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Posted on 11-02-2017

Lyme Disease Threat is Here

  • For many years we have been discussing the potential for Lyme Disease in our area of central Indiana, but rarely saw cases of it.  Well, the time has come that we are seeing positive results on our screening tests in significant numbers.  According to Idexx laboratories on their positive results map: http://www.dogsandticks.com/diseases_in_your_area.php, there have been almost 10,000 confirmed positive results in Indiana.  Keep in mind, those are only the ones that are REPORTED to Idexx.  The actual number is far greater. 
  • The disease is carried by a spirochete bacteria called Borrelia burgdorferi in the saliva of an infected tick.  This bacteria takes some time to be deposited into a susceptible animal after a tick bite.  Lyme disease is seen in dogs and humans but rarely cats.  Many, in fact the majority of animals, will not actually come down with illness but for those that do so, it can be devastating.  Lyme disease spreads throughout the body but often settles in the joints.  Joint swelling, fever, lameness, generalized pain and anorexia may be noted.
  • Lyme disease is difficult to definitively diagnose.  Blood tests can be done which makes us suspicious of the presence of Lyme disease.  The antibody test is the typical screening test.  This simply means, however, that there has been an exposure to the bacteria, but does not confirm if the bacteria is still present in the body.  False negatives can occur if the dog was recently bitten by an infected tick but the dog has yet to mount an immune response and produce antibodies to Borrelia.  A very specific and sensitive test is the Polymerase Chain Reaction or PCR test.   Since not all dogs have the spirochete in the blood cells, testing fluid from an infected joint is more likely to be confirmative. Actually isolating the bacteria out of the joint fluid of an infected joint provides a definite diagnosis, and is being done more commonly in a clinical setting. 
  • Treatment involves a long term course of antibiotics.  Reinfection can occur if either the antibiotics did not kill all of the bacteria or the dog is bitten by another Borrelia infected tick.  Vaccination of our at risk dogs is preferred as prevention is always better than treatment.  The vaccines now are efficacious and readily available.  The vaccine is first administered as a two part series then an annual booster is recommended to keep the dog’s immunity high enough to ward off infection.
  • Tick Control is also highly recommended, especially since ticks can also carry other diseases such as Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Ehrlichia, and Anaplasmosis.  Many topical and oral products are available to either repel the tick or at least kill it before it has a chance to transmit Lyme Disease.
  • Although the bacteria does not always result in infection, preventing it from occurring as well as treating any dogs that test positively is highly recommended as the outcome can lead to permanent lameness and joint destruction.

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