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What are the Signs of Lyme Disease in Dogs?

Should you be worried about your pet getting Lyme disease? The answer is YES! Even though Lyme disease doesn’t always make our pets sick, when it does, it can be serious and devastating. There are certain areas in the U.S. where Lyme disease is more common including the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, and upper Midwest. Yet, even in Iowa, we see cases of Lyme disease in pets each year.

Now, how would your pet contract Lyme disease? Lyme disease is transmitted to a dog when it is bitten by a certain species of tick that attaches to the host and feed. Because the tick must be attached for at least 50 hours to transmit Lyme disease, frequent inspection for ticks and removal can reduce the risk of disease transmission. Clinical signs may not appear for several months after a dog is infected with Lyme disease, but it’s important to be knowledgeable on those different signs to be able to recognize when your pet is sick.

Finding a tick on your pet

Lyme disease is caused by a certain kind of tick. As mentioned before, since ticks must be attached for at least 50 hours to transmit the disease, it is important to inspect your pet frequently. If you do find a tick, use a pair of tweezers to grab it as close to the skin as possible, then gently tug until it comes loose. If the tick appears to be engorged and you’re in an area where Lyme disease is of concern, make an appointment to see your vet. A monthly tick preventative also helps keep ticks from attaching to your dog. There are plenty of excellent options out there. If you’re not sure which one to use, feel free to contact your vet for some suggestions.


Most dogs with Lyme disease will have a slight fever. Normal temperature for a dog is between 98.5 and 102.2 degrees Fahrenheit. You can check or pet’s temp at home with a digital thermometer. You’ll probably want some help when trying to execute this procedure as your dog with most likely not be thrilled with what’s happening. Put a little bit of lubricant on the end of the thermometer and gently insert the end into the dog’s rectum. Note: you only need to insert the thermometer in about one centimeter to get a reading. If you’re not comfortable doing this on your own, contact your vet for an appointment.

“Bulls-eye” lesion on the skin

The lesion is called erythema migrans. This can occasionally be seen in dogs, but not always and can also be an unreliable indicator due to the presence of fur on your pet.

Enlarged Lymph Nodes

Lyme disease can cause the lymph nodes to become enlarged. Why does this happen? This is a result of the immune system gearing up to fight the invader. It’d help to know the location of your dog’s lymph nodes. They come in pairs but you’re not usually able to feel them as they are the size of a kidney bean. There’s one under each side of the jaw, one in front of each shoulder, one in each armpit, one on each side of the groin, and one behind each knee.

Decreased appetite

Most dogs love to eat, so a serious change in appetite or refusing food all together should be a definite cause for concern.

Lameness affecting more than one leg

This effect is called “shifting leg” lameness. When Lyme disease spreads throughout the system and attacks the cartilage in multiple joints, it causes something called nonerosive polyarthritis. The cartilage isn’t wearing away from the disease but causing sever inflammation within the joint.

Swollen Joints

How do you recognize a swollen joint? Being familiar with your dog’s body is important with this one. Know what they look and feel like normally to be able to identify when something is off. Swollen, inflamed joints look different than normal, unaffected joints. They’ll sometimes feel warm to the touch or when you press on them with a finger, you’ll notice they have a little give to them or are squishy.

Kidney failure

In deadly cases, the end result of Lyme disease is kidney failure. At this point, dogs are extremely sick and often cannot be cured.

Knowing what symptoms to look for is a great step towards protecting your pet from Lyme disease. Now that you have the information, you’ll be able to prevent and/or help your pet sooner. Get prepared for spring by stopping in today to any Animal Health Center clinic for 10% off Lyme disease testing and vaccine.

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Animal Health Center of Albia

1976 684th Avenue

Albia, IA 52531

Phone: 641-932-3455 

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1015 A. Avennue W.

Oskaloosa, IA 52577

Phone: 641- 673-5525 

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605 West Pleasant Street

Knoxville, IA 50138

Phone: 641-828-2101

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*Animal Health Center of Oskaloosa is now open until 7pm on the first Wednesday of the month!

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301 Richmond Ave 

Ottumwa, IA 52501 
Phone: 641- 682-8701

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