The Hunting Dog and Lyme Disease
Pet Center Mesa Vet
Hospital Frontline For Pets
are many different types of ticks throughout the United States.
In some areas they are seasonal and only cause a problem in warmer
months, but in many temperate areas, ticks are a year round threat.
Besides being a nuisance and causing local irritation, ticks can transmit
rickettsial diseases to your pets. Some
of the most common tick borne diseases are Ehrlichiosis (tick fever), Lyme
disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.
Lyme disease is one of the most common tick-transmitted
diseases in the world. There is much that is known about it, but also a
tremendous amount that still is unknown. There are many varied opinions
regarding symptoms, diagnosis, vaccination controversies and treatment
options. Lyme disease is caused by an organism known as a spirochaete and
named Borrelia burgdorferi. It is transmitted by tick bites. It has been
found worldwide and in ancient chinese medical literature they actually
describe a syndrome very similar to Lyme disease, thousands of years
before Lyme, Connecticut was named! In the United States, more than 90% of
the cases occur in the Northeast, with California and Missippi second. It
is fairly common in dogs, but rarely seen in cats, although I have seen
some cats with it.
of Lyme Disease in Dogs
In cases of canine Lyme Disease, over 90 percent of canine patients
are admitted with signs of
limping (usually one foreleg), lymph node swelling in the affected limb,
and a temperature of 103 degrees (101 to 102.5 degrees is normal).
The limping usually progresses over three to four days from mild and
barely noticeable to complete disuse of the painful leg. Once the
dog starts to be affected by the bacteria, Lyme Disease can progress from
a mild discomfort to the stage where a dog will be in such joint and
muscle pain it will refuse to move; it is not uncommon for an owner to
have to carry a sick dog into the animal hospital. Over the
span of two or three days a dog can progress from normal to completely
unable to walk due to generalized joint pain. In addition to joint
damage, the bacteria can affect the dog's heart muscle and nerve tissue.
If the disease is diagnosed in time, treatment can cure the dog before
permanent joint or nerve damage occurs. Certain antibiotics, such as
the Tetracyclines, are very helpful in eliminating the disease.
Generally, the diagnosis of Lyme Disease is based upon
clinical signs and history. For example, if a dog ran or played
normally a few days ago, has had no signs of trauma or previous arthritic
discomfort, and now displays tenderness upon palpation of the affected
limb and has a mild fever and swollen lymph nodes, you are going to seriously
consider Lyme Disease as a possible diagnosis.
On the other hand, just as in human medicine, Lyme
Disease is called "The Great Imitator" because it has often been
mistakenly diagnosed when another disorder is present, such as an
autoimmune disease, lymph tissue cancer, Blastomycosis, or septicemia.
Just as vexing is the fact that at times other similar-appearing diseases
are diagnosed when the culprit is actually Lyme Disease.
Treatment for Lyme Disease
Keeping other disorders in mind, if
you suspect Lyme
Disease, get treatment immediately, generally with a prescribed
antibiotic such as tetracycline and possibly some aspirin if the dog is in
a lot of pain. Many veterinarians do not wait for blood tests to
confirm the tentative diagnosis because in dogs the information obtained
may be confusing and require too much time to hear back from the lab.
Vets have seen patients that from clinical experience, know they have Lyme
Disease, yet their blood test curiously indicates no exposure to the
disease. And there are numerous cases of normal-appearing, healthy
dogs with positive blood tests for Lyme Disease.
What is the best treatment? It
appears that doxycycline and amoxicillin seem to be the best antibiotics
against Lyme disease. It is suggested that staying on antibiotics for a
minimum of a month, sometimes even longer is best. In some dogs that were
only on antibiotics for two weeks, it comes back with a vengeance
and does not respond as well afterwards. A holistic approach would also
include using probiotics such as acidophilus to keep the healthy bacteria
alive in your pets gastrointestinal tract. In addition, it has been found
that the organism can actually further suppress the immune system. So you
might use nutritional and herbal support to boost the immune system as
well. This would include echinacea and garlic. Homeopathic remedies
have also appeared to be helpful. The most successful of these firstname.lastname@example.org
ude homeopathic Ledum and a Lyme nosode. Lyme nosode is a homeopathic
remedy that is made from the killed organism, diluted, successed and
potentized to the point that nothing of the original organism remains. For
appropriate dosages of these remedies, you should contact a homeopathic
Fortunately, over ninety percent of dogs treated within
the first week of obvious signs of Lyme Disease will respond rapidly to
treatment with a tetracycline antibiotic. This medicine is
administered for at least three weeks. Approximately five
percent of dogs will have some type of relapse of signs such as cardiac or
neurological difficulties even after treatment. Some of these
patients will experience chronic, lifelong joint pain from the damage
caused by the bacteria and its direct and indirect stress to joint
tissues. The earlier the antibiotic is started in the course of the
disease, the better the patient's chances of a complete recovery.
Can a dog contract Lyme Disease a second time? Yes. But, quite
honestly, it is not known for sure if the reoccurrence is a second, distinct
infection or a flare-up of the original episode (because the Borrelia
organism replicates quite slowly). And, since dogs can harbor the
bacteria in their tissues a long time before the disease is evident, Lyme
Disease cases are showing up all year long. In the northern states,
however, the summer months are the busiest for Lyme Disease case
of Lyme Disease in Dogs
As far as prevention goes, there is a great deal of
controversy concerning the dog Lyme vaccine. There is a great debate about
how well they actually work as well as potential side effects. There are
publications concerning its safety, but the researchers only look 24 hours
after the vaccine reaction. Research at Cornell University veterinary
school brings up some suspicion that there may be potential long term side
effects of the vaccine, though nothing is certain. These side effects may
vary from rheumatoid arthritis and all the major symptoms of lyme disease
to acute kidney failure. Though nothing is definitively documented, some
vets are very cautious and do not recommend vaccinating for Lyme disease
even though it is epidemic. Many veterinary schools and major veterinary
centers do not recommend the vaccine for the same concern regarding
potential side effects. Symptoms of Lyme disease in dogs four to eight
weeks after the vaccine have been seen and when tests are performed,
it shows no evidence of the disease, only evidence of the dog having been
vaccinated, yet the dog shows all the classic symptoms of the disease.
There is a new dog vaccine out that claims that it does not have any of
the side effects, however, remain cautious and will wait for a year or two
to see. Some dog owners would rather treat the dog for Lyme
disease rather than risking the potential side effects of the vaccine. In
addition, there is a question of actually how well it works. There are three Lyme vaccines approved for use in
dogs. Keep in mind, though, that no vaccine for humans or canines
will be 100% effective and protective against the disease. Until
more safety and decreased risk of side effects and efficacy are
demonstrated, one might recommend holding off.
For helpful information on the advisability
of vaccinating your dog, contact a vaccine manufacturer or discuss this
disease with your veterinarian.
The best prevention still is checking your dog carefully
and removing any ticks at least once a day. Collars do not seem to work
that well, although some of the topical insecticides do seem to work well,
but then one has to weigh the potential toxic effects of these insecticide
from the beneficial effects of preventing ticks.
addition, there are new chemical agents that you apply once a month to
small areas of the dog's skin; thereafter, the agent spreads over the
dog's body via the oil on its skin and kills ticks before they get a
chance to inject the bacteria into the dog via the tick's saliva.
Sprays, collars, powders and dips are often used too (in these products
the chemical ingredient permethrin is more effective than pyrethrin).
Again, compromise and only use the topicals during
the greatest incidence of tick usually in the spring and fall. It is all a
balance! Keep your pets away from tick infested areas, check them daily
and stay healthy and happy and tick free!!
Please note: All of these agents will kill the
tick after it climbs aboard the dog. The longer the tick is attached
and biting, the greater the risk of bacterial transmission... IF the tick
carries the Borrelia bacteria in the first place. Remember, no
repellent will keep every single tick off a dog. Sprays, collars and
dips repel ticks to some degree, with collars being the least effective.
Hunting dog owners have found
that spraying their dogs with a topical spray just prior to an outing in
the woods decreases the numbers of ticks picked up by their dogs. Caution!
Do not "double up" on insecticides or repellants.
If your veterinarian has prescribed a topical once-a-month flea and tick
product, always consult your veterinarian before applying any additional
insecticide/repellent product! By the way, insect repellents
designed to be applied to clothing should never be used in dogs. To
be specific, DEET is toxic to canines.
Examine your dog after outdoor excursions and carefully
pick off the ticks you find. But remember how tiny the Ixodes
larvae and nymphs are; they'll be a challenge to remove without crushing
them. With tiny tweezers, gently grasp the tick as close to the dog's skin
(or your own!) as possible and gently pull away from the skin. Ticks
do not burrow under or into the skin but rather attach to the skin surface
with two claw-like mouth parts. Try not to crush the tick.
After removal, cleanse the area with antiseptic.
Humans should wear clothing that covers as much skin as
possible to prevent the ticks from contacting the skin. And the use
of light-colored clothing will make observation of the dark-colored tick
easier. Examine yourself closely for ticks
after a day in the field.