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Lyme Disease

Lyme disease has arrived in our area and it is important to keep your pets protected against ticks, even if they aren't in the woods. Ticks can be in long grass and are active except when temperatures are below freezing, in which they just go dormant and become active as soon as temps rise again. Most ticks are blind, which means they seek their prey through heat sources, which is why you are more likely to find ticks attached during colder days because our body heat stands out in the colder weather.

Lyme Disease vs. borerelia burgdorferi Infection in Dogs:

Things You Should Know

First, it is very important to note that Lyme disease in a human is nothing like Lyme disease in a dog.

What does a positive Lyme test mean?

  • A positive Lyme test means your dog has mounted a response to the B. burgdorferi bacteria that was transmitted by a tick a month or more ago
  • The tick must have been attached for >24 hours to transmit the bacteria
  • 95% of positive test dogs will NEVER display clinical signs or symptoms of Lyme disease
  • 90% of humans infected with B. burgdorferi DO develop symptoms of Lyme disease
  • The remaining 5% of dogs will develop signs of Lyme disease, usually joint pain, fever and malaise, but occasionally kidney disease
  • A positive Lyme test does not predict future clinical disease

What are the symptoms of Lyme disease?

  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Reduced energy, malaise
  • Lameness (lameness that moves from leg to leg, intermittent, and recurring)
  • Generalized stiffness or pain
  • Swelling of joints, usually the lower leg joints

*symptoms can progress to kidney failure in a very small subset of patients which can be fatal

What's the treatment for Lyme disease?

  • One month course of antibiotic, usually doxycycline or minocycline
  • Treatment usually provides rapid improvement, but sometimes fails to kill all deeply embedded bacteria

Should we treat dogs with a positive test but no signs of Lyme disease?

  • No easy way of determining if organisms are present in your dog
  • Very small risk of developing kidney disease from
  • Treatment considered if confirmatory testing reveals other abnormalities
  • Treatment if requested in order to decrease the already small possibility of developing Lyme disease in the future

Monitoring in the case of no treatment?

  • Continue to use tick preventatives year round
  • Consider Lyme vaccination to give added protection and possibly to decrease severity of Lyme disease in the future
  • Monitor urine for excess protein, an early sign of kidney disease