Latest Lyme Disease Info and Treatment for Dogs

Cait’s little boy hasn’t been feeling so well. Feverish, tired and achy, all Wink wants to do is rest quietly. It’s sad to see this normally effervescent little guy so under the weather. (Though, in a day or so, he should be back to his normal self because he’s been started on Doxycycline, the antibiotic of choice for Lyme.)


Wink has been unlucky enough to contract Lyme Disease. I say unlucky because once a dog is infected with Lyme, it can never be fully cured of it, at least at the present time. Let’s hope that changes in the not-too-distant future.

Since I live in an endemic area, and every dog I’ve had since living in this house (going on two decades) has become infected–despite my best efforts–I’ve made it a mission to keep up with the latest research and effective protocols.

For the Cliff Notes Version

(continue reading after this section if you’re interested in more in-depth info below)

First! Statistics indicate that at least 80% of dogs in endemic areas will become infected with Lyme Disease! If your dog is not currently infected, get him or her vaccinated! Yes, there used to be problems with the old vaccine, but those have been addressed with the new.  Yes, it may not prevent your dog from becoming infected, but it will hugely lessen the damaging effects of Lyme. Also be sure to use a tick repellent. Frontline works for many dogs.  If you want to try a natural repellent keep reading below.

Second! Presenting symptoms of Lyme in dogs can range from lack of appetite, to lethargy, fever, and joint stiffness and swelling, to no obvious syptoms at all! If your dog tests positive for Lyme get him on Doxycycline immediately, and keep him on it for at least a month (preferably 6 weeks). I say that even as someone coming from a more holistic approach. To counter-act the harsh  impact on your dog’s gut bacteria, give a probiotic (you can find them at your health food store) and/or give a 1/2 cup organic plain yogurt (can be found in any grocery store now).

Third! Don’t panic. While Lyme is a dastardly disease, there is much we know about it now, and there are many allopathic, homeopathic, and holistic treatments available. I find using a combination of all 3 approaches works best for my guys. Visit the links below for more information.

More In-depth Lyme Information and Links

Tick borne disease is becoming epidemic in the United States. It’s serious and, in some cases, it can be deadly. Lyme disease has now been reported in all 48 contiguous states, though cases are most heavily concentrated along the East Coast, California, and the north central states.

There’s a lot of confusing and conflicting information on the treatment of this disease. What follows represents what I now do for my dogs. Everyone should discuss appropriate treatment with their vet.

The Lyme Perpetrator: Deer Ticks

The tiny deer ticks are the carriers of Lyme. Never going dormant, they remain active year-round and can transmit the disease at any time, though most cases are reported during the Spring and Fall. Because deer ticks are so tiny (the size of a sesame seed), they are very hard to spot on dogs. People often miss them on themselves as well. The nymphs, which are most often responsible for Lyme transmission, are even smaller than the adults.

Signs of Lyme

Lyme is a shape-shifter disease that carries a variety of bacteria. For this reason, signs of Lyme can vary. It can also present with all kinds of weird signs or no signs at all. And different vets’ knowledge may vary. One vet told me that dogs don’t get bulls-eye rashes. Kiera has had a few textbook case bulls-eyes. Here’s a photo of one of Graidy’s bulls-eyes and more info on treatment.

Many dogs who are positive will never show a sign. But the most common signs are arthritis, lameness, stiffness, joint swelling, soreness, lethargy, and fever. Often, people and dogs won’t get bulls-eye rashes. In advanced cases, Lyme can cause kidney failure, heart problems, and neurological damage, which can lead to an aggression disorder. Because any of these signs, including lameness, can last less than 24 hours, if you notice anything different about your dogs, or they just don’t seem right, even if you can’t put your finger on it, please get them checked.


The most accurate test now used in diagnosing Lyme disease in dogs (done at the vet’s office) is the Canine SNAP 3Dx or the C6 SNAP test, which tests for C6 antibodies to Lyme disease, and also tests for the additional tick borne disease of ehrlichia canis, as well as for heartworm disease. The reason the SNAP test is so accurate is because the C6 antibodies are only present due to actual infection, not as a reaction to the vaccine, which is very helpful for dogs who have been vaccinated or whose vaccination status in unknown.

A positive on the C6 SNAP test requires a follow-up test called the Lyme Quantitative C6 Antibody Test. The C6 antibody test determines the level of Lyme to see if we need to treat with antibiotics. A dog with a level over 30 gets Doxycycline, and is then retested in six months to see if the titer has dropped.

There is also an annual vaccine. The first vaccine is followed by a booster in two weeks, and then a booster every year thereafter. The old vaccine did have problems. The new vaccine (Merial or Fort Dodge) is much safer, as it uses a killed virus as opposed to a modified live virus. There is some question as to whether or not a Lyme positive dog should be vaccinated. Lyme-expert vets recommend the vaccine even for dogs who’ve had Lyme, if they live in endemic areas. The vaccine is believed to help prevent another serious re-infection. Some people question whether the vaccine will cause a dog to test positive. The answer is no; it’s a different test–antibody vs. antigen. Statistically, the risk of any vaccine reaction is less than one half of one percent. There are convincing arguments for vaccinating and not vaccinating. It’s worth it to take the time to educate yourself so you know the risks. I have chosen to vaccinate my Lyme-positive dogs.

I also use Frontline monthly throughout the entire year. You’ll still find ticks when using Frontline, but it kills them within 24 hours of attachment. It’s thought that the tick needs to be attached for more than 24 hours before the disease can be transmitted. Also, if you miss a tick, it will fall off the dog and look for a new host at the next meal. When you use Frontline, those ticks fall off dead. I include garlic in their food, and this seems to repel ticks as well.

If you’re open to trying natural remedies, a mixture of Lavender and Geranium oil works well to repel ticks. Dab the oil between the dog’s shoulder blades. Resources you might find helpful are: Veterinarians Guide to Natural Remedies for Dogs: Safe and Effective Alternative Treatments and Healing Techniques from the Nation’s Top Holistic Veterinarians, by Martin Zucker, and New Choices in Natural Healing for Dogs & Cats, by Amy Shojai.

If one of my dogs does have a Lyme flair-up (all 3 dogs are positive for Lyme), I immediately get them on a 30 day course of Doxycycline (some vets recommend 60 days or longer, depending on the stage at which it’s caught). Even if my dogs’ signs resolve sooner–signs usually resolve in a couple of days with treatment–I still give them the entire 30 day course of antibiotics. The life cycle of the spirochete is 30 days. Without treatment (or with shortened treatment), the infection can remain dormant before returning in the form of late-stage symptoms, such as neurological disorders, heart and kidney irregularities, and migrating joint pain. If the disease reaches this late state undetected, it can be difficult to treat and is sometimes fatal.

It’s important to raise people’s awareness about the rapid spread of Lyme around many parts of the country, because of the seriousness of the complications if left untreated. One of the expert vets on Lyme that I’ve gotten to know says, “When in doubt, test for Lyme.”

To Begin Your Own Research

When you google “Canine Lyme disease” or “Lyme disease + dog – human” or any variation on these, you’ll hit the jackpot. I’ve included the links that I’ve found to be chock-full of information on their own, as well as providing many links to other terrific and helpful sites. Because there have been a lot of recent developments in the understanding and treatment of Lyme, I always check the page date to make sure that I’m reading the most current information. To do this, right click on the page and then click on page info.

What Every Dog Owner Should Know About Lyme Disease is an older article, but it still offers a great general overview.

While not specifically a site about dogs, The Lyme Disease Foundation has a tremendous amount of information and resources.

Pets and Wildlife and Lyme Disease lists dozens of links to articles on Lyme and how it affects animals.

One of the lovely side effects of Lyme is that it can cause kidney failure.  Kidney Disease in Dogs gives all the diets and supplements for kidney in general, but also addresses Lyme and tick diseases.

Tick-L List

If your dog has a tick borne disease (TBD) or you suspect that it might be infected, consider joining the Tick-L. They are a knowledgeable and supportive group of people and vets who’ve been through it.

That should keep you busy for awhile.

Also, please feel free to add links, as well as what you’ve learned about Lyme in the comments.


14 thoughts on “Latest Lyme Disease Info and Treatment for Dogs”

  1. Pets are our family, and their health is also very important. Timely detection is more useful than post-ill treatment. I know there is a testing company called BALLYA ( doing a good job in this area. There are many pet disease tests in it, which are very fast and accurate. Everyone can understand.

  2. Thank you – great information. Are there symptoms of kidney disease, or should dogs always have urinalysis ( and more blood work?) when they are positive (above 30) on the C6? Does the C6 result relate to the level of infection? I have not been able to find that information. And finally, is there a referral source for Lyme expert vets? We are on Long Island and I am shocked at how nonchalant our vet has been about this. No yearly testing, no vaccination, and he was ready to treat my dog for lameness without testing for Lyme!

    Thanks so much in advance!

    1. Debbie, the true hideousness of lyme disease is that it can present differently from dog to dog, so it’s hard to give a “typical.” And it presents differently from dog to dog and even in the SAME dog depending on the stage. So are there symptons of kidney disease? Yes, in some dogs (kidney disease appears to be more prevalent in Labrador retrievers, golden retrievers, Shetland sheepdogs, and Bernese Mountain dogs). But, it did not affect Magic’s kidneys. So short answer is that urinalysis and blood work should always be done (in my opinion).

      The C6 test is a preliminary blood test that detects antibodies against a very specific protein called “C6”. This protein is unique to the Borrelia bacteria, and the presence of antibodies to C6 suggests active Lyme infection.

      Sounds like you might need a new vet… Type into Google “canine lyme disease specialist” to get a list of places that specialize in Lyme.

      Best of luck to you!

  3. Hi! Thank you so much for the info! I thank you for this site… Im starting to feel better about treating my baby! My baby Raven (she is actually 7 but will always be my baby!) Was just diagnosed with Lyme…. they put her on doxy and her reaction to it was so unsettling for me, we took her off and put her on another antibiotic (cant recall at the moment, but it starts with a ‘z’ to get the fever down… and she has been reacting much better. She is also on Rimadyl for pain, and chondroitin glucosamin supplements, and she seems to be good as new! I pray she continues on this track. Right now, Im still cooking the rice and chicken for her, and will pretty much be cooking for her for the rest of her life if it means I can keep her feeling better.

  4. anne @ shitzu puppies

    This post has a great information about lyme disease and its treatment. I highly recommend this site. Very informative!

    By the way, how’s your dog now? Thanks.

  5. Hi!
    Your website has comforted me. I’ve been taking care of my yellow lab Misty for 2 days with lameness which is obviously due to lymes. She was diagnosed last month and went on 30 days antibiotics. The lameness has shifted to another foot and you have mentioned that. I have been giving her glucosamine and choindroitin. I may need to keep her on the antibiotics for 30 days. Thank you again.
    Sincerely, Melissa from NJ

  6. Cindy and Beth, thank you for the good wishes. I know they help.

    Holly, I’m so glad for your Dashie that you followed through with the vet. I could not agree more that tick-borne diseases cause a great variety of symptoms. Like you, if any of our dogs just seem somehow “off”, we take them to the vet and get blood work done. That’s how we discovered Wink had Lyme. No major typical symptoms — he just seemed not himself. And sure enough…

    Have I mentioned how much I hate ticks?!

  7. I certainly hope Wink feels better soon! My only encounter with a TBD was with my Dashie (mentioned in the previous post). He came in 3-legged lame one day which did not resolve. Off to the vet we went and of course by the time we got there he was sound again. However, since I do not like to make appointments and then cancel we went anyway. He had a small tumor on his rear end that needed attention and one thing led to another eventually leading to a pre-surg bloodwork. THAT came back with really low platelets. After some testing during which they dropped further we started him on doxy….and his platelets jumped up to normal in less than a week. He tested negative for lyme and ehrlichia, but the vet felt it could be some other TBD. So now if he comes in lame and stays that way or if he goes off his feed, we are off for bloodwork to see where his platelets are. What I learned is that the symptoms can be widely varied.

  8. Karen… sincere good wishes for Wink! Between good meds, your excellent care, love and energy, may he feel better soon! Prayers for Wink will be uttered tonight.

  9. Crysania, I’m glad your girl has been asymptomatic; that’s good news. She is a beauty.

    And I’m sure you’re aware that she can have a flare-up with symptoms at any time, as well as be reinfected any number of times. Such a lovely thing, this Lyme, isn’t it?! That’s why we vaccinate — to minimize flare-ups and hopefully prevent reinfections.

  10. You have my sympathies. My dog was diagnosed this past April with lyme disease. She was asymptomatic, which was good, but it’s still unfortunate. From my understanding of the disease, they aren’t quite sure if it stays with a dog throughout its life or if dogs tend to get reinfected. The latter wouldn’t surprise me as it’s easy to get bit by a tick these days and as you point out, some 80% of dogs in these areas will get it at some point. My dog is hairy and finding a tick on a big black hairy dog is pretty hard to do! We’ve contemplated getting the vaccination just in case it’s really possible to get rid of it completely.

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