What is Lyme Disease?
Lyme disease is caused by the Borrelia Burgdorferi bacteria. It is transmitted to
dogs through the bite of the tick. Once in the bloodstream, the bacteria are carried
throughout the body--localizing in the joints, kidneys, brain, and heart. The symptoms exhibited by the dog will depend on where the infection takes hold.
The disease is most commonly transmitted by the deer tick, but it now appears other species of tick may be able to transmit the disease.
What are the clinical signs?
Since a delay of up to one year can exist between infection and symptoms, many
infected dogs report no illness at the time of diagnosis.
*Severe joint pain/swollen joints (walking on eggshells)
*Increased thirst and urination
*Loss of appetite
How is Lyme disease diagnosed?
Due to the fact that dogs can have a long delay between exposure and symptoms,
Townsend Veterinary Hospital (TVH) recommends testing all dogs yearly for Lyme disease. The 4-way blood test screens for heartworm, Lyme disease, Erhlichia, and Anaplasmosis. The 4-way test detects the presence of antibodies to the Lyme bacteria and may be negative in dogs that have been too recently infected to mount a detectable antibody response. Additionally, it is possible for a dog to be infected and never mount an effective antibody response. The bottom line is that a positive test confirms exposure to Lyme disease but a negative test does not rule it out. Also, a positive test does not confirm that a dog is actively infected and suffering from Lyme disease. Another test, the C6 test, measures production of a specific antibody found only in dogs with active infections.
How do I protect my dog from Lyme disease?
The most important part of disease prevention is tick control.
There are many tick borne diseases and we are unable to vaccinate against
most of them. Approved tick control products include:
*Advantix--except in households with cats (waterproof, kills ticks, fleas,
lice--repels ticks and mosquitoes).
*Frontline--safe for dogs and cats (waterproof, kills ticks, fleas and lice)
*Certifect--not for use in households with cats (waterproof, kills ticks--
much faster kill time--fleas, and lice)
DO NOT USE HARTZ, SERGEANT’S, ZODIAC pet products for tick
control. Severe toxicity, skin burns, and even death from these products has
been seen. These products are not tested and approved by the FDA.
We use the Merial recombinant Lyme vaccine. This vaccine is very
safe. It is a purified DNA amplified vaccine and does not contain whole
bacteria. Vaccination with this vaccine will not result in a false positive result
on the Lyme snap test and can’t cause disease.
Testing yearly for Lyme disease and other tick borne disease is exceptionally
important. If exposure is detected early, treatment is much more likely to be
How is Lyme Disease Treated?
TVH recommends an aggressive approach to the treatment of Lyme disease.
Doxycycline at 5-10 mg/kg twice a day for 4-8 weeks
This antibiotic is the drug of choice since it is also effective against
most other tick borne diseases. Forty percent of dogs infected with
Lyme disease are also infected with at least one other tick borne
Amoxicillin at 10 mg/lb twice a day for 4-8 weeks
This antibiotic can be used in patients who have difficulty tolerating
Metronidazole at 30 mg/kg daily may be added to the above antibiotics
in certain situations. The combination appears to have a higher rate of
efficacy against the Borrelia bacteria.
TVH highly recommends supplements to help protect the joints and
connective tissue from the damage caused by this infection.
This drug is added when a patient is diagnosed with Lyme nephritis
to alter the perfusion (blood flow) in the kidney and slow down the
progression of the disease.
This drug may be added to Doxycycline or Amoxicillin when the
kidneys are involved. The combination appears to have the ability to
penetrate infection in the kidneys. German Shepherds, Labradors,
and Golden Retrievers appear to be predisposed to this form of the
disease Repeatedly pulsing with antibiotics may be indicated with
Natural infection does not protect from reinfection. Our goal is to treat
this infection and prevent another infection.
Monitoring the Lyme Positive Patient
If a patient tests positive for Lyme disease for the first time, TVH recommends
treating aggressively as discussed above. Along with treatment, the patient needs
to be monitored for any damage or ongoing infection despite treatment. To
properly monitor disease status TVH recommends the following:
*Urine ERD screening
To do this, the dog should have a urine sample collected at the end of his or her
antibiotic treatment to check for inflammation in the kidney. If this test is positive
for inflammation, antibiotics should be continued an additional month.
Blood chemistry should be run to check for changes in the function of the
kidneys, liver, muscle, and other metabolic indicators.
*C6 antibody test
This is a quantitative test which provides a way to evaluate if an infection is
active, the severity of the infection, and measure response to treatment.
The Chronically Infected Dog
If a patient tests positive for Lyme disease a year after initial treatment, he or she
is considered a persistently positive patient. A small percentage of dogs will become
negative on later testing. To help monitor the chronically positive patient TVH
recommends the following:
*C6 antibody test
If a dog tests positive the second year, but his/her C6 antibody level is below
30, additional treatment with antibiotics is not indicated.
*Urine ERD screening
This test is recommended every 6 months
Serum Chemistry is recommended yearly or at any time the patient is
Patients should stay on joint supplements to minimize symptoms.
Chronic pain can be a significant problem. Traditional pain medications
should be used to improve life quality.