Racker is a 12 year old male German Shepard dog that presented to the Riverdale Veterinary Group with a poor appetite. Racker, always a big strong dog, had lost about 15 pounds in a short amount of time. He had been vomiting multiple times in the past 3 days, and was lethargic. Racker’s right eye was red and bulging. On physical exam, “Racker” was underweight and dehydrated, although still alert and responsive.
Radiographs showed a small heart (evidence of dehydration) and increased gas in the intestinal tract.
Eye pressure measurements showed Racker’s right eye pressure to be mildly elevated. Blood was drawn for initial testing, and Racker was placed on intravenous fluids for the day to correct his dehydration. IV medication was started to treat the vomiting.Eye drops were started to bring down Racker’s eye pressure.
Previous blood tests had indicated that Racker had tested positive for Lyme Disease in the past. However he had never been sick from it. So along with the rest of the blood work, a Lyme C6 antigen test was run. Racker was feeling a lot better that night after the fluid treatment, and was sent home. However within 24 hours his lethargy returned, and he still did not have a good appetite. The blood results showed the Lyme C6 antigen titre to be significantly elevated at 104 (anything over 30 being abnormal). Racker ‘s owner was instructed to start Doxycycline antibiotics immediately. By the next morning Racker was feeling a lot better. His appetite had returned and he was more energetic and comfortable than he had been in a while.
Lyme disease is caused by a small organism known as a spirochete, similar to a bacteria. It is carried by ticks that transmit the parasite to host animals like dogs and people, by biting them. The tick falls off of trees and other vegetation, and lands on the host, where it attaches and takes one to two days to transmit the Lyme organism. Although Lyme disease more commonly causes leg lameness and swollen joints, and fever, it can also cause a variety of other serious problems including anorexia and swollen lymph nodes. Lyme disease can also cause kidney, heart, or neurological damage which if left untreated can lead to permanent damage to these organs.
One important lesson that should be learned from Rackers’s story is that Lyme disease can be contracted at any time of year. Racker got sick in April, and possibly had been losing weight for a few months prior to that. He most likely contracted the Lyme disease in the winter time. A common misconception is that ticks are only out in the warm weather months. Actually, they are non-seasonal. So it is very important to protect your dog from ticks all year long if they are spending time around trees or in parks. A quality monthly flea/tick prevention product should be applied 12 months a year. Another point to remember is that Lyme carrying ticks are present in urban areas. Ticks actually are in highest concentration at borders between wooded areas and grassy fields. This includes most parks in and around the city.
Dogs should be screened for exposure to common tick-borne infections once a year. Typically, this is accomplished with a 4DX test, which screens for Lyme
Disease, two other common tick borne infections, and heartworm disease. If the test comes up positive for Lyme Disease, that’s when the follow up C6 antigen test is done to see if treatment is necessary. Always remember to do a quick tick search after your dog comes in from the outdoors, especially if he or she was in the park, at the beach, or in a wooded area where ticks are common. This involves going over the back and neck with a comb and your hands. Sometimes ticks are found visually, other times they are easier to feel.
For more information about tick prevention, please give us a call or discuss it the next time your dog is in for a routine exam.