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Lyme Disease

Lyme disease is carried by ticks like these to humans and animals. The VA department of health has advised that all health professionals be on the lookout for this rapidly increasing condition.
In my practice, I have found a high incidence of Lyme disease in dogs. The resistance of parasites to the insecticidal drugs and the warmer weather has contributed to increasing tick populations. A tick must be attached for at least 24 hours to transmit Lyme disease.
Lyme disease in other species remains controversial but my opinion is that once a reliable test is developed, it will be found at high levels in tick infested animals. The symptoms are so varied that there is not one classic syndrome to recognize.
Some symptoms include intermittent fever, lameness, fibromyalgia, inflammation of the eyes, swollen lymph nodes and kidney failure.
Control of Lyme disease begins with control of ticks. Application of natural tick repellant sprays such as Vetri-Repel ® before going for walks in the woods will help. I advise Advantix® for dogs and Revolution for cats during the tick season for high risk cases. I don’t like the idea of systemic chemical repellants, but I have seen tick borne infections kill animals. Untreated dogs are more likely to bring ticks in the home to their owners. Cats are more fastidious and seem to rarely get problems with ticks. Horses get ticks in their manes and tails, commonly. Applying a repellant such as a natural fly spray to the legs and mane will help reduce tick problems. Keeping pastures mowed will also be very helpful.
Treatment of Lyme disease requires at least a month of antibiotic therapy. As with humans, the longer the duration of infection, the more difficult it is to resolve. Herbal support of the immune system and treatment of symptoms is very helpful in addition to antibiotics. Once Lyme disease has progressed to kidney failure, treatment may be futile.
Treatment of asymptomatic dogs that test positive is very controversial. Most vets I know, tend to err on the side of caution. A positive antibody titer indicates tick control needs attention for sure. Adding a urinalysis to check for protein in the urine will add urgency to treatment of these outwardly asymptomatic animals. If treated early, a full recovery can be expected. If treated late, a chronic condition may set in.
Vaccination is routine in many veterinary settings. Vaccination is done to prevent infection before exposure and after treatment to prevent reinfection. There is no vaccine without risk and the Lyme vaccine has been implicated in more adverse reactions than others. In addition, no vaccine is 100% effective and complacency on tick control would be inadvisable. Lyme vaccines have been available for 20 years and have been improved as the years go by. As with everything in medicine, you have to weigh the risk with the benefit, all the while looking at your patient’s vital force and ability to respond to a vaccine.
With Lyme disease and its more severe cousin, Rocky Mountain Spotted fever, the number one defense is control of the vector, the tick! Secondly, a strong immune system, supported by good nutrition and environment, will go far in preventing any disease in yourself and your animals!


June 6, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment