Dog Lyme Disease Diagnosis
Your vet will diagnose the Lyme disease by reviewing your dogs medical history and the results of blood tests. Blood tests detect antibodies produced by the dogs system in response to the bacteria. Your veterinarian will run a combination of blood chemistry tests, a urinalysis, a complete blood cell count, fecal examinations, X-rays and other tests that are specific to diagnosing Lyme disease in dogs .
Your vet may also draw fluid from the affected joints for analysis. One of the most common blood tests used by veterinary hospitals is called the IDEXX SNAP® 4Dx® Plus“. This test can be run in-house and provides quick results . Also, these tests screen for additional tick-related diseases and heartworm disease. Your veterinarian might recommend some further tests, mainly based on your dog’s signs and symptoms.
Some of these tests include:
Blood parasite screening to determine if your dog has tick-borne and other infections
Chemistry tests to assess liver, kidney, and pancreatic functions, as well as sugar levels
Quantitative Lyme antibody levels for monitoring treatment response
A few fecal tests to rule out the presence of intestinal parasites
Can My Animal Get Infected Despite Being Vaccinated
Yes. Some animals have been infected despite vaccination. The most common reasons are low or short-lasting vaccine antibodies in the individual animal. It is advisable to monitor the vaccine response annually to ensure the animal develops sufficient antibodies in response to vaccination. Vaccine antibodies can be quantified with the Lyme Multiplex assay as early as two weeks following vaccination or anytime afterwards.
Common Misconceptions About Lyme Disease:
1. If a dog tests positive for Lyme disease, it means she has it.
2. Dogs are much more likely than people to become ill from Lyme disease.
3. A dog infected with Lyme disease will tend to start showing symptoms within a month, and sometimes within the first 18 hours.
4. Dogs can transmit Lyme disease to people.
5. Lyme disease strikes only in warm weather.
A lot of times, a dog will test positive for Lyme disease, and her owners get nervous that their pet is sick and needs treatment, but the dog is fine. How can that be?
Its because testing positive for Lyme simply means that antibodies to the illness have been detected in the dogs blood. It does not mean that the animals body is actually being affected by the disease. How can that be?
The fact that a dog can test positive for Lyme disease yet not actually have it in a way that matters has led to a lot of nervous owners, and sometimes, even veterinarians who have over-treated. To clear up the misconceptions, heres what you need to know.
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How Lyme Disease Is Diagnosed In Dogs
If your vet believes that your pet could be suffering from Lyme disease they will review a full medical history of your dog health, discuss with you any instances when your dog may have come into contact with ticks, examine your pet’s body for ticks, then perform a number of tests which may include, blood tests , urine analysis, fecal exam and x-rays. If painful joints is one of your pup’s symptoms, your vet may draw fluid from the affected joints to be analyzed.
Discussing Symptoms And Treatments With Your Vet
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Can I Give My Dog Lyme Disease Or Vice Versa
You cant give your dog Lyme disease, nor can your dog infect you. However, if either one of you has a tick, you should both be checked out by a medical professional. Its entirely possible that the tick may have traveled from your body to your dogs, or vice versa, without you realizing it. If you have an open wound, there is also a slight chance that the bacteria from the tick can pass through it, so make sure to be extra vigilant to keep yourself safe in those cases.
How Is Lyme Disease In Dogs Diagnosed
If you think your dog has been infected by a tick, and schedule an appointment. The vet will give your dog a physical exam and ask about the recent contact with ticks. Your vet will run two blood tests called the C6 Test and Quant C6 Test.
The C6 Test detects Lyme disease infection by checking for antibodies against a protein called C6. If your dog has been infected, these antibodies start to develop between two to five weeks after the tick bite. At this time, your dog might not even be showing any symptoms of Lyme disease. The Quant C6 Test follows, along with a urine test. A blood test can also check your dogâs kidney function. These results are used to decide the best course of treatment for your dog.
Other tests that can give Lyme disease in dogs prognosis include microscopy, culture isolation, and a PCR.
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What Causes Lyme Disease In Dogs
Dogs contract Lyme disease through the bite of infected ticks. These ticks contain the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi, which is a type of organism known as a spirochete.
There are at least four species of ticks in the world known to carry Lyme disease:
In the United States, the most common source of transmission is the Deer Tick or Black-Legged Tick, scientifically known as Ixodes pacificus on the West Coast and Ixodes scapularis on the East Coast. In Europe, the Ixodes ricinus and Ixodes persulcatus ticks carry Lyme disease.
These ticks are tiny, which can make them hard to see or feel on your dog, and all stages of the tick can carry and spread the disease, although adult ticks tend to be the most infectious. It typically takes 24 to 48 hours after attaching to a host for the tick to spread the Lyme-causing bacteria, although transmission of disease can sometimes occur much more rapidly.
Certain areas are more prone to ticks than others. Wooded or grassy areas and areas with large tick populations pose the highest risk of infection. Ticks tend to be most active in the spring and fall when they are actively seeking hosts, which increases the risk of Lyme transmission. However, recent evidence indicates that ticks are also active in winter, as long as the temperature is above freezing.
What To Expect At Home
Home care for dogs with Lyme disease is relatively straightforward. Doxycycline is usually given by mouth twice daily for at least 30 days. Improvement in the dogs symptoms should be noted within 24-48 hours. If the dogs condition fails to improve in 72 hours or worsens at any time, call your veterinarian.
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.
What To Do If My Dog Has A Tick
Despite all your best efforts, sometimes a tick will still take hold of your pooch. If your dog has a tick, then you will want to remove it as soon as possible.
To remove, follow these steps:
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How Is The Lyme Multiplex Assay Different From The Assay My Veterinarian Can Perform
Your veterinarian can perform a quick assay in-house that checks for antibodies against only one B. burgdorferi surface protein. The in-house assay cannot detect early infection, cannot determine vaccination status, and does not quantify the amount of antibodies your animal is producing. Quantifying antibodies is an important measure for successful treatment and to confirm cure from Lyme disease.
How Is Lyme Disease Treated
Because the Lyme spirochete is a bacterium, it can be treated with antibiotics. The antibiotic of choice is doxycycline, followed by amoxicillin, then azithromycin. Treatment lasts for 4 weeks. Occasionally, the initial infection will recur, or the pet will become re-infected by being bitten by another infected tick.
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Treatment Of Lyme Disease
The good news is, Lyme Disease can be easily cleared up in your dog with a round of antibiotics. So, if your pet is affected then its simple enough to treat.
Your veterinarian may recommend a yearly test to evaluate your dog for the presence of Lyme disease. As mentioned earlier, some dogs will test positive but not show any symptoms. Its up to you and your veterinarian how youd like to proceed if your dog is one of these asymptomatic pooches.
How Can Lyme Disease Be Prevented
Tick control and prevention methods significantly reduce the likelihood of infection. Maintaining antibodies against B. burgdorferi through vaccination can further protect your animal. Antibody amounts and duration of vaccine antibodies can vary in individuals. Verifying your animals antibody response to vaccination helps to assure durable protection.
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How To Prevent Lyme Disease
People with pets should:
- Use reliable tick-preventive products. Speak with your veterinarian about what tick preventive product is right for your pet.
- Work with your veterinarian to decide whether to vaccinate your dog against Lyme disease. Your veterinarians advice may depend on where you live, your pet’s lifestyle and overall health, and other factors.
- When possible, avoid areas where ticks might be found. These include tall grasses, marshes and wooded areas.
- Check for ticks on both yourself and your animals once indoors.
- Clear shrubbery next to homes.
- Keep lawns well maintained.
As noted above, there are preventive Lyme disease vaccines available for dogs, but they aren’t necessarily recommended for every dog. Consult your veterinarian to see if the vaccination makes sense for your pets. If your veterinarian does recommend that your dog be vaccinated against Lyme disease, the typical protocol will involve an initial vaccination followed by a booster 2-4 weeks later and annual boosters after that.
Lyme Disease Prevention In Dogs
One way to help prevent your dog from contracting Lyme disease is to keep your pet on a tick prevention medication year-round and speak to your vet about vaccinating your dog against Lyme.
Whenever your dog has been walking through areas where ticks may be hiding, it is a good idea to check your pet’s skin when you get home. It’s important to remove ticks as quickly as possible to reduce the risk of disease transmission.
That said, removing ticks isn’t as straightforward as you may think. Contact your vet for instruction on how to properly remove ticks from your dog. .
Remember – Lyme disease is much more severe in humans than it is in dogs! If you walk in areas with long grass or shrubs be sure to check your skin regularly for ticks. Contact your doctor for advice on removing ticks if you find one latched onto your skin. Lyme disease in humans can cause a host of painful chronic symptoms.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet’s condition, please make an appointment with your vet.
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I Found A Tick On My Dog What Do I Do
If the tick is still attached, and your veterinarian is open and able to squeeze you in, prioritize this appointment. If you cannot get in to your vet right away, removing the tick yourself is your next best option. Use fine-tipped tweezers to remove it as close to the dog’s skin as possible. It’s most important to remove the tick at the head, as this is where they can transmit the disease from. It takes at least 24 hours for an infected tick to transmit the bacterium responsible for Lyme disease, which makes removing the tick promptly so important.
If possible, take a clearly focused picture of the tick before removal to show your vet and then save the tick in a zip-lock bag. If the species of tick can be identified, then your vet will know what diseases the tick can potentially transmit.
What Every Dog Owner Should Know About Preventing Diagnosing And Treating This Tricky Tick
Most people think of Lyme disease being caused by ticks and thats partly true. The organism that actually causes Lyme disease is a spirochete bacteria called Borrelia burgdorferi ticks just pick up, carry around, and transmit the bacteria into the creatures they feed upon. The best way to prevent your dog from getting Lyme disease, then, is to prevent his exposure to ticks. Sound easy? Anyone whose dog has ever had Lyme disease can tell you that it aint necessarily so.
Lyme disease is named for Lyme, Connecticut, the town where it was first discovered. While most common in the northeastern United States, Lyme exposure has been recorded in all 48 of the continental United States. Lyme is most common in the northeast, upper Midwest, and parts of California, but can be present anywhere that Ixodes ticks are found which is just about everywhere. The Companion Animal Parasite Councils website has an interactive map that shows how many Lyme disease tests were performed and how many animals tested positive in each state.
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Questions To Ask Your Veterinarian
If your dog has a positive Lyme test but no symptoms of the disease or protein in the urine, ask your veterinarian why he or she is recommending treatment. Experts currently recommend against antibiotic therapy under these circumstances because the dogs immune system is holding the bacteria in check and antibiotics are unable to eliminate the infection.
Dogs who have contracted Lyme disease do not develop prolonged, protective immunity and can be reinfected at a later date. Talk to your veterinarian about how best to prevent future infections. Options include measures to prevent the ticks that carry Lyme disease from biting your dog and Lyme vaccination.
Should You Vaccinate Your Dog For Lyme Disease
There are several vaccines available for Lyme, each of which work slightly differently. There are different strains of B. burgdorferi spirochetes in different environments, and each produces different outer surface proteins . Lyme vaccines are made with different combinations of outer surface proteins, and work differently based on what proteins they include.
OspA is produced by spirochetes in a nutrient-poor environment, such as inside a tick that hasnt fed, and is consistent across B. burgdorferi strains. If your dog has received a vaccine based on OspA, the OspA antibodies that are circulating in her bloodstream will enter a tick when it bites and attack the spirochetes in the ticks midgut. That means the spirochete is targeted before it even enters your dog, and because of this, just about every Lyme vaccine includes it. The downside is that your dog must have a high level of circulating antibodies in order for the vaccine to be effective. Antibody production varies from dog to dog, and a series of titers would be necessary to know how your dogs immune system responds to the vaccine and how long immunity remains. Because the dogs immune system is never directly challenged by the spirochete, there is also no potential for immune memory.
Some vaccines combine both OspA and OspC for dual coverage. Vanguard has developed a vaccine that combines chunks of seven different OspC proteins along with OspA.
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