Lyme Disease & Back Pain

A Treatable Disease that is Missing from New Mexico


My dog has Lyme disease and an injured spine. Her vet has prescribed prednisone. My concern is a compromised immune system. Are there alternatives?

Dr. Nichol:

Lyme disease can be a nasty infection that usually causes recurring joint pain often accompanied by lethargy and a poor appetite. Long term it can damage the kidneys and, in some cases, the heart and nervous system. Spinal pain is not unusual; many dogs with Lyme disease walk with a painful arched back. It is a rare disease in cats.


The news isn’t all bad. According to Dr. Paul Ettestad, of the New Mexico Department of Health, “The Ixodes tick, which carries Lyme disease in the East, Midwest, and Pacific coast areas, does not live in New Mexico or other Rocky Mountain states, most likely due to climatic factors including our dryness.” On the other hand dogs who roam forested areas where the Ixodes tick is prevalent should be vaccinated against Lyme disease and treated with a tick repellant like Advantix.


Your dog’s symptoms may tend to come and go but the disease itself could persist for years. Her painful flare-ups should respond quickly to the antibiotic doxycycline. (For puppies we use amoxicillin.) If she doesn’t feel better after 3 days you’ll want a serious investigation of her spinal problem.


Antibiotics are given as needed in Lyme cases but prednisone is discouraged because it can mask the symptoms and may suppress a normal immune response. This is a tough challenge but if you stay on top of it your girl dog should still have a good life ahead of her.