Lyme disease in dogs--complications

kms4meJuly 9, 2008

My dog and I were both diagnosed with Lyme disease this past month. My symptoms quickly cleared with doxycycline, but Homer's have not.

Initially he was very lethargic and sometimes would yelp when touched, even gently, and had a few bouts of vomiting, which though infrequent, are continuing to happen even with antibiotic therapy. His gait is quite wobbly now, especially in his hind legs, and he seems confused at times. In addition, his energy has not returned.

Though we missed the early symptoms (not chasing his ball, not being able to catch treats, etc.), it seems he has had cataracts for a while and now is totally blind. However, I just read meghans comments on another thread, and I am wondering if he has neurological symptoms from the disease.

Has anyone else had problems even after antibiotic treatment for their dog? I would like any advice/comments you can give.


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I have never had this happen to my own dogs, but I have seen it many times with other peoples dogs. Make sure you follow up with blood testing to make sure the levels have gone down as it is not unusual to have to have repeat treatment.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2008 at 7:53AM
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Two of our mastiffs had problems after the initial month on doxycycline. In the first case, our young mastiff who was treated immediately for Lyme disease had an apparently milder recurrence of the disease three months later. She was treated again for a month with doxycycline. We followed up with blood testing as cindydexus recommended to be sure the levels had gone down.

In the second case, we adopted a rescue mastiff who had been brought into the SPCA dying of Lyme disease. When found, he was at the stage in the disease when the animal can no longer walk and has stopped eating. He was treated for a month with doxycycline and recovered completely. (He also put on 50 pounds in 6 weeks.) However, a year later he developed chronic kidney failure which we and all the vets who saw him thought was linked to a month of untreated Lyme disease.

I have been told that it is common for dogs to develop arthritis after having Lyme disease. Also that it is common for the attacks of lameness, stiffness, and joint pain to reoccur because Lyme disease can become systemic. The disease can affect major organs as well. (heart, kidneys, etc.)

Therefore, I understand that it is extremely important (as cindydexus advised) to have blood tests done to be sure the levels have gone down and that vital organs are functioning well, and to treat any problems promptly.

Good luck with Homer.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2008 at 1:05PM
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Thank you both for your input.

I wasn't exactly clear when I wrote this post. Homer is STILL on his first course of doxycycline, and not only is he not improving, he is getting worse. I understand, according to the vet and what I've read on the internet, that his symptoms should have begun responding within a few days of treatment.

So, what I am wondering is if anyone else has had a dog that did not respond to initial doxycycline treatment and what other treatment options they followed. I am not confident that another course of the antibiotic that didn't work the first time is going to do any good. My little buddy seems to be going downhill fast--he is exhibiting some weird and frightening symptoms fairly frequently (walking backwards, hyper-reflexia, confusion, inability to walk in a straight line, etc.)

I'd really appreciate any ideas at this point.


    Bookmark   July 11, 2008 at 2:36AM
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It could be Lyme disease, but considering that he is getting worse and not better despite therapy, I'd be worried about something else. Patients with Lyme disease do respond rather quickly to antibiotics in most cases, even in neuro cases. A high Lyme titer does not necessarily mean the symptoms are from Lyme disease. Studies have shown that there is a high percent of dogs in Lyme-endemic areas who have a positive titer but never manifest symptoms. How long has Homer been on antibiotics? How old is he?

    Bookmark   July 11, 2008 at 11:23AM
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Sadly, I am afraid you were right. We started another antibiotic along with an anti-inflammatory medication, and Homer seemed to get slightly better. Last Sunday he almost seemed like his old self--despite the blindness he was playful and funny, and I stupidly started to feel like there might be hope.

He wasn't doing quite as well on Monday--Tuesday night he took a dire turn for the worse. I had an appointment for him at the vet on Wednesday, but he died in my arms at 2:00 that morning.

He was 10 and a half, but with his breed and size, he had a life expectancy of 17. I am heartsick beyond explaining, he was my little buddy, my touchstone, my darling. I've been crying ever since.

Lost without my Homer,


    Bookmark   July 26, 2008 at 3:16AM
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Kate, I am so very sorry for your loss.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2008 at 8:32AM
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Kate, I am so sorry. It's better that you were there for him, rather than at the vets. I think it is much better to pass in the arms of someone who loves you. (((Kate)))

    Bookmark   July 26, 2008 at 2:32PM
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Anita and Meghane,

Thank you. This is so hard. He was an active seemingly healthy dog just a few short months ago. We went hiking, swimming, canoeing, camping--I took that little guy with me every where. I was never away from him for more than a few hours at a time our entire life together.

He was a little thing, barely 10 pounds, but the hole his death has left in my life is huge. I know how lucky I was to have had him and loved him, I just wish with all my being that it could've been longer.

Thanks again,


    Bookmark   July 27, 2008 at 1:00AM
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Dear Kate, my heart goes out to you. I just brought in my brittany spaniel Maggie to the vets, she was vomitting, diarrea, tough time walking, hind legs going out, thought it wouldn't be anything serious= But got the disheartening news yesterday, that she is in kidney failure, perhaps brought on by her lyme disease; tonight I am waiting for the dr to call back to see if her kidney numbers improved if not, we may have to put her down. She is only 6 and I am broken hearted. Took an early retirement and she has been my buddy, 25 pound bundle of joy always with me, with those sweet eyes of hers always looking at me. I am crying every minute of the day, it just all happened so quickly. Just to let you know that I know what you went through and continue to go through;I pray that you are doing better. Take care. Pat from CT

    Bookmark   August 5, 2008 at 8:05PM
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I am sorry for your loss. It must be such a shock. What breed was your dog? I ask, because some breeds are prone to certain diseases. Did your vet say what it was?

    Bookmark   August 8, 2008 at 1:23PM
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We don't know what killed Homer. His symptoms were not consistent with any specific disease or illness but could have been from many different things or even a combination. The vet thinks it was possible that he had been infected with Lyme disease for quite some time but showed no typical symptoms, such as lameness, but the disease could have been destroying his kidneys. But his appetite was good, he didn't have excessive thirst or urination. I also thought in retrospect that maybe his blindness could have been caused by blastomycosis and not cataracts, but his symptoms were not consistent with that either. Because of the way the symptoms manifested the last few days of his life, I know that whatever it was had affected his brain, so it was possible I guess that it could have been a tumor. That would have explained the blindness as well.

It is so hard not to know because I can't help but think if I had been more aggressive in his care, taken him to another vet, etc., he might have been saved. My husband says I shouldn't torture myself over it, but I miss him so much, and it hurts me so badly to think an error in judgment may have cost him his life and me my best friend.

He was a miniature (almost small enough to be a toy) rat terrier. One of the many things that attracted me to that breed was the fact that for the most part they are very healthy. He was my first little dog. I used to think people who owned little dogs, called them their babies, took them everywhere, were sort of nuts--then I got little Homer and found out how impossible it is to not do so.

I have lost my last three dogs, including him, quite tragically. Bridget, my wonderful golden retriever-black lab mix, was only 7 when I lost her to bone cancer almost five years ago. Though I know nothing probably could have saved her, her condition was misdiagnosed for several months when it was too late to really do anything to even prolong her days. O'Malley, my Malemute-Great Pyrenees, such a big beautiful, active guy, died suddenly January 2 of this year--horrible because, like Homer, he died in my arms--from what the vet thinks was probably a burst aortic aneurysm.

I miss them all so much--they brought the best things in life to me--but I am so crushed and heart-broken, I don't know if I will ever be able to get another dog. Losing them all hurt, but Homer was my constant companion, and the hole he left in my life feels like it is swallowing me up. When I lost the other two, I still had him, and now the emptiness is so hard to deal with. I can't imagine never having a dog in my life again, but I am so afraid that something will go wrong.


    Bookmark   August 8, 2008 at 2:50PM
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Kate, I am so very sorry for your loss.

You really cannot blame yourself for not noticing symptoms earlier. Its animal instinct to hide illnesses. Most of us have probably blamed ourselves for similar situations. Its part of the grieving process.

Grieve away - you deserve it. And in time the grief you feel, will be replaced with wonderful memories of Homer, Bridget, and O'malley. They brought much joy and love to your life and you to theirs. When you get past the grief, you will be remember them fondly, with a sense of love, rather than a sense of loss. They will be waiting for you on the other side.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2008 at 3:43PM
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Kate, please do not blame yourself ; I too have been trying to figure out if there were symptoms that I may have missed when I lost my precious Maggie this week - but we both were diligent about vet visits; taking good care of our pets - sometimes these things just happen.
We just have to remember that we loved these dogs, they were part of our family and how lucky we were to have them and they us. I, too had 3 dogs; all brittany spaniels, Mandy lived until 15 died of cancer, Brittany died at 12 years from cancer, and my little girl Maggie, died this week from kidney failure, brought on by who knows what; she had lyme, anaplasmosis, so many things wrong with her when I brought her in and she too was the picture of health just a week ago. I cry every day when I pull in the driveway and she is not in the window waiting to see me. I do know that I want another brittany spaniel, I want to give another brit a good home and love as I did my other girls. I just can't be without a dog; the unconditional love is such a wonderful thing. Be strong as I am trying to be and think of all the great times/memories that we were fortunate to make with these little guys.
take care. pat

    Bookmark   August 8, 2008 at 7:51PM
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I think I am experiencing what you did right now. Kyan, our healthy, active chocolate lab showed typical symptoms of lyme disease 2 weeks ago, and the emergency vet put him on 400 mg of doxycycline. he hasn't improved, and our regular vet told us to give him 500mg. I am wondering if even this amount is enough, as he is (or was, before the lethargy and eating less) a 97-pound dog. His lameness in his back paw has spread to his front today, and I am confused now as you were with Homer. HELP!!!!!

    Bookmark   June 30, 2009 at 1:06PM
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annzgw need to take the dog to your regular vet, especially with symptoms worsening. As you have read from previous posts, things can go downhill fast.

Did the vet have you increase the dosage without seeing the dog?

    Bookmark   June 30, 2009 at 5:07PM
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he did see the dog, on thursday, and upped the dosage to 500mg a day. He did this based on the info. faxed to him from the emergency vet and from seeing him. He even called us this morning to check on him, and he was doing ok (the same since the last time he saw him). It was just today, that things are all of a sudden getting bad! I'm wondering if some people have had to wait a few weeks for their dog to improve or if this isn't even working at all for him. We will call his vet again tomorrow, as they are closed already.

    Bookmark   June 30, 2009 at 7:38PM
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You should have seen improvement by now. I think it is time to look for another cause for your dog's downhill course.

You didn't mention if he had a positive test for Lyme's disease or if they are treating him based on the symptoms. Either way, since he is not improving but actually getting worse, i think, like with Homer, the Lyme's disease may be a red herring.

My vet told me that some dogs can test positive for Lyme's but never show any ill effects from it. In her clinic, they routinely advise antibiotic treatment if the test is positive, which we did with Homer.

When he didn't respond to antibiotic treatment, we did some noninvasive tests--by then, he was not healthy enough to have undergone much more. We tried a different antibiotic in a last-ditch effort that didn't work.

Please know that my thoughts are with you and I am hoping for a good outcome for you and your beloved dog. I know all too well how worried you are right now, and I hope you can come back to us and give us some good news. No matter what happens, try to live in the moment, love your dog, and know you are doing your best.


    Bookmark   July 2, 2009 at 12:15AM
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Thank you for your advice and concern.
Unfortunately, Kyan kept going downhill, waking us up 2 nights ago whining in pain. We took him to the vet the next day, who advised us that even if it was his own dog, he would put him down. He said at the point it was at, even if a miracle were to happen, he wouldn't be able to walk on his hind legs anymore. We had to put him down (I am in tears once again as I write this). I know now how you felt, and cannot stop thinking about my perfect dog. He had a good life, and I keep telling myself that he lived the experiences of 3 dogs in his 7 years. That is why he had to be taken away from us so soon. My boyfriend and I are trying to get over this together, but we can't help looking for him every time we come home, or hearing him walk around in the mornings.

I know time will make it better, but he will never be forgotten. I love him with all my being.

The vet said he will send in spinal tissue to see if it was viral or bacterial, so we will see.

Thank you for the advice. I'm so sorry for your loss, but at least we both know we are not alone and we loved our dogs with all our hearts.

    Bookmark   July 3, 2009 at 9:47AM
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Dear Jlo,

Oh... I had so hoped for a better outcome for you and your beloved Kyan. I am doubly sorry because he was so young.

I know how hard this is for you. I am coming on the one-year anniversary of losing Homer.

I would love to know about Kyan and his full, rich life. I think he and Homer are kindred spirits.

You have all my best thoughts,


    Bookmark   July 4, 2009 at 2:42AM
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Thank you for the kind words. I am sure time has not made it any easier when thinking of Homer. My boyfriend and I still hope to see him wagging his tail every time we wake up or come home, and can't help but think of him when we see any other dog.
He was an amazing dog, always loving, he loved the beach and going for long mountain biking rides. He was in the best shape of any lab you would ever see. This is why the sudden decline was so shocking. the vet did a full autopsy and is sending off tissue samples, so maybe I can have a reason as to why it all happened so fast. All I can think of is hoping to avoid this situation for myself or others.
I really so feel like our dogs had such good lives, that they were taken from us early. God had even more plans for them, as they had already filled their lives with the awesome experiences with us.

Thanks again Kate,


    Bookmark   July 7, 2009 at 3:39PM
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Hello all. I happened upon these posts as I too, was looking for some answers related to why my lab's back legs are still so wobbly. Phoenix is my 12 1/2 yo yellow lab who had tested positive for the Lyme's titer a couple of years ago but didn't show any symptoms. However, a little over a month ago, she got into a fight with our other dog and she was bit just below her ear. Evidently it abscessed (and I didn't know it) and then one day she was cowering, trembling and lame. I rushed her to the pet ER thinking she'd slipped on the ice but when they did blood work it showed she was in kidney failure. The next step was the Lyme's test and it showed very high counts.

The vets think that with her body fighting the abscess infection, it might have been just too much for her body (and the Lyme's symptoms appeared)

Cutting to the chase, I promptly put her on a home-made kidney diet (potatoes and cut up chicken), have been giving her supplements of "greens" (dehydrated the capsules), liquid vitamin B, probiotics, a fish oil capsule, and Coenzyme 10. Also, I am giving her a product called "epikitin" (sp?): this is a phosphate blocker. Of course, this was in addition to the doxycyline.

The greens, vitamin B, fish oil was just a general immune support for her body
The probiotics are to help reestablish the good flora killed off by the antibiotics
The coenzyme 10 is considered by some to help support the blood kidney values (blood work by vet)
The epikitin is a phosphate blocker (to support kidneys; you can get this from your vet)

Today, Phoenix has finished her 4 week bout of doxycline and I have purchased a tincture of goldenseal and echinacea (antimicrobial/antiviral herbs) to help pick up where the doxycline has left off. I will probably continue this for another couple of weeks. I am also working on getting her into a local holistic vet.

She is doing much better, but she tires very easily and still has considerable lameness in her back legs. I suspect her hiking days with me are over, but I am just glad she is still with us....

I am not a vet, but wanted to offer my experience in hopes that it might help someone's pet. I did a lot of research online and talked a lot to my vet....I'd recommend anyone else facing the Lyme's issue to do the same. I am terribly, terribly, terribly sorry to hear all the folks in the thread above who lost their pet. Believe me, I was staring that in the face the entire first two weeks of this dilemma -- my heart goes out to all of you.

Peace. Maria

    Bookmark   March 24, 2011 at 4:13PM
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spedigrees z4VT

The only true protection that anyone can give their dog is vaccination. I've given my dogs yearly innoculations with LymeVax since it came on the market. Lyme disease is spreading rapidly here in Vermont, especially in my county.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2011 at 6:12PM
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my dog, brie is 2 and tested for lyme a few days ago. she doesnt want to go for walks, sleeps under the couch, throws up and more. she is taking doxycycline. do you think she will be ok?

    Bookmark   August 1, 2011 at 10:31AM
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