My dog tested positive for Lyme disease

Lyme disease is transmitted by tick bite, most commonly the deer tick.

May is National Lyme Disease Awareness Month.

Lyme disease is an infectious disease transmitted by tick bite, most commonly the deer tick. Particularly during the warm months many pets can be bitten by ticks carrying this disease. Lyme disease is most commonly seen in the northeast and mid-sections of the United States, 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.

For instance, 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 that can tell you within minutes if your pet has been exposed to Lyme disease. Other laboratory tests such as a western blot or C6 blood test can be done; however, in my experience they are rarely needed in clinical practice.

In the event a Lyme disease positive pet is symptomatic then antibiotic therapy should be instituted. Signs and symptoms of Lyme disease in dogs can include:

  • Lethargy
  • Swollen glands
  • Fever
  • Limping (which can be a shifting lameness in different legs)
  • And occasionally kidney and heart/nervous system complications

In some situations involving Labradors and Golden Retrievers, dog breeds such as these appear to have a higher genetic predisposition to the kidney form of Lyme disease when compared to other breeds. Treatment usually consists of 3 to 6 weeks of antibiotic therapy, most commonly Doxycycline, which can also 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. It is for this reason the best prevention against Lyme disease is using year-round flea and tick control.

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213 Comments

  1. I left a comment about my Border Collie, Dokken, now deceased. Did you get it?

  2. Regarding my comment, above. My Border Collie, Dokken, was diagnosed with 4th stage Kidney Failure in mid-May, 2016. She was 10 years old and was put to sleep on June 14. Dokken had been diagnosed with chronic kidney failure after a blood test indicated HUGE kidney values. Dokken had tested positive for Lyme Disease in 2011 and, at that time, was given 90 tabs of 100 mg Doxycicline. She tested positive for Lyme Disease every year from thereafter until 2016 but was never given further medication. She exhibited no symptoms until mid-May when she became lethargic and listless and not her usual energetic Border Collie self. She spent five days at a veterinary hospital outside Philadelphia and they brought her kidney values down to a plateau. She seemed great but three days later her kidney values were up again and she would not eat, barely drink, not take her medication. After two small seizures I had to make the sad decision to have her put to sleep. It was devastating. I loved that dog and her sister, who I still have, whom I got when they were 1-1/2 years old. Border Collies are so affectionate, loyal and intelligent. I no longer visit this vet whom I have been going to for over 20 years with various dogs. He made no effort to discuss Dokken’s condition with me and merely said to make a second appointment the following week. He should have suggested annual blood tests for a dog testing positive with Lyme Disease and who was an older dog together with bi-annual checkups. Possibly that could have indicated a beginning problem (since some dogs do develop kidney failure with Lyme Disease) and could have been managed with medication and diet. The animal hospital diagnosis could not exactly determine the cause of Dokken’s kidney failure but suggested it could have been age, genetics, and a possible underlying occult infection (Lyme Disease?). I miss her terribly although I till have her sister. They were and are both great, sweet dogs and I was fortunate to have them for 8 plus years.

  3. That should not be a problem to give the Vectra now

  4. HI Diana. Just seeing your questions now. Answering this one first. So sorry to hear of your recent tragic loss It does sound like you did everything possible for her. AS a fellow graduate of University of PA Veterinary School in Philly, you have a world renowned expert there on Lyme Disease who i learned from in Meryl Littman, VMD. The bottom line of all of this lyme hubra is that all veterinarians should really be doing on their lyme positive dogs, is monitoring periodically urine protein/creatinine ratios on the urines of dogs to pick up early protein loss in urine which RARELY happens on dogs exposed to lyme disease i.e called Immune glomerulonephropathy; All of the other fancy tests, etc that are constantly being redone and over or misinterpreted are a waste of time in my opinion and experience. The only rare sensitive patient that develops complications from Lyme disease typically involves the kidneys like this. Megarounds of antibiotics with doxycycline, etc are of no use in monitoring for this most important yet rare complication

  5. My 100 pound chocolate lab was diagnosed with Lyme Disease in August 2016. My vet immediately started him on Doxycicline (5-100mg dose every 24 hours). After his treatment was over they wanted to test his levels again and appeared to still be high and want to re-test in January or February 2017. We also have been fighting an issue with blood in his urine which they are attributing to his kidneys, are the two linked?

    Just yesterday he is starting to show the signs of lyme disease, he has visibly swollen joints and walking slowly (if he is even moving). Does this mean the doxycicline didn’t work? I called my vet to talk to her about it and she still wants to wait to re-test and prescribed him previcox 227 (1 dose every 24 hours). She seemed to think from a previous check up that he has arthritis. So maybe she thinks that is the cause of his swollen joints.

    My concern is that his lyme condition is getting worse and affecting his kidneys and my vet isn’t sure how to handle. I just need a second option, I guess. Thanks in advance.

  6. I would recommend that your vet check urine analysis for protein loss in urine as well as a specific test known as urine protein/creatinine ratio to see if early kidney disease present, which is the ONLY real risk from chronic lyme disease. Some retrievers are prone to this rare form of lyme, and if detected early, may be able to be helped with drugs called Ace inhibitors such as enalopril or benazopril, as well as omega 3 fatty acids supplements. I would also consider working with a holistic vet on this as traditional vet medicine not do great job with these rare complications. To learn more see http://www.doctordym.com As for the swollen joints, it could be another flareup of lyme or perhaps another chronic joint issue. I would NOT simply go back on the doxy. Sometimes prednisone or other immuno suppressive meds are needed, as the FEW dogs who get sick on lyme exposure, this is due to an autoimmune reaction(an overactivity of your pet’s immune system) rather than due to the bacteria itself, so that is why repetitive doses of doxycycline may not help. Your vet should also check for other tick born diseases. I would NOT use previcox on case like this. You could also ask your vet for referral to vet internist in your area if he or she is stumped. Good luck on it

  7. Kelly. This is just my opinion but when giving the doxy, they should also get a good probiotic. Also, if you read up on dogsnaturallymagazine.com you may want to also incorporate homeopathic Ledum or another they suggest to help.
    Good luck.

  8. The only RARE clinical chronic health care consequence of natural exposure to lyme disease in dogs, is a rare form of kidney disease where the filtering mechanism of the kidneys has been damaged resulting in excessive loss of protein in urine and eventual kidney failure. A simple urine analysis, and then a test known as a urine protein/creatinine ratio can be performed on the urine to see if this is a possibility. Prescription drugs such as benazopril, as well as supplements like omega 3 fatty acids may help manage this for a while long term. Further courses of doxycycline will likely not lead to long term improvement, however doxycycline does have anti inflammatory effect, even in lyme negative dogs. Your description of swollen joints is more likely an autoimmune reaction, which is the only rare reason why occasional dogs develop the rare chronic form of kidney disease, and which may need immunosuppressive meds to help manage like prednisone, etc. Most dogs, in fact, who are naturally exposed to lyme disease get over it all on their own, without any symptoms ever developing in exposed pets. I dont think previcox is way to go in this case, especially if autoimmune joint issue now, as well as potential kidney toxicity of this drug. I would ask your vet for referral to vet internist in your area, if he or she is stuck

  9. Excellent suggestion Julie. Always a good idea to use probiotics when using antibiotics, especially doxycycline, which may lead to yeast overgrowth in some sensitive dogs

  10. My 6 year-old Golden tested positive for lyme April of 2016. No symptoms. Urine tests good along with other blood tests. The number, not sure what it means, has gone up from 34, 58 and now is 94. I have learned that a dog is not symptomatic unless 300. I don’t want to treat her with doxy if not necessary as she is a healthy happy dog and is on a raw diet.

  11. HI Bonnie. As a more holistic oriented veterinarian, I always stress to clients that we should NOT treat lab values, but only if patients are symptomatic. Whether her number is 300 or 94, if she has no symptoms of discomfort, fever, kidney issues, swollen joints, etc, I DONT treat asymptomatic dogs in my practice with conventional drugs. You could consider taking her to an internal medicine specialist in your area, who can offer you expert second opinion. I would continue to follow her urine protein/creatinine ratio, which is MUCH more important than some sort of quantifying lyme diagnosis test, as the urine protein/creatinine ratio can pick up early kidney problems, which can occur on rare occasions in dogs, especially Goldens who have been exposed to lyme disease. I would also consider working with a holistic or homeopathic vet on raising her health in different ways. To learn more about homeopathy, see the booklet on the website http://www.beyondflatearth.com as well as the info on my website http://www.doctordym.com Many homeopathic vets do offer phone consultations nationwide.

  12. My dog had blood test for Lyme desiese which was 35 was put on doxycycline.If he bred another dog would there be any harm for the mother or puppies to get the disease .ther was never any symptoms but noted that there was a tick on him.When I told my vet she automatically tested his blood. Thank you

  13. No risk at all to other dog you would breed to or future puppies, etc Also DONT assume your dog has LYME DISEASE INFECTION. Most dogs who are positive for lyme disease EXPOSURE, HAVE NO SYMPTOMS and get over the exposure fine on their own with or without treatment with doxy.

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