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This information is provided by Provet for educational purposes only.

You should seek the advice of your veterinarian if your pet is ill as only he or she can correctly advise on the diagnosis and recommend the treatment that is most appropriate for your pet.

Lyme disease is endemic in the UK and Europe as well as the USA and other parts of the world, and increasing numbers of cases are being seen as awareness about the disease increases

The organism that is responsible for Lyme Disease is a spirochaete organism Borelia burgdorferi which is transmitted by Ixodes ticks. The main host for this disease is Deer, but dogs, cattle, horses, humans and other animals can be infected "by accident" if they are bitten by an infected tick.

Once introduced into an animal the organism replicates locally and spreads via the bloodstream (spirochaetaemia) localising and causing multi-organ disease some weeks (in dogs about 4 weeks) after initial infection. 

In Europe dogs present with the following signs :

  • Anorexia
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Fever
  • Paralysis of facial muscles - leading to dysphagia

In the USA infected dogs develop :

  • Anorexia
  • Lethargy
  • Fever
  • Lameness - with joint pain
  • Occasionally cardiac disease
  • Occasionally renal disease

In humans serious disease involving multiple organ systems may occur if it is not recognised and treated - including the heart and CNS :

  • Bulls-eye skin lesions - a small red pimple that progresses to form a red ring
  • Flu-like aches
  • Joint pains
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Shortness of breath

Borelia organisms can be isolated (though it is difficult because they are present in low numbers) from :

  • Blood 
  • Urine
  • CSF
  • Joint fluid

Serological tests may be helpful - but high titres are to be expected in animals living in endemic areas, so a positive result does not necessarily mean that the animal has the disease.

Treatment is with antibiotics - amoxicillin, tetracycline, cephalexin, doxycycline or chloramphenicol by mouth  for 10-14 days. Ticks should be controlled with suitable ectoparasiticides, and secondary organ disease (eg cardiac or renal) should be treated as appropriate.

Preventative vaccines are available in some countries (eg the USA, and from 2013 the UK)


Updated October 2013