Understanding Lyme Disease in Dogs: Symptoms, Treatment, and Long-Term Management

Lyme disease, a bacterial illness transmitted by black-legged ticks, can affect dogs and lead to various symptoms. While some dogs may test positive for Lyme disease without showing any signs, others may experience fever, joint swelling, lameness in the legs, lethargy, swollen lymph nodes, and loss of appetite.

The good news is that Lyme disease in dogs can be effectively managed and treated. If your dog has already started treatment while in the shelter, the symptoms are likely to be mild or resolved by the time of adoption. Typically, treatment for Lyme disease in dogs lasts for approximately one month.

If you’re considering adopting a dog with Lyme disease, working closely with the shelter and your veterinarian is essential to ensure the best care for your new furry friend.

Before Adoption: What to Expect and Ask the Shelter

Prior to adoption, the shelter should provide you with your new dog’s medical record, which includes vaccinations, preventatives administered in the shelter, and an indication of a positive Lyme disease test. Look for any clinical signs of Lyme disease, such as limping or swollen lymph nodes, in the examination notes.

Be sure to ask the shelter about the specific tests done to detect Lyme disease and any additional testing they may have conducted. Inquire about your dog’s symptoms, any treatments received, tick prevention measures, and if they are currently on medication. Request a copy of the medical record to share with your veterinarian during the first visit.

Treatment Options for Lyme Disease in Dogs

Private-practice veterinarians may not treat Lyme-positive dogs with no symptoms, but shelter vets may prescribe doxycycline, an antibiotic, regardless of symptoms. Doxycycline is usually given orally once or twice daily for at least four weeks to treat Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses. Follow the shelter’s instructions regarding continuing medication after adoption.

After Adoption: First Vet Visit and Long-Term

Management Schedule your pup’s first official vet visit after adoption to monitor their health and discuss treatment options. Your veterinarian may recommend additional blood work or urinalysis to check kidney function, as some Lyme-positive dogs can develop severe kidney disease.

For symptomatic Lyme disease, improvement in joint inflammation should be visible within three to five days of starting treatment. Long-term management may involve pain medications, joint supplements, and maintaining a healthy weight to reduce stress on joints.

Cost of Lyme Disease Treatment in Dogs

Some shelters may provide the pet’s prescriptions free of charge but expect to pay for a recheck with your veterinarian, including an exam, blood work, and urinalysis. If you need to obtain medications from your veterinarian, costs can range from $100 to $150 or more, depending on dosage and the number of prescribed medications.

Long-Term Care and Prevention

Keep an eye on your dog’s health for potential long-term conditions such as arthritis and kidney disease. Regular monitoring and follow-ups with your veterinarian are essential. Year-round tick prevention is recommended to avoid Lyme disease recurrence and transmission of other tick-borne diseases.

By providing a safe and nurturing environment and ensuring regular veterinary care, you can give your adopted dog with Lyme disease the best chance at a long, healthy, and happy life.

FAQs About Adopting a Dog With Lyme Disease

  1. Is Lyme disease in dogs painful? While most dogs that test positive for Lyme disease won’t show symptoms, those with Lyme arthritis may experience joint swelling and lameness, which can be painful. Early treatment often leads to full recovery, but long-standing Lyme arthritis can cause permanent damage and long-term arthritis.
  2. Is Lyme disease in dogs contagious to other pets? Lyme disease is not contagious between pets. It is transmitted through tick bites. However, any dog can develop Lyme disease, so tick prevention is crucial in areas with known tick-borne diseases.