After witnessing the heartbreak of families facing the passing of their beloved dogs due to complications from undiagnosed Lyme disease, I thought it was time to shed some light on the subject.
Over the past 18 months, we have had 20 dogs die from renal failure associated with undiagnosed Lyme disease. Let’s step back for a minute and go over exactly what Lyme disease is and discuss the prevalence in this area.
Here at Pet Street Station, in the first 10 months of the year, we performed 334 Lyme disease tests with 98 of them coming back positive. In 2017, 357 tests were done with 102 being positive. Of the 98 patients that tested positive this year, 12 of them presented with acute kidney disease.
These are relatively young dogs with a disease that for the most part can be prevented through routine vaccinations and tick prevention. We know there are a lot more undiagnosed cases out there since symptoms are not always obvious. That is the scary part.
Most of you know that Lyme disease is an infectious tick-borne disease. It was first recognized in dogs in 1985. It is caused by Borrelia burgdorferi, a type of bacteria called a “spirochete." The common deer tick is the primary carrier of Lyme disease in the Northeast.
Here in central New York, we have a high density of people, pets, and deer. This is the perfect recipe for the spread of Lyme disease.
What are the Symptoms of Lyme Disease?
Lyme disease symptoms in dogs differ from those in people and usually occur much later after the initial tick bite. Clinical illness in dogs usually occurs two to five months after a bite from an infected tick. Dogs show several different forms of the disease, with the most common symptoms being fever, lameness, swelling in the joints, swollen lymph nodes, lethargy, and loss of appetite.
Although not common, though, as I stated earlier, we have seen more than our fair share of this heartbreak, some dogs develop severe progressive kidney
disease as a result of Lyme disease. Once it develops, this severe form of kidney failure is impossible to treat and will likely result in the death of the dog.
How Do We Diagnose It?
It is recommended that a dog with a positive Lyme antibody test have additional blood tests to measure the level of antibodies and to assess kidney function. Some dogs may also develop heart problems or nervous system diseases after being infected with B. Burgdorferi.
Lyme disease is diagnosed by a simple blood test that can be run in the office while you wait.
How Can We Prevent Lyme Disease?
Most cases of Lyme disease can be prevented with yearly vaccinations using one of the many Lyme vaccines on the market but please note that no vaccine is guaranteed to be 100% effective.
Vaccinating your pet can save you and your family the heartbreak and stress of this potentially fatal, debilitating disease.
If you have any questions about Lyme, or would like to check your pet's vaccination status, please call us at (607) 336-7387.
Robyn King is a Hospital Manager at Pet Street Station Animal Hospital. Learn more about her here.