Lyme disease is contracted from the bite of a deer tick infected with a spirochete organism named Borrelia burgdorferi. The majority of dogs infected with the Lyme organism do not feel sick or have any clinical signs. Clinical signs include lameness, stiffness, swelling of limbs or joints, fever, lethargy, reluctance to move, loss of appetite, vomiting or depression. On occasion, Lyme disease presents with kidney damage which occurs when the immune system is exposed to the Lyme spirochete over a period of time.

A simple blood test can determine if your dog has been exposed to the Lyme organism. A positive test (or titer) simply means your dog has been exposed. If the test is positive, further blood and urine tests are recommended to determine how the dog is responding to the organism.

After Lyme disease is diagnosed (based on further blood and urine test or clinical signs) the treatment is a four week course of antibiotics. The clinical signs typically improve rapidly within 48 hours. Treatment does not always eliminate the organism from the body which is why titers often remain positive even after treatment.

The best way to prevent Lyme disease is through strict adherence to tick control and vaccination protocol. Statistically, the majority of the dogs in our area are at risk for encountering the ticks that carry Lyme disease and the vaccination is strongly recommended for most dogs in our area. It is best to vaccinate early in life before exposure. A Lyme test may be advised prior to vaccinating to know if there has already been exposure. After the initial series, the Lyme vaccination is boostered yearly.

At Lodi Veterinary Care, we recommend these tick/flea products: Simparica (oral monthly tablet), or Parastar Plus (monthly topical). We also an additional oral option for puppies called Credelio. Ticks lay dormant over the winter but become active any day the temperature is above freezing. Year round application may be the safest option with the unpredictable winter temperatures.

Summary: Lyme disease is a very complicated disease.

  • Many dogs are infected with the Lyme organism yet few develop the disease.
  • Positive Lyme test does not equal disease
  • The tests used in detecting Lyme disease have improved which has increased the value of testing
  • Treatment is generally well tolerated and effective.
  • Vaccinating young dogs before infection is strongly advised.
  • Tick control is crucial to preventing all tick borne diseases. We advise Parastar Plus or Bravecto.

ANAPLASMOSIS (Anaplasma phagocytophilum)

Anaplasmosis is a disease caused by an organism similar to the Lyme spirochete and is transmitted by the deer tick. It can occur on its own, or as a co-infection with Lyme disease. Once in the body, the organism may or may not cause external signs of disease. It is impossible to predict which pets will be clinically normal (unapparent carriers) and which will actually get sick. The clinical signs include swollen joints, fever, lethargy, vomiting and diarrhea. As the disease progresses, there may be significant changes in the blood including low platelets and changes in the white blood cell counts. Occasionally, in early stages of the disease the organism can be found in the white blood cells.

There currently is not a vaccination available for Anaplasmosis. There is, however, a test to see if your dog has been exposed to the organism (Snap 4DX test). A positive test does not mean the pet is going to get sick from the disease, but does indicate exposure to the organism. Like Lyme disease, many dogs may test positive and be asymptomatic (show no clinical signs).

The protocol for Anaplasmosis starts with a blood screen to determine if and how the disease is affecting the body. If treatment is needed based on clinical signs or blood screen findings, a four week course of an antibiotic will be prescribed. Many pets will remain asymptomatic carriers and continue to test positive despite treatment. These dogs should continue to be carefully screened with the recommended blood work to monitor for any signs of the disease.

EHRLICHIOSIS (Ehrlichia canis)

Ehrlichiosis is another tick borne disease. It is caused by organisms similar to those that cause Lyme disease and Anaplasmosis. The clinical signs include lethargy, fever and swollen joints. Blood work may show low platelets, high protein levels, anemia, and elevated liver values. This disease can be a very chronic, slowly progressive disease. It is diagnosed with a positive Snap 4DX test followed by a medical workup. Treatment is a four week course of antibiotics if needed based on blood counts or clinical signs. There is not a vaccination available at this time. Like all tick borne diseases, your pet may test positive and not show any clinical signs (asymptomatic carrier). Infected dogs should continue to be carefully screened with the recommended blood work to monitor for any signs of the disease.

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