What To Do If Your Dog Tests Positive For Lyme Disease

By Species, By Topic, Diagnosis, Dogs, Infectious Diseases, Parasites

If your dog likes running free through the lovely Virginia wilderness, chances are it is going to pick up a tick sooner or later. And because many ticks in this region also carry Lyme disease, your pet’s playtime could put it at risk of picking up a severe illness.

Lyme disease begins as a bacteria in the tick’s saliva. When the tick attaches to your dog, in addition to sucking blood, it swaps spit with the victim. In goes the Lyme bacteria. When this happens, your dog’s immune system might react by releasing antibodies. These antibodies are what veterinarians look for when testing for Lyme disease, by administering a screening test for C-6 antigen response.

If your dog tests positive for this screening test, it means your dog has the Lyme bacteria. It does not tell your veterinarian when your dog was bitten by an infected tick, however. It merely informs the veterinarian that the dog is already mounting an immune response, even though you may not be aware of any clinical sign or symptoms at this point. The screening test is susceptible and specific for the C-6 protein of the Lyme bacteria and does not turn positive even if a dog has been vaccinated in the past for Lyme Disease. Once your dog tests positive, our veterinarians will usually recommend a 30-day antibiotic treatment against Lyme disease—Even if your pet hasn’t shown any symptoms. Often, Lyme disease symptoms are subtle, and sometimes even get misdiagnosed as different diseases.

If your dog tests positive in the screening, we will typically order a second test that will measure your pet’s immune response. This is called the Quantitative C-6 antibody test, and it gives us what’s known as an antibody titer. This number directly relates to how vigorously your dog’s immune system is defending against the infection. We administer this test when your dog begins antibiotic treatment, and then again later in the therapy. By comparing the two results, we can tell whether the antibiotics are working. Hopefully, the second test will show a lower number of C-6 antibodies than the second. This indicates the infection is no longer active.

CEDARCREST Animal Hospital also gives the C-6 quantitative antibody test during annual physical exams, for dogs that enjoy outdoor play. Since Lyme disease can be ‘silent” for a very long time and can recur under times of stress, it is highly recommended to vaccinate your dog against Lyme Disease even if it has beaten a prior infection. We repeat: Having the infection at one point in time DOES NOT protect your dog against future infections. The long-term effects of Lyme disease include chronic fatigue, arthritis, and even neurologic degradation. Dogs that have recovered from Lyme also occasionally develop kidney disease.

To recap: If your dog tests positive for Lyme disease, treat it with antibiotics, monitor its health, and vaccinate to prevent future infections.

Call CEDARCREST Animal Clinic at 540-943-7577 if you think your dog has Lyme disease.

CEDARCREST Animal Clinic provides medical and surgical care for every stage of your pet's life including preventive wellness care exams and vaccines, spays/neuters, and a variety of specialized care for your dog, cat, avian, or exotic. We are home to the only veterinarian practitioner in Virginia to be double Boarded in Avian and Canine/Feline care and provide care for birds, small mammals, and reptiles of all sorts! Plus, we are home to Virginia's most exclusive dog boarding resort that includes heated floors, an expansive play area, and even webcams so you can watch your pet while you're away. We're located in Fishersville, Virginia, and serve Augusta County and surrounding areas including Waynesboro, Staunton, Harrisonburg, and Charlottesville. 

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