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Long-Term Effects of Lyme Disease in Dogs

| Updated September 26, 2017

Borrelia burgdorferi, a bacteria transmitted by the bite of a deer tick (Ixodes), can cause Lyme disease. In the United States, Lyme disease's first diagnosis in humans was in 1975 and 1985 for dogs. The tick does not transmit the bacteria until after 24 to 48 hours of attachment. Only 10 percent of infected dogs develop the disease. According to Marvistavet, the organisms can live in most dogs without causing any problems. With prompt antibiotic treatment, most dogs will recover quickly or never become sick. Without treatment, some dogs may have severe complications. Treatment does not completely remove the bacteria, but may make it inactive.


Many dogs do not have symptoms. Dogs that have symptoms usually develop them between two to five months after the infection, according to Vetinfo. Symptoms include 103 to 105 degree Fahrenheit temperature, swollen lymph nodes and lack of appetite. Sudden swelling in the joints and lameness develop in many dogs. According to Vetinfo, early lameness may move to different legs. Symptoms may go away and then come back in the advanced stage.


One long-term effect of Lyme disease is mycocarditis, an inflammation of the myocardium of the heart. The myocardium is the muscle that allows heart contraction. According to Marvistavet, dogs rarely develop cardiac problems from Lyme disease.


Long-term effects of Lyme disease on the kidneys are potentially the most dangerous. According to Marvistavet, glomerular disease results from stimulation of the immune system to infections, including borrelia burgdorferi. Years of immune system response can damage the kidneys. Even if a dog that tests positive for the bacteria has no other symptoms, screening for protein loss to evaluate kidney disease is important. According to Wendy C. Brooks, D.V.M., VeterinaryPartner Educational Director, the damage causes the kidneys to lose protein into the urine instead of keeping it in the blood. Complications can develop, such as nephritic syndrome. The prognosis with glomerular disease is guarded.


Arthritis may be a long-term effect of Lyme disease. Unlike the initial symptoms, the arthritis is generally in the same joint or joints and does not move to others. It can be sudden onset, long term or short bouts. According to Vetinfo, it develops over a long time.


Neurological problems due to long-term Lyme disease are possible. Symptoms include aggression, confusion, face paralysis and nerve damage in the legs, according to Vetinfo. It may also cause seizures in dogs with epilepsy or other related disorders. But neurological issues are rare, according to Marvistavet.