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Symptoms of Dogs and Cats with Lyme Disease

Symptoms & Diagnosis
Lyme Disease
Symptoms & Diagnosis
Lyme disease symptoms
  • Joint problems
  • Stiff back
  • Lethargy

Following a tick bite, symptoms of Lyme disease and/or illness may not develop for several weeks or months. Symptoms of Lyme disease in dogs and cats include limping and intermittent, wandering arthritis that affects one joint one day, and the same or another joint the next day. The painful arthritic joint may be hot and swollen so that pets walk stiffly and arch their backs. Some pets are lethargic and anorexic, and have fevers.

After having Lyme disease for some time, pets may develop kidney problems because the white blood cell antibodies that attach themselves to the Lyme spirochete form clumps (antigen-antibody complex) that plug up the kidney filtering unit, the glomerulus. With glomerulonephritis, the pet loses the ability to prevent molecules like sodium from being lost in the urine. These lost sodium molecules pull water into the urine and the pet urinates large quantities. This makes the pet thirsty and drink to replenish what is lost in the urine. The tendency to urinate large quantities (polyuria) and drink large quantities (polydipsia), or PUPD, is characteristic of chronic kidney failure.

Heart and nervous system disease is also possible, but rare. Lymph nodes may swell as the white blood cells multiply to produce more immune soldiers to fight the infection.

How is Lyme disease diagnosed?

Lyme Disease in pets is diagnosed by blood tests that show an increase in antibodies to the Borrelia organism. The amount of antibodies must increase four-fold to prove your pet has an active infection.

Preventing Lyme disease in pets

To prevent Lyme disease in dogs and cats, stop the ticks that transmit the disease. The tick that carries the Borrelia spirochete can be prevented or killed by a tick collar and topical flea and tick medications. Ticks that are killed within 48 hours of attaching on a pet cannot transmit Lyme disease. Sometimes these ticks stay on a pet's body although they are dead because head and mouth parts remain lodged in the skin.

The Ixodes tick that spreads Lyme disease has a 2-year life cycle. It sucks enough blood from a mouse, deer, dog, or human to survive through larva and nymph stages of growth. After two years, the tick reaches adulthood, feeds again, and lays 2000 eggs in the grass. To break the tick's life cycle, clean up the yard so that deer mice cannot cohabitate with deer. Mow along fence rows and remove brush. Check your pet daily for ticks.

For the prevention of Lyme Disease we recommend these products (some only for dogs) to prevent or kill ticks: Preventic Tick Collar, K9 Advantix II, Frontline Plus, Flea5X Plus for Dogs, Revolution, and Arctick. These products also protect pets from other tick-borne diseases including anaplasmosis, ehrlichia, and Rocky Mountain spotted fever.

If ticks are a problem in the home we recommend using a room fogger or spray. For the yard, we recommend Virbac Yard Spray.

Recommended pet products for preventing Lyme disease infected ticks
Recommended pet products for killing ticks in your home and yard
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