxer that tested positive for lyme a yr ago and has been on several antibiotics, the vet says he has never seen a case like this before. He doesn’t limp or yelp, but my vet says boxers aren’t cryers. He is actually thinking about doing a case study on him. I feel so bad for the poor guy. He just lays around, once in a while he gets a burst of energy and plays for a bit. We don’t want to keep him on antibiotics and ruin his insides, he’s only been off of them for maybe 3 months out of the year.
    Have you ever heard of such a case?

  7. Hello! We have a 3 year old golden male. He routinely hikes with us and, despite being on nexgard, we usually pull 10 ticks off him over the 24 hrs after our hikes. Usually they are just crawling on his fur, but rarely they have beet attached. Roughly one month ago developed right front leg pain, we rested him for a couple weeks but when it persisted intermittently we saw vet. Accuplex 4 was done for Lyme and was negative. We started a trial of more rest and NSAIDs. The right front paw limp resolved but five days later he couldn’t rise from lying down due to right hind leg limp. His hind leg symptoms were much more dramatic (and scary!) than the front leg limp which was quite subtle and only lasted a few steps after rising. We noticed the hind leg limp even when we walked a bit and he really didn’t want to walk much and he’d reduced appetite and lethargy. We rushed to vet who wasn’t sure the cause. Discussed injury but doubt as he was resting. Discussed dysplasias (how likely would this present relatively acutely in 2 separate joints). Discussed autoimmune causes. My husband and I were very worried about Lyme or other tick borne cause despite the initial negative serologies. We agreed to send a tick panel that included the c6 for Lyme (snap4 Dx plus) as well as a tick PCR panel. Still awaiting the results. We started a trial of doxy 10mg/kg/day and his symptoms completely resolved by the end of the 2nd day. Our question is, given his response should we assume Lyme or tick borne disease was culprit? Could a dysplasia or injury resolve this quickly? What about autoimmune? I realize it’s compounded by the fact that doxy has anti inflammatory properties but I don’t know how quickly you would see a response. We plan to complete a 4-6 week course of doxy and will gradually reintroduce activity in a few days (has been restricted for almost 1 week now). I suppose resuming activity (this dog hikes and runs regularly) and seeing if the limp returns will be very telling. Any thoughts on the cause or other advice would be so very appreciated, especially given rapidity of response to doxy. Thank you!

  8. I would NOT assume your dog has lyme disease, especially if there are NO clinical symptoms of the disease. We should NOT be treating lab results, but only if patient has symptoms. Many dogs test positive for lyme for years, yet are NOT infected and DONT need treatment. Further testing such as PCR, C6antibody test, etc can all be done, but most important indications of treating dog is if he has clinical symptoms. More importantly, you should be monitoring his urine for excessive protein loss at the vet, and if that starts to occur, then treatment with medications and supplements to help with protein losing urine problems can be started, however repetitive antibiotics are typically NOT needed and should not be used. Consider asking for referral to vet internist in your area who is expert on this, and will likely back up what I am saying here.

  9. HI JAckie. Thank you for your post. I am sorry about the chronic mess with your dog. To summarize, most cases of tick born diseases respond RAPIDLY to antibiotics like doxycycline within a few days, HOWEVER, this particular antibiotic ALSO has a strong anti inflammatory and immuno suppressive effect, which many clients, as well as ignorant veterinarians are not aware of. THus patients who are negative for all tick born diseases, often respond to doxy, due to this anti inflammatory effect; In my opinion and experience the more common scenario is a CHRONIC relapsing AUTOIMMUNE condition in the vast majority of cases, that if the lamenesses tend to recur, usually need immunosuppressive medications like prednisone, atopica, etc In spite of mega testing on cases like this, this is what is typically found. Rarely is infectious disease the cause of chronic and relapsing lameness but usually immune mediated i.e like a lupus or rheumatoid arthritis patient. Referral to specialists in your area, who can do extensive x rays, blood work and even joint taps can be done looking for rare infectious causes. I would also try and approach this holistically as well. Stay away from over vaccination INCLUDING ANY lyme vaccination, as well as learn more about holistic approaches to disease http://www.doctordym.com

  10. I have a seven year old Papillion who recently tested positive for Lyme and Ehrlichiosis but did not have symptoms. After his vet visit, she put him on doxycycline. My dog went from a happy, healthy, energetic dog to a limping, sad dog. I stopped the medicine to see if that was the cause, and after a day and a half, he was not limping and happy again. I am told I need to put him back on this medicine. Can this medicine cause limping when there wasn’t any prior?

  11. HI Julie. Very odd sequence of events. Very often many veterinarians in error OVERDIAGNOSE a positive lyme exposure blood test as a cause of a patient’s symptoms, and in many cases many veterinarians mistakingly use doxycycline and/or other antibiotics in NONsymptomatic dogs, based only on a blood test, which is not what the experts on this condition advise. You could consider asking your vet to run an PCR lyme blood test and/or C6 antibody test, which often more collorates with the pet’s clinical condition and in house lyme test results done at vet offices. I would NOT expect, however for your pet to GET WORSE on the doxycycline. If he is, I would ask your vet about an alternative cause of the symptoms and/or additional testing as I suggest here

  12. My dog is 11 years old. He is a 18 lb Chihuahua mix….he tested positive for Lyme on Monday of this week. He was up until then very active, ran around….now he
    Can’t even walk, he hasn’t taken a single step. I have to hold him up to pee or to drink. I took him to the ER and he was given Doxy, I gave him a dose that day and Tuesday….he wasn’t eating or drinking much so I took him to my regular vet. They gave him SC fluids, Pepcid, some nausea Med and a bland diet food. They said his kidney results showed mild elevation and to recheck it in a week…so they said Lyme Nephritis…..he’s had 3 doses of doxy total but what’s scaring me is that he isn’t walking at all! He can barely near any weight…..is this normal for Lyme?

  13. The only true rare health threat to an OCCASIONAL animal on lyme exposure is a rare Lyme nephritis, which is more of an autoimmune response, rather than due to the bacteria itself, which is why doxycycline antibiotic not adequate if your pet TRULY has lyme nephritis. Your pet needs full urine analysis to check urine protein levels, especially a urine protein/creatinine ratio to make this diagnosis, in addition to blood work. NOT very common in toy breed like this but more in retriever and larger breeds. IF that is what your pet truly has, then additional treatment is likely needed rather than just doxycycline. I am still doubtful that this is what your pet actually has. You may want to ask your vet for referral to vet specialist or internist in your area who can make sure diagnosis is correct and best treatment

  14. Also Kara, consulting with a holistic veterinarian on this also might be helpful, if lyme nephritis is present, as traditional medical care prognosis on this is bleak if that is actual diagnosis To learn more see http://www.doctordym.com Many holistic vets offer phone consultations

  15. Our 3-year-old long-haired chihuahua recently tested positive for Lyme Disease in a routine exam/work-up. Our vet gave us the option of treating her though she had no symptons whatsoever. She has been taking 50 mg twice a day (for 30 days) and she is currently half-way through her prescription…her stomach is rumbling, she is eating little, and she clearly doesn’t like this medication…she knows it makes her stomach upset. I called the vet and he said it’s normal for the doxycycline to give and upset stomach. I am seriously considering discontinuing this treatment after everything I’ve read here and what I see…basically a dog that is not sick at all being subjected to a medication she doesn’t seem to require. My question is will I do her harm by stopping the medication altogether? Thank you so much!

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  18. My sisters 7 year old 6 pound Yorkie has lime disease for a few years now .I’ve noticed the last few two or three days he’s having difficulty walking .is there anything I can do to help him ? we gave him doggie aspirins for the pain.

  19. I would NOT give doggie aspirin on your own here without proper exam and evaluation by your local vet, as could be other causes of lameness or relapse of lyme disease

  20. 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?

  21. 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

  22. 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.

  23. 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

  24. 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.

  25. 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.

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