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Lyme Disease Levels In Dogs

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Standard Lyme Disease Blood Tests

Lyme Nephritis/Kidney Failure Secondary to Lyme Disease in a Dog

A standard Lyme disease test is a simple blood test used to detect antibodies that are created in response to the infection of Borreliaburgdorferi, the bacteria that an infected tick can transmit. Initial testing usually begins with either the SNAP 3DX or SNAP 4DX tests which simply use a small sample of blood to test for Lyme disease,heartworms and other conditions. If a dog is sick and results for this test return positive, indication is fairly clear and treatment options should be discussed. Healthy dogs, however, may also test positive for Lyme disease. This is not necessarily an indication that the infection is present, only that the dog has been exposed to it. Exposure can occurduring vaccination for Lyme disease or when a dog contracts the infection, but successfully fights it off naturally. Antibodies will remain in either case, and will be detected by this test.

Can I Get Lyme Disease From My Dog

No. Although pets particularly dogs can contract Lyme disease, there is no evidence that they can spread the infection directly to people. However, pets can carry infected ticks into homes and yards increasing your chance of getting bitten.

Here are some ways to protect yourself when venturing into wooded hiking trails with your dog:

  • Wear closed-toe shoes, long-sleeved shirts and pants
  • Pull your socks over your pant legs to prevent ticks from crawling up your legs
  • Wear light-coloured clothes to identify ticks easier
  • Use insect repellent containing DEET
  • Shower within two hours of being outdoors to wash away loose ticks
  • Do daily full-body check for ticks on yourself, your children and your pets

Lyme Disease Test In Dogs

There are different forms of the Lyme disease test that are available to help diagnose this infection in dogs. Lyme disease is transmitted by an infected tick and can be deadly, if not treated. Positive results from a Lyme disease test may not necessarily indicate that a dog is currently infected, as the antibody can stay in the dog’s bloodstream for life. Additionally, a Lyme disease vaccination can indicate positive results. Diagnosis can be difficult, but with a combination of testing, observance of symptoms and evaluation of a dog’shistory, treatment options for Lyme disease are largely successful.

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Can Infection Be Spread Directly From One Dog To Another Dog Or From My Dog To My Family

Direct spread of Lyme disease from one dog to another dog has not been reported, even when infected and uninfected dogs have lived together for long periods.

Spread of Lyme disease from dogs to people has not been reported either, but people are equally at risk for Lyme disease if they are bitten by an infected tick.

Lyme Disease From Adult Ticks

Signs And Symptoms Of Lyme Disease In Dogs

Adult ticks will seek new hosts throughout the fall. Their peak activity is between late October and early November.

Adults prefer taller vegetation. Theyre usually seen 3 feet off the ground on high grasses or leaves. Adults often use deer as hosts but theyre also happy with humans, dogs or horses.

Its believed that 50% of adult ticks carry Lyme disease in endemic areas of the Northeast. But, while adult ticks can carry Lyme disease, theyre less likely to pass it on to their host. This is because theyre larger and easier to detect within the first 24 to 36 hours.

Note: the timing of peak activity for each life stage of the tick may differ depending on your area. Check with local health departments for peak tick activity where you live.

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Clinical Findings Of Lyme Borreliosis In Animals

Numerous clinical syndromes have been attributed to Lyme borreliosis in domestic animals, including limb and joint disease, as well as renal, neurologic, and cardiac abnormalities. However, the clinical syndromes seen in different animal species vary considerably. Certain clinical signs of Lyme borreliosis are well documented in horses and dogs.

Although cats can become infected with B burgdorferi and mount an antibody response, it is unknown whether they develop subsequent clinical disease.

In dogs, the most common clinical signs are intermittent, shifting lameness, fever, anorexia, lethargy, and lymphadenopathy with or without swollen, painful joints.

Additionally, a renal syndrome has been attributed to B burgdorferi infection in dogs, though a causal relationship has yet to be established. This renal syndrome is characterized by uremia, hyperphosphatemia Hyperphosphatemia in Animals Physiologically elevated serum and plasma phosphorus concentrations are seen in young and growing animals due to enhanced intestinal phosphorus uptake and decreased renal phosphorus excretion… read more , and severe protein-losing nephropathy, often accompanied by peripheral edema. It is thought to be immune-mediated, and dogs typically present with either acute or chronic kidney failure, with or without additional cardiac or neurologic signs .

What Are The Signs Of Lyme Disease In Dogs

Lyme disease in dogs is relatively common, but the symptoms are often confused with other illnesses or are so subtle they are not recognized at all. Its much more difficult to know when exposure has occurred in dogs than with humans because dogs dont develop a rash as humans do. Symptoms of canine Lyme disease can include the following.

  • Loss of appetite
  • Generalized pain
  • Limping or lameness

Many pet parents seek out veterinary services due to these generalized symptoms with no idea that the cause could be Lyme disease. The side effects of Lyme disease in dogs can even come and go. Your dog may appear to recover, only to begin limping and losing their appetite again weeks or months later. Thats why you should never ignore symptoms like these in your pet.

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Other Diagnostic Tests For Lyme Disease

For dogs showing active signs of disease, joint cytology can be helpful. Tapping 3 or 4 joints is recommended. In dogs with active disease, nondegenerative neutrophils in joint fluid may be increased. Culturing joint fluid to look for B burgdorferi bacteria is difficult and takes a long time thus, culture is not recommended.1

Other diagnostic tests that can be performed on symptomatic dogs include blood chemistry analysis, which may indicate azotemia or markedly decreased albumin. A complete blood count might show mild to marked thrombocytopenia and, if the dog has nephritis, mild to moderate anemia and leukocytosis. For dogs with nephritis, a urinalysis may show isothenuria and proteinuria.1

The American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine Consensus group recommends routinely testing dogs in Lyme diseaseendemic areas for antibodies by using an in-house screening ELISA, evaluating dogs with a positive ELISA result for signs of joint pain/inflammation, and testing for proteinuria in the urine.3,4

How Can I Prevent My Dog From Getting Lyme Disease

Do you know the signs of Lyme disease?

The key to prevention is keeping your dog from being exposed to ticks. Ticks are found in grassy, wooded, and sandy areas. They find their way onto an animal by climbing to the top of a leaf, blade of grass, or short trees, especially cedar trees. Here they wait until their sensors detect an approaching animal on which to crawl or drop. Keeping animals from thick underbrush reduces their exposure to ticks. Dogs should be kept on trails when walked near wooded or tall grass areas. Vaccination against Lyme disease is recommended for pets that live in endemic areas or that travel to areas where Lyme disease is prevalent.

“Vaccination against Lyme disease is recommended for pets that live in endemic areas or that travel to areas where Lyme disease is prevalent.”

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Blood Tests To Diagnose Lyme Disease

To be sure that a dogs symptoms are of Lyme disease, a veterinarian will likely administer two blood tests:

  • C6
  • Quant C6

The C6 test is used to determine if your dog has produced antibodies to protect itself from a protein called C6. If they have created these antibodies, then it is indicative of an active Lyme disease infection.

The animal does not necessarily need to be showing symptoms to receive a positive C6 test. It generally takes three to five weeks after a bite causing infection for the test to be accurate because it takes time to build up the antibody levels necessary to trigger a positive test. If you administer the tests too early, your dog may have the infection but not the required antibody levels to make the test come back positive yet.

After the C6 test comes back positive, the next test is the Quant C6 test. This second test, along with an analysis of its urine, will allow the veterinarian to determine what kind of treatment your dog will need.

Can Dogs Give Humans Lyme Disease

There is no evidence that dogs can transmit Lyme disease to humans directly, but you can become infected if one of their ticks latch onto your skin.

Lyme disease is spread through the bite of an infected tick, so dog owners with an infected pup are more at risk of being exposed.

While your pups Lyme disease may not be contagious, the ticks that have fed on an infected dog are always a threat.

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If The C6 Test Is Positive What Is The Next Step

A positive C6 test means antibodies to C6 were found. The next step is to do a QC6 test, which determines if the levels of antibody are high enough to justify treatment. If the value of the QC6 is higher than 30 IU/mL and signs of illness are present, then antibiotic treatment should be considered. If the QC6 is less than 30 IU/mL and there are no signs of illness, then treatment may not be necessary.

In addition to doing the QC6 test, your veterinarian may want to take samples of blood and urine to assess kidney function and to look for protein in the urine. A positive test for protein in the urine could signal serious underlying kidney disease.

Can My Dog Recover From Lyme Disease

Signs Of Kidney Failure In Dogs With Lyme Disease

Provided the disease is detected and treated effectively early enough, with the course of antibiotics signs of Lyme disease typically resolve within the first 3 days.

However, the organism that causes Lyme disease is very good at hiding and while treatment is typically successful in eliminating clinical signs, dogs that test positive for Lyme disease will remain positive for years, if not forever. If your dog tests positive but is not sick, your veterinarian will tell you whether they recommend treating at that time.

Though most dogs infected with Lyme disease will develop arthritis, the silent killer is the Lyme organism and antibodies produced after exposure, which can damage the filter in the kidneys. The impact of this form of the disease on the kidneys can easily go unnoticed until it is too late. If your vet determines that the kidneys have been affected, this can be treated and monitored before severe renal problems arise.

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Other Symptoms Of Lyme Disease In Dogs

Dogs are more resilient against Lyme disease than other animals. According to an experimental study, only a small percent of pet dogs that test positive for this disease develop symptoms.

Dog Lyme disease can also result in intermittent arthritis, similar to humans, and rarely results in a kidney infection. Other symptoms include:

  • Pain in Joints and leg
  • Signs of rash in areas such as the leg or the limb
  • Signs of fever and illness
  • Joint pain or

All of these symptoms are indicative of a tick bite.

Lyme Borreliosis In Animals

, BSc , DVM, MSc, University of Guelph


Lyme borreliosis is a bacterial, tick-transmitted disease of animals and people. Many additional mammalian and avian species become infected but do not develop overt clinical signs. This disease is endemic to temperate areas in the northern hemisphere and is seen sporadically in Europe and Asia. Within the USA, endemic areas include the Northeast , the upper Midwest, and the Pacific coast. Globally, the incidence of Lyme borreliosis is increasing due to the expanding geographic range of tick vectors.

Diagnosis can be challenging, because most animals do not develop clinical illness after infection. Clinical signs of Lyme borreliosis have been well documented in dogs, in which the characteristic presentation includes an intermittent, shifting lameness. Horses with Lyme borreliosis may exhibit neurologic signs, uveitis, or cutaneous lymphoma. Although other clinical signs such as lameness have been reported in horses, they have yet to be conclusively linked to infection. Along with prevention, early diagnosis and treatment with antibiotics appear to be important to treatment success.

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Where Is Lyme Disease Found

In the United States, Lyme disease has been reported in every state, but over 95% of cases are from the Northeastern, Mid-Atlantic, and upper Midwestern states, with a small number of cases reported along the West Coast, especially Northern California. In Canada, Lyme-positive dogs are found mostly in southern Ontario and southern Manitoba, with a small number of cases in southern Quebec and the Maritime provinces.

Antibody Titers For Lyme Disease

Tips for preventing lyme disease in dogs

Antibody titers can provide helpful diagnostic information, although antibodies cannot be detected for 4 to 6 weeks after the bacteria have entered the dog.3,6

Diagnostic tests for antibodies to B burgdorferi are available as immunofluorescence assay, enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay , Western blot, and polymerase chain reaction. ELISAs are available for in-house screening.2 Western blot testing is the gold standard and can be used if the ELISA result and the clinical presentation are discordant .1

Because most infections in dogs are subclinical, infection must be differentiated from previous exposure.1,3 In the absence of clinical signs, a positive antibody test result does not indicate disease 1 rather, a positive test result indicates only previous exposure to Borrelia bacteria.

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To Vaccinate Or Not Vaccinate

When deciding on whether to get the vaccine or not, there are different perspectives to consider. While there are potential risks, these are quite rare.

If you live near a forest where ticks are prevalent, you may want to err on the side of caution and take your dog in to be vaccinated. When it comes to Lyme disease, or any other health condition for that matter, you want to protect your pup as well as possible so they dont contract any diseases that could have been prevented.

For further questions on whether you should vaccinate your dog, contact your trusted veterinarian for more guidance.


The Lyme Vaccine For Dogs: 3 Top Reasons To Avoid It. Dogs Naturally Magazine, 25 June 2018, Accessed 9 Dec 2018.

Dog Vaccinations. Harlingen Veterinary Clinic, 16 May 2017, Accessed 9 Dec 2018.

AAHA Canine Vaccination Task Force. AAHA, Accessed 9 Dec 2018.

Elliott, Pippa. Canine Lyme Vaccine Side Effects. LoveToKnow, Accessed 9 Dec 2018.

What Are Symptoms Of Lyme Disease In Dogs

When it comes to Lyme disease, dogs are often asymptomatic . However, here are some common signs of Lyme disease in dogs:

  • Fever
  • Lack of appetite and depression
  • General discomfort or malaise
  • Lameness due to inflamed joints
  • Sensitivity to touch
  • Difficulty breathing

If your dog is displaying symptoms of Lyme disease, contact your vet to schedule an examination. Left untreated, signs of Lyme disease in dogs can progress to kidney failure and even be fatal in severe cases. Serious neurological impacts and cardiac effects may also take place due to untreated Lyme disease.

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Kidney Damage Caused By Lyme Disease

More serious complications, although uncommon, include:

  • Damage to the kidneys
  • Rarely, heart or nervous system disease 1,2

Lyme disease sometimes leads to glomerulonephritisthe inflammation and accompanying dysfunction of the kidney’s glomeruli .

Eventually, kidney failure may set in as the dog begins to exhibit signs such as vomiting, diarrhea, lack of appetite, weight loss, increased urination and thirst, and abnormal fluid buildups that can appear as swollen limbs.

Tiny Deer Ticks Transmit Lyme Disease

A dog may not show signs of Lyme disease for several months after an ...

Although the tick prefers certain creaturessuch as voles, white-footed mice, or deerupon which to feed during the various stages of its life cycle, it is quite willing to feed on people or dogs. Regardless of its stage of development , if the tick carries the bacteria in its body, people and dogs can become infected if bitten. Once a tick attaches, it takes 1-2 days for it to transmit the bacteria that cause Lyme disease, so prompt removal of ticks is important. Risk of transmission is highest during periods when the nymphs and adults are actively seeking hosts.

Lyme disease in dogs has been reported in every state in the United States, but certain geographical areas are much more likely to harbor bacteria-carrying ticks than others. Infection rates of ticks vary, but can be as high as 50%. Areas in the United States where it occurs most often include the northeast , upper Midwest, and Pacific coast. The disease is actually named after the town Lyme, Connecticut, where an early outbreak was first described. Lyme disease is also seen in Europe and Asia. The risk of Lyme disease being transmitted to people is increasing. In the last 20 years, the number of cases reported to the Centers for Disease Control has about doubled, to around 30,000/year. Although the rate of occurrence of the disease in a geographic area is similar in both animals and people, animals, especially dogs, are at significantly higher risk because of their greater exposure to ticks.

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