Lyme disease in dogs – signs and control

1st April 2017

Lyme disease is a debilitating disease that can infect both dogs and humans in the UK. It’s caused by a bacterium called Borrelia and is spread by ticks.

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.


6 common signs of Lyme disease in dogs

  1. 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 day to day, and is referred to in this case as wandering arthritis. The painful arthritic joint may be hot and swollen.
  2. Stiffness – with the lameness comes a stiff stilted appearance. The animal may appear to have a sore neck or back.
  3. 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.
  4. High temperature – an animal infected with the bacteria causing Lyme’s disease will have a fever. As a result you may notice your pet panting, lethargic and not interested in food.
  5. Bull’s eye lesion – look for a circular mark on the skin resembling the bulls eye of a dartboard. The centre will be red and inflamed. In many cases though you may never see the original lesion as the hair or skin colour will hide it.
  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. We need to be vigilant and act to both prevent tick bites and remove them. 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.


Do you carry out regular tick checks?

During the high-risk times of year, you should try to check your dog daily to reduce the risk of infection. Sub-adult ticks can be very small (1mm or so in size). Stroking your pet is an ideal time to do a fingertip search. If you feel something unusual, take a closer look.

You can brush or comb your pet to look for any ticks that are close to the skin. Backcombing is a good way to see the roots. Check around the ears, eyes, chin, muzzle and toes.


What tick treatments should you use?

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.


1. 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

2. Tablets – chewable tablets containing fluralaner. They’re safe and effective.

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


Top tips

  • Always check with us first – contact us today to make sure that you’re using the most effective product
  • One at a time - do not use more than one parasite-control product at a time, as this could be harmful to the health of your pet. 
  • Follow instructions carefully - never overdose by using, for example, two pipettes when one is advised.
  • Know what contains permethrin – some tick and flea products that are sold over the counter in pet shops and supermarkets 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.