Symptoms of Lyme Disease in Dogs' Joints

by Ann Compton
    Ticks carrying Lyme disease are found in many parts of the country.

    Ticks carrying Lyme disease are found in many parts of the country.

    Apple Tree House/Photodisc/Getty Images

    A dog with Lyme disease can manifest a variety of symptoms, the most common of which is joint pain. With Lyme, your dog may limp or be intermittently lame on more than one leg. The symptoms may disappear and then return several weeks or months later. A Lyme-infected dog may appear to have arthritis, because the joint symptoms are similar.

    Slow to Show

    Joint symptoms from Lyme disease won't occur until two to six months after your dog is bitten by an infected tick, which can make diagnosis difficult. A dog may limp for a day or two and then improve, leading you to believe the cause was an injury, sprain or exercise. The limp may not reappear for weeks, and then may be in a different leg.

    Symptoms Vary

    Lyme disease inflames your dog's joints in several ways. One is acute lameness, which produces consistent pain causing the dog to limp. This form may last for several days and then disappear or may become increasingly worse. Recurring lameness lasts for several days, improves and then returns weeks later. If it exhibits in a different leg, the dog has shifting leg lameness. Feel your dog's joints. You may notice that one feels hotter than another. The joint may be swollen as well, although swelling is not always present.

    Watch for Issues

    Additional symptoms may be present in a dog who has Lyme disease. He may run a high fever, appear to be stiff when he walks or arch his back. He may seem sensitive when you touch him or run your hands over him. He may appear tired or lethargic, uninterested in his usual activities. His appetite may decrease. Left untreated, Lyme disease can result in permanent joint damage or serious kidney problems and renal failure.

    Avoid Tick Infection

    If your dog appears stiff or sore, or limps, and you suspect he has Lyme disease, consult a vet as soon as possible. Your vet will perform a blood test to diagnose Lyme. Treatment is usually oral antibiotics for a period of at least three weeks, and most dogs respond and improve within 48 hours. Avoid tick infections by checking your dog daily for ticks. Remove any immediately. A tick needs to be on the dog for roughly 18 hours before infection occurs.

    Photo Credits

    • Apple Tree House/Photodisc/Getty Images

    About the Author

    With more than 25 years in journalism, Ann Compton has written for national newspapers, magazines and websites. She has covered the equestrian events in five Olympics as well as the Westminster Dog Show and specializes in animal topics. She breeds, trains and shows Shetland Sheepdogs.

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