A common disease that is diagnosed in the clinic is Lyme disease. According to the Companion Animal Parasite Council, 1 in 30 dogs tested positive for Lyme disease in Boone county and 1 in 20 dogs tested positive in Winnebago county just this year. Lyme disease is caused by a bacterial infection that is spread by the bite of a Black-legged Deer Tick (Ixodes scapularis), which are prevalent in our area.
Symptoms of Lyme Disease
People with Lyme disease will often see a bull’s-eye rash at the site of the tick bite. Unfortunately, symptoms of Lyme disease in dogs are more vague and harder to detect than in humans. Only 5-10% of infected dogs show clinical signs. By the time a dog begins to show symptoms they have more than likely been infected for multiple months. Owners may bring their pets into the clinic for limping on and off on different limbs. Other symptoms include fever, swollen joints, enlarged lymph nodes, lethargy, decreased appetite, and weight loss. There are many diseases that have similar clinical signs to these. Therefore, further work up is required.
Testing for Lyme Disease
There are a few ways to confirm Lyme disease in your dog. One of the first tests that is performed is an antibody test. This is a blood test that checks for the presence of antibodies created by exposure to the tick. It can take up to 4 weeks for a dog to form antibodies, therefore testing is recommended no earlier than 4 weeks after a tick bite.
If the antibody test comes back positive for Lyme disease, then further testing is needed to determine if it is an active infection. In order to do this, a test called a Quant C6 is done to assess the level of antibodies the dog has. This requires a blood and urine sample. If the level of antibodies is low, no treatment is needed. But if the level of antibodies is high then there is an active infection and treatment is required.
Lyme disease is caused by a spirochete, which is a bacteria. Therefore, it can be treated with antibiotics for 4 weeks. Retesting is needed 6 month after treatment to be sure the antibiotics cleared the infection. Reinfection is possible if they have been bitten by another infected tick. That is why monthly prevention and the Lyme vaccine are crucial in preventing any future infections.
There are two ways of protecting your pet from Lyme disease. The first way is by giving monthly oral or topical preventions all year round. It is important that these types of preventions are purchased from a reliable source, like our veterinary office. Another way to prevent the contraction of Lyme disease is by giving the Lyme vaccine annually. This vaccine can be started at 12 weeks of age and needs to be boostered 3-4 weeks after the first injection, then it is given annually.
For more information and to see the prevalence of Lyme disease in your area visit: https://capcvet.org/