My dog tested positive for Lyme disease
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:
- Swollen glands
- 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.