Lyme disease in dogs – signs and control

2nd August 2016

Lyme disease is a zoonotic disease (ie. It can infect humans) which is spread by ticks. It’s caused by a bacterium called Borrelia.

At this time of year, ticks can become a real problem for pet owners. Both dogs and cats are frequently bitten, with serious health complications if the tick is carrying disease.

Following a tick bite, symptoms may not develop for several weeks or months.


6 common signs of Lyme disease in dogs

  1. Bull’s eye lesion – classically you may find a circular mark on the skin resembling the bulls eye of a dartboard, with a red inflamed centre. In many cases though you may never see the original lesion as the hair or skin colour will hide it.
  2. Lameness – this may be seen as limping, which can be either continuous or intermittent. The lameness may also change from one leg to another from one day to another, and is referred to in this case as a ‘wandering arthritis’. The painful arthritic joint may be hot and swollen.
  3. Stiffness – with the lameness comes a stiff stilted appearance. The animal may appear to have a sore neck or back.
  4. Swollen lymph nodes – in many cases, the dog will develop inflammation and swelling of the lymph nodes, which may be felt under the jaw, in front of the front legs or behind the knee.
  5. High temperature – an animal infected with the bacteria causing Lyme’s disease will have a fever.
  6. Kidney disease - after having Lyme disease for some time, some animals may develop kidney related problems. They may develop an increased thirst and weight loss.


Can Lyme disease be prevented?

The key to preventing Lyme disease in dogs is to tackle the ticks that transmit the disease. The main tick that carries the infective agent Borrelia is the sheep tick, Ixodes ricinus. These ticks are mainly a problem during the warm wet months of the year, and are most often found during the spring and autumn.


Tick checks

During the high-risk times of year, you should try to check your dog daily to reduce the risk of infection. Stroking your pet is an ideal time to do a fingertip search for small sub-adult ticks.

You can also try grooming using a brush or comb against and with the direction of hair-growth to look for any ticks that are close to the skin. Check around the ears, eyes, chin, muzzle and toes.


Veterinary Licensed products to control ticks

There are a number of products licensed in the UK for tick control on dogs and cats. Before you rush to buy some, please check with us at Bollington Veterinary Centre first, as we’ll be able to advise you on the ones we feel work best in our area.

Spot on treatments – there are several different products available for controlling ticks and fleas. The most effective products are the prescription medicines, and they usually contain one of the following ingredients

  • Permethrin
  • Fipronyl
  • Imidacloprid
  • Amitraz
  • Pyriprole


Collars – there are some very effective collars available as well, which have the active ingredients impregnated into the material of the collar. The ingredients are usually one of the following

  • Flumethrin
  • Deltamethrin


At our clinic we usually stock one or more of these products. Just give us a call on 01625 573375 and we can advise you of what you need. Your pet needs to be registered at Bollington Veterinary Centre if you wish to buy some.



Do not use more than one parasite-control product at a time, as this could be harmful to the health of your pet. Always check with us at Bollington Veterinary Centre first. Always follow the instructions carefully and never overdose by using, for example, two pipettes when one is advised.

Tick and flea-control products that are sold over the counter in pet shops and supermarkets often contain Permethrin, which is extremely dangerous to cats. It can cause Feline Permethrin Toxicosis, which is often fatal. Poisoning can also occur when a cat comes into close contact with a treated dog. If you have a cat which you feel may have come in contact with a ‘permethrin’ based product, call us immediately.