Snow Leopard

Snow Leopard
Snow Leopard cub (7 mos old) - Cape May County Zoo

Friday, March 21, 2014

It's Almost Time for Lyme

I'm going to be very honest with you. I truly DO take for granted sometimes what people know, get and understand. No, these are not deep medical secrets, things only students of anatomy, physiology or pharmacology would know. These are things I know are "out there" in the media and that pet owners talk about. Things that pet owners often worry about getting themselves and see their own doctors about.  The thing is, often what they know isn't accurate. It certainly is not tailored to their pet or where they live. 

Lyme disease is one of the most common things I diagnose, year in, year out here in the Poconos. Northeast PA has the highest incidence in human and dog cases per the CDC. FYI - cats for whatever reason, are immune to it (see, I told you cats were amazing!). Anyhow, what upsets me the most is that this disease, while endemic to this region, is preventable. 
However, if patients are not properly protected, they can die from it. 

Lyme nephritis is kidney failure cause by the Lyme bacteria. The bacteria cause an immune response whereby immune complexes clog up the tiny little glomeruli (or filters) in the kidneys. There is NO treatment once we reach this point. Lyme nephritis, in my personal experience of 15 years, does not seem to hit those dogs that are routinely vaccinated. Dogs with Lyme nephritis can live a few days to weeks (rarely months) with medications, fluids, etc. However, they are doomed. Even if they are 2, 3, 5 years old, etc. Trust me, I've had to be the bearer of the news I dread to deliver. I've had to euthanize otherwise healthy young dogs with years left because they didn't have a  $25 vaccine on board. Yes. It sucks. 

Even a vaccinated dog can and often, in our area, does test positive for Lyme on the 4Dx Snap test. The test does NOT get a false positive from vaccine and is only positive from active infection. Therefore, that tells me that the vaccine offers a HUGE protection in clinical disease to our dogs. There is NO reason not to vaccinate a dog, unless he or she has cancer or some other massive immune system issue where vaccines are a problem. This is a very RARE circumstance. Even indoor little "foo foo's" that supposedly never go out have tested positive in my practice settings. 

Dogs usually test positive months after exposure to an infected tick. They will not test positive from a tick you pulled off the day or week of your visit with us. 

If your dog tests positive, I WILL treat him or her with a month of antibiotics. In a year, we will want to check an antibody level. However, you should continue to (or start) vaccinating your dog for Lyme (it's always a series of 2 vaccines initially, then yearly) and using an effective product like Vectra (any topical needs to be applied more frequently if you bathe or swim your dog a lot.) Lyme re infections can occur at any time. This is not chicken pox in humans.

So when we ask or recommend that your pet get tested, it's not because we want to make more money. It really is not! I can assure you.  There is nothing more upsetting and maddening to me to have to tell someone their pet is going to die (from something that could have been prevented with proper care and listening to or even going to a veterinarian). Please understand and follow our recommendations. If you don't trust your vet, please find one you do. There are a lot of things we cannot prevent or change or predict. However we work very hard at the things we can! 

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