Lyme Disease in Dogs- Symptoms

The clinical signs of Lyme disease in dogs generally will occur 2 to 6 months after a tick bites a dog.  After the tick bites a dog it needs to stay attached to the dog for at least 50 hours to transmit the infection to the dog.  Click here to learn more about the process from tick bite to the development of Lyme disease. The clinical signs (or symptoms) of Lyme disease in dogs are joint swelling, shifting leg lameness, fever, poor appetite, lymph node swelling, and general malaise (not feeling well). Lyme Disease in Dogs- Symptoms

Arthritis secondary to Lyme disease in dogs

As the infection that causes Lyme disease in dogs spreads through the skin, connective tissue, and muscle tissue it can cause the dog to be sore.  This soreness can decrease the dogs mobility.  As the infection progresses, arthritis can occur secondary to Lyme disease in dogs.  Arthritis from Lyme disease in dogs, will typically affect the legs closest to where the tick bite occurred.  Some dogs with Lyme disease will develop a monoarthritis, which will cause them to limp on one leg.  Other dogs will develop a polyarthritis, which will cause them to limp on multiple legs.    The limping caused by the arthritis in dogs with Lyme disease can vary from very subtle to non-weight bearing.  The diagnostic test to confirm the suspicion of arthritis from Lyme disease in dogs is a fluid analysis from the infected joints.  The arthritis that dogs develop secondary to Lyme disease does not cause a change in the appearance of the bones.  Because of this, x-rays are not necessary to diagnose arthritis secondary to Lyme disease in dogs. Click here to learn about testing options to confirm a diagnosis of Lyme disease in your dog.

Kidney disease secondary to Lyme disease in dogs

Dogs with Lyme disease can also develop kidney disease that causes them to lose an excessive amount of protein through their kidneys.  The urinary test to determine if your dog is losing too much protein is a urine protein to creatinine ratio.  Golden Retrievers and Labrador Retrievers appear to be the most affected breeds to develop kidney disease secondary to Lyme disease.  The reason for this is unknown.  If the kidney disease is caught before the dog goes into kidney failure there is a chance to resolve it with medication.  Otherwise, if the dog with Lyme disease develops kidney failure the prognosis is very poor.  When dogs with Lyme disease develop kidney failure they will typically develop a poor appetite, vomiting, and become very weak.  At this point their prognosis is very poor.

Click here to learn about vaccinating your dog against Lyme disease.


  1. Can untreated lymes disease cause percardial effusion

    • In human medicine there are reported cases of Lyme disease causing pericarditis and pericardial effusion. This is a life threatening condition. The pericardial effusion causes tamponade, which is compression of the right side of the heart causing heart failure. The treatment is pericardiocentesis (drain the pericardial fluid with a needle and syringe) to relieve the pressure on the right side of the heart. In dogs, as far as we know, Lyme disease does not cause pericarditis and pericardial effusion. The most common causes of pericardial effusion in dogs are cancer (hemangiosarcoma, chemodectoma, mesothelioma) and pericarditis. The underlying cause of pericarditis in dogs is often unknown, which is called idiopathic pericarditis.

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