|Lyme disease is an infectious disease transmitted by tick bite, most commonly the deer tick. Particularly during the warm months many pets are bitten by ticks carrying this disease. The disease is most commonly seen in the northeast and mid sections of the country, but has been documented in many other states as well.
Lyme disease is most commonly seen in dogs, as cats seem to be more resistant to the organism. Most pets that are naturally exposed to Lyme disease never develop any symptoms or get sick. Therefore if a pet “tests positive” for Lyme disease, it does not necessarily mean that a pet is sick or infected, or needs treatment.
Many pets will get over the disease on their own, but can remain positive on a blood test for months or years. Many veterinarians have a simple blood test in the office that can tell an animal guardian within minutes if a pet has been exposed to Lyme disease. Other laboratory tests such as a western blot or C6 blood test can be done but are rarely needed in clinical practice in my experience.
However, only if a pet is symptomatic should antibiotic therapy be instituted. Signs and symptoms of Lyme disease in dogs can include:
- Swollen glands
- Limping (which can be a shifting lameness in different legs)
- And occasionally kidney and heart/nervous system complications
Certainly families of Labrador and Golden Retrievers appear to be more genetically predisposed to the kidney form of Lyme disease than other breeds. Treatment usually consists of 3 to 6 weeks of antibiotic therapy, most commonly Doxycycline, which also can treat other hidden tick-borne diseases. There are vaccinations available for Lyme disease, however, in my opinion and experience the vaccinations may not be effective and I am concerned about long term autoimmune problems. The best prevention against Lyme disease is using year-round flea and tick control, such as topical Frontline Plus or Advantix II.