Standard Lyme Disease Blood Tests
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.
Treating Canine Lyme Disease
Luckily, Lyme disease is relatively easy to treat in dogs with a course of antibiotics if it is caught early.
A few of the major challenges of Lyme disease in both dogs and humans are that the symptoms of this disease often mimic the symptoms of other illnesses. This makes Lyme disease harder to diagnose without running bloodwork. Another barrier to diagnosis is that the disease itself may not exhibit symptoms for days or even weeks after exposure to the infected tick.
This makes it much harder for physicians to put two and two together to diagnose the illness as Lyme disease. The good news is that the treatment of Lyme disease is pretty straightforward. However, you dont want to let the disease progress without treatment since it can ultimately affect the kidneys and can potentially cause lasting chronic damage.
What Is Lyme Disease How Does My Dog Get Infected
Lyme disease is an infectious disease caused by bacteria called Borrelia. The bacteria are most commonly carried by the deer tick . Infection occurs when a dog is bitten by an infected tick. It appears that the disease is not transmitted until the tick has fed for approximately 12 hours. The tick itself becomes infected by feeding on infected mice, birds, deer, and other animals.
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My Dog Tested Positive For Lyme Disease: Now What
This spring, dog owners may have noticed that we are using a different heartworm test this year. The test is called a 4DX and it detects antibodies to heartworm plus the tick borne diseases Lyme, Erlichia, and Anaplasma.
It can be scary and confusing to get positive results, so Id like to take a few posts to go over what positive results on theses tests mean and what we recommend doing about them. This post will focus on Lyme.
First: Dont panic! A positive Lyme test does not necessarily mean your dog has an active Lyme infection right now requiring treatment. It means that at some point your dog has been exposed to the Lyme organism and produced antibodies. The test does not tell us if the exposure was recent or in the past or whether your dog requires treatment.
How do we tell the difference? Primarily by whether your dog is currently showing symptoms of Lyme disease or not and some additional testing. Only about 5% of dogs exposed to Lyme disease will become sick the rest successfully fight the bacteria off and show no or very mild symptoms. Symptoms of Lyme disease may wax and wane and include lethargy, high fever, loss of appetite, lameness , and enlarged lymph nodes.
If most dogs dont get sick from exposure to Lyme and a positive test doesnt necessarily mean a dog needs treatment, why do we do it or care about a positive test? There are a few reasons:
Soooo after all of that, what do we actually DO if a dog tests positive?
Karen Christopherson DVM CVA
The Best Way To Remove A Tick
Upon discovering a live tick on your pet, your first instinct might be to pull it off immediately. But rather than doing so with your bare hands, experts caution that patience is the safer route.
“The best way to take off every tick is with a sharpened tweezers and to kind of grab them as far down by the head as you can and pull them off,” explains Goldstein. “People ideally should wear gloves when they’re doing it, if they can, or just be careful. Theoretically, if you have a cut on your finger and you squish a tick and get the blood from the tick, you could get infected with something. So be careful not to do that.”
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Is Treatment 100% Effective
Scientists are divided on this topic. Some studies suggest that that even long-term antibiotics may not completely clear infection dogs may get sick again at some point after antibiotic treatment is stopped. Other studies suggest that complete clearance of infection is possible with antibiotic treatment. Further research is required to answer this question.
Can Dogs Cats Get Lyme Disease
How Do Dogs and Cats Get Lyme Disease? Lyme disease is a bacterial infection caused by a bacteria species called Borrelia burgdorferi, and can affect humans as well as animals. Transmitted by infected deer ticks and the Western black-legged ticks , Lyme disease can be contracted by pets when bitten by one of these infected ticks. Once bitten, the bacterial infection moves through the ticks mouth and into the pets bloodstream.
Can An Animal Get Infected Despite Being Vaccinated
Yes. This has been observed that some animals can still get infected after Lyme vaccination. This can be due to a low immune response of the respective animal and/or a very high exposure rate or Lyme prevalence in the area where the animal lives. A yearly check of the OspA titer is recommended for a vaccinated animal to ensure that the animal responded with high OspA antibodies to vaccination. Please indicate the name of the vaccine and when it has been last applied on the accession form.
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What If My Dog Tested Positive For The Infection But Is Not Showing Any Signs
Positive antibody test results can come from dogs being in areas where anaplasmosis or Lyme disease are prevalent. Dogs must have been exposed to either infection. Many dogs do have antibodies but without any signs of the disease itself. There is also proof that healthy dogs may have had an ongoing infection with A. phagocytophilum but are just carriers.
Dont Test Healthy Dogs
In fact, ACVIM argues against routine screening of healthy dogs for these reasons:
- Routine testing results in over-diagnosis and over-treatment. And thats based on a test that doesnt diagnose Lyme disease or predict its occurrence.
- Most positive dogs never become ill with Lyme disease and dont need treatment.
- Over-treatment with incomplete removal of Bb can result in resistant strains.
- Overuse of antibiotics generally increases other microbial resistance in the environment. And thats a bad thing for everyone.
- Not all dogs have a clean bill of health even after one month of treatment.
- Immunity isnt permanent treated dogs can get reinfected.
- Drugs used to treat Lyme disease have potential side effects.
- Detection of positive results could cause unnecessary owner distress and expense. And there could be potential drug reactions in dogs who dont even need treatment.
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What Is The Prognosis
Dogs that have joint issues related to Lyme infection typically respond very well to antibiotics. On the other hand, Lyme related kidney failure has a very guarded prognosis. Therefore, because of the serious implications of Lyme related kidney problems, the emphasis is on preventing disease, monitoring for disease, and following positive dogs very closely.
How To Prevent Lyme Disease
Tick prevention is the key to controlling exposure to Lyme bacteria. Avoiding tick infested areas, checking daily for ticks, and using a veterinary approved topical and/or oral product for tick control are very important. Remove any ticks immediately, and avoid using your bare hands or squeezing the tick. An added measure of control is vaccinating your dog for Lyme disease. We typically recommend pet wellness checks and vaccination, although this is decided on a case by case basis with your Veterinarian. Vaccinating positive dogs is also a decision that will be based on a careful consideration of each situation.
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What Does Lyme Disease Do To A Dog
Many dogs that have Lyme disease usually show no signs or symptoms. However, if symptoms are present, they are the same as those seen in anaplasmosis. If Lyme disease is not treated, it can cause damage to the nervous system, heart, and kidneys. This is why it is imperative to seek veterinary treatment for your pet. It is also imperative to do a yearly heartworm/tick test to catch lyme disease early so it does not lead to something irreversible like kidney failure.
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.
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Does Lyme Disease Treatment With Antibiotics Affect Antibody Levels
Antibiotic treatment affects the pathogen . It does not directly influence antibody titers. However, if the treatment is successful and bacteria are removed from the host, the B-cells are not further triggered to produce new antibodies. As a consequence antibodies levels decrease after treatment. Thus, antibody levels are indicators of treatment success .
What Does It Mean If My Dog Tests Positive For Lyme
If your vet informs you that your dog tests positive for Lyme disease, don’t panic. Depending on what part of the country you live in, the majority of canines might have positive reactions. According to the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, located in prime Lyme country, only about 10 percent of positive dogs ever develop clinical signs of the disease. Discuss your options with your veterinarian.
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Is There A Vaccine That Will Protect My Dog From Lyme Disease
A safe and generally effective vaccine is available for protecting dogs against Lyme disease. This vaccine is initially given twice, at two- to four-week intervals.
“Annual revaccination is necessary to maintain immunity.”
Annual revaccination is necessary to maintain immunity. Vaccination against Lyme disease will be determined by your pet’s lifestyle and individual risk assessment. Be sure to discuss any questions you may have regarding the type and frequency of vaccination with your veterinarian.
Final Thoughts About Lyme Disease In Dogs
Homeopathy demonstrates worldwide effectiveness in treating a variety of infectious diseases. In fact, it has over 200 years of amazing success in epidemics, human and animal.
As a dog owner, dont give in to the fear and hype surrounding Lyme disease. Be mindful of the reality of its rarity and of the power of homeopathy to cure if it does occur.
Visit theavh.org to find a homeopathic vet to help with your dogs journey to health.
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Can Lyme Disease In Dogs Be Cured
And now for your sigh of relief: Yes, Lyme disease in dogs can be cured if the treatment is applied in time. Thats why its super important to take your dog for a checkup if you suspect they were bitten by a tick, even if they dont show any active symptoms.
Lyme disease in dogs is serious, but it is well within your power as a pet parent to help your dog steer clear of this condition. Some pet insurance providers, like Pumpkin, provide optional preventive care benefits that can help cover the costs of the Lyme disease vaccine, as well as a yearly vector-borne disease test. With proper preventive care, as well as treatment if your dog becomes infected, those ticks dont have to be so terrifying! Dr Wooten assures us. And you and your pooch can enjoy plenty of happy, healthy days ahead.
How Will You Know If Its Lyme
Class signs of Lyme disease in a dog include loss of appetite, listlessness, and limping. Sometimes a dog will have what is commonly referred to as shifting leg lameness. A dog will become lame on one leg , and the lameness will resolve on its own, only to show up days or even weeks later on either the same leg or a different limb. The dog may also exhibit a stiff gait or an arched back, and, usually, fever. In rare cases Lyme disease in dogs has been associated with kidney failure a life-threatening complication.
Bear in mind that you might not be thinking about tick bites when signs start to appear. Your dog may have been bitten by a tick in the dead of summer yet not start to feel ill till after Christmas since theres a long lag between infection and signs of sickness. Of course, she may also start to feel sick during the warm-weather months. Ticks can bite at any time of year. Yes, tick season extends from spring through early fall, but all you need is a day or two of weather approaching or exceeding the freezing mark during the dead of winter, and a tick will be able to do its thing. Thus, a tick can bite a dog during ski season in February, but the dog wont start to have any signs until July 4th. Those signs are not from the tick that just bit her.
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Testing For Lyme Disease In Dogs
Lyme disease spread by ticks can be diagnosed with a simple blood tests in your veterinarian’s clinic. The C6 test is very sensitive and specific at diagnosing cases of Lyme disease and depending on clinical signs and concurrent results, treatment may be started immediately. If treatment has been successful, reductions in the QC6 at six months should be lower than the starting point.
The Homeopathic View Of Lyme Disease
A well-known homeopath, Ron Whitmont MD, published an article on homeopathy and Lyme disease. It shows the great potential of dealing with this problem without resorting to drugs .
He first states that Lyme disease in humans has three stages. Lets look at the difference in the way Lyme progresses in humans compared to dogs
Stage 1 Early localized disease first 1-2 weeks. The famous bulls eye skin rash appears during this time.
Stage 2 Early disseminated disease from 3 weeks to several months. Polyarthritis, fibromyalgia-like symptoms, and less commonly kidney, neurologic and other deeper symptoms
Stage 3 Late chronic disease from ten months to several years. Humans develop more severe arthritis and neurologic, cardiac, and kidney diseases. This are also usually progressive.
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Is There A Lyme Disease Vaccine For Dogs Can All Dogs Take The Vaccine
There are 4 Lyme vaccines available in the United States for dogs. Lyme vaccination is considered a lifestyle vaccine, i.e. not all dogs need it, and the decision to vaccinate is an individual one and is not for all dogs.
The Lyme vaccine works by sterilizing the bacteria in the gut of the tick, preventing transmission of bacteria to the dog if they are ever exposed. Lyme vaccines appear to prevent illness in 60%86% dogs that are vaccinated, but not consistently in all dogs, and not for a very long duration of immunity.To ensure the vaccine provides optimum protection Dr. Wooten notes, your dog will receive two initial injections of the vaccine, two-four weeks apart, and then either annual or biannual boosters to maintain immunity.
While most dogs are tolerant of the Lyme disease vaccine, all dogs are different and may need another form of prevention. According to an article in Todays Veterinary Practice, Golden Retrievers should not receive the Lyme vaccine because of a genetic predisposition to develop Lyme nephritis, an inflammatory kidney disease. Fortunately, if proper tick prevention is utilized, vaccination should not be necessary. However, your veterinarian will help you determine the best form of Lyme disease prevention based on your dogs age, breed, size, any potential pre-existing conditions, and their overall health.