My pet was just diagnosed with Lyme disease. He was put on antibiotics for a month. What else can I do to help him ?
The current information on Lyme disease in dogs has been growing over the years. Certainly, more research needs to be done to fully understand the course and status of these pets after they have been treated. Of particular interest is the question of whether the pet is completely rid of the organism once treated. This is still up for debate, however, some studies have come to light. More practitioners now consider that a Lyme-positive dog may never be able to completely clear the infection.
Researchers at the University of California, Davis, recently reported that Borrelia burgdorferi (the causative agent of Lyme disease) can linger in mouse tissue long after than the antibiotic treatment is completed. It is a very tough organism and it can evade the body’s immune system.
Personally, I have seen patients in my hospital that were positive for Lyme disease show some or all of the following symptoms: lethargy, depression, fever, one or more inflamed joints, one or more enlarged lymph nodes, poor appetite, loss of appetite, lameness in one or more joints (the lameness may be intermittent and may switch from one joint to another), muscle aches and pains, anemia, kidney damage or kidney failure, and neurologic involvement such as unprovoked aggression, confusion, muscle twitches and seizures. It can be a very bad disease if it manages to progress to the neurologic stage when the organisms have managed to infiltrate the brain and spinal fluid leading to potential seizures or paralysis. Many of the animals that present with seizures are falsely diagnosed with epilepsy and treated with anti-seizure medication rather than the appropriate antibiotics.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, Lyme disease (Lyme borreliosis) is the fastest growing tick borne disease in the United States. In the United States human cases have been found in all 50 states. The disease can be carried by a number of different ticks, including the Deer Tick, American Dog Tick, Brown Dog Tick, Lone Star Tick, Pacific Coast Tick and Relapsing Fever Ticks. The first three of the above are the more common species found in the Northeast part of the country.
A tick must feed for at least 50 hours before it can transmit Borrelia burgdorferi. As such it gives us some means of protecting our pets and ourselves by trying to remove ticks as soon as they are seen. Use tweezers to firmly grip the tick as close to the pet’s skin as possible and gently pull the tick free without twisting. Also, during Tick season, treat your pets with an appropriate tick preventative. Most tick preventatives are applied between the shoulder blades onto the skin. Additionally, after walking in the park, woods, after hiking or camping, it is a good idea to examine your pet for ticks and remove then as soon as possible.
Remember, dogs do not get the typical “bull’s eye” rash often seen in infected humans. Infected dogs may show no signs at all, or the signs may be so subtle that they are not noticed. If you have any inclination at all that your pet may not be feeling well or not just himself, it may be wise to see your local veterinarian and get a Lyme test performed. I recommend yearly blood test when getting tested for heartworm disease as a yearly screening test.
Dr. DiLeva is a 1987 graduate of the University of Pennsylvania’s school of veterinary medicine. She practices alternative and conventional veterinary medicine. Dr. DiLeva is a certified veterinary acupuncturist and a certified veterinary chiropractitioner. She can be reached at her Animal Wellness Center in Chadds Ford, Pa at 610-558-1616 for appointments, speaking engagements and telephone consultations. Her web site is www.altpetdoc.com