Rufus is an 8-year-old male golden retriever who loves to be outside. His owners brought him in for his annual examination. His owners noted that a couple of months ago they had pulled two embedded ticks off of his neck and removed half a dozen more small ticks from his coat. It appeared that Rufus had gone through a tick bed. When asked if there had been any concerns with Rufus they explained that he has been playing too hard and occasionally will come up limping. It didn’t seem to be any one leg it was different every time. His owners also mentioned that he has been a little lazy for the past couple of weeks. On his examination, Rufus’s temperature was slightly elevated. No evidence of limping was seen during the examination. The owners said it was his left front leg, was the most recent one he had been favoring. On examination, no evidence of pain was noted. A recommendation based on his history was to do a screening test for Lyme disease as well as other tick-borne diseases. While waiting for the results of the test an x-ray was also recommended to rule out any sort of arthritis or other damage to his front leg. His x-ray showed no evidence of arthritis or bone injuries to explain his clinical signs. His tick screening test, however, did return positive for Lyme disease. Based on his physical examination and history a treatment course of Doxycycline for 28 days (an appropriate antibiotic) was prescribed. A confirmatory Lyme c6 test was sent to the lab and also a urine sample was sent out.
Lyme disease is a very common disease in the northeast. In endemic areas it has been estimated that 50-80% of dogs are exposed to the Lyme bacterium, however of those exposed only 5% show clinical signs for the disease. These clinical signs include off and on or persistent limping, lack of appetite, lethargy, fever or enlarged lymph nodes and in rare cases a deadly kidney disease. As mentioned Lyme disease is a tick-borne disease and requires an infected tick to be attached for an average of 24-48 hours in order to pass the infective bacteria to its host. Following this exposure, it takes approximately 2-3 weeks for testing to pick up the body’s response to the organism.
When looking into a potential Lyme infected dog it is important to rule out concurrent diseases. In Rufus’s case, an x-ray was performed to rule out other causes for limping in an older dog. Also, his blood was sent to a lab to confirm evidence of infection. The final test was a urine sample. As mentioned above the urine sample is very important to make sure that he didn’t or wasn’t in the process of developing the severe kidney disease which can result from Lyme.
Lyme disease is a treatable disease with the appropriate medications. It is important to treat the infection as soon as possible due to the debilitating effects of the disease. In Rufus’s case he went on to a full recovery, and his owners explained they would be sure to keep up with his flea and tick preventative from now on. Monthly preventatives are very important and often times are good enough to prevent the infection in the first place.