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Symptoms of Lyme Disease in Dogs and Cats

It is true that many animals affected by Lyme disease never develop symptoms, but as early detection is key to a successful recovery, pet owners should be aware of signs that may indicate an infection in their four-legged friend.

Lyme disease symptoms in dogs

After a dog is bitten by a tick infected with the bacteria that causes Lyme disease, they may not show any signs for 2-5 months, and in fact, some pets do not show symptoms at all.

Signs of acute Lyme disease in dogs include:

  • Fever
  • Lethargy
  • Lameness
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Swollen joints

The most common and recognizable of these symptoms is recurrent lameness, due to inflammation of the joints. This lameness often lasts for 3-4 days at a time, often returning in a different leg, leading to the name ‘shifting lameness’.

For dogs that develop chronic Lyme disease, they may experience more serious symptoms including problems with the kidneys, heart or nervous system.

Lyme disease symptoms in cats

As they like to remind us, cats are very different creatures to dogs. The chance of them contracting Lyme disease is very unlikely, and if they do, they rarely display symptoms of the disease. However, once developed, Lyme disease can be just as dangerous for cats, so it’s important that cat owners be aware of the signs.

If a cat does develop symptoms, they are similar to those experienced by dogs, including shifting lameness, swollen joints, lethargy, loss of appetite, and in rare cases, issues with their kidneys or nervous systems.

Confirming a Lyme disease diagnosis

If your dog or cat exhibits any of the signs or symptoms listed above, it’s time to talk to your vet. Animals can recover well with treatment, but early intervention is key. You should also speak to your vet if you find a tick on your pet that may have been there for more than 48 hours (dogs) or 18 hours (cats) – as this is the time that a tick needs to be attached to transmit the bacteria that causes Lyme disease.

To confirm a diagnosis, your vet will need to rule out other conditions that may have caused these symptoms, such as injury, cancer or arthritis. Blood tests will help determine the presence of an infection, but your vet may also need to perform an analysis of the urine or joint fluid, or take x-rays.

Symptoms of Lyme Disease in Dogs and Cats

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