Lyme disease is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi and is transmitted to humans through the bite of infected blacklegged ticks. Typical symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue, and a characteristic skin rash called erythema migrans. If left untreated, infection can spread to joints, the heart, and the nervous system. Lyme disease is diagnosed based on symptoms, physical findings (e.g., rash), and the possibility of exposure to infected ticks; laboratory testing is helpful if used correctly and performed with validated methods. Most cases of Lyme disease can be treated successfully with a few weeks of antibiotics. Steps to prevent Lyme disease include using insect repellent, removing ticks promptly, applying pesticides, and reducing tick habitat. The ticks that transmit Lyme disease can occasionally transmit other tickborne diseases as well. To learn more, go to: www.cdc.gov/lyme/
Dear Daisy Dog During her annual exam, my dog Misty tested positive for Lyme disease on the SNAP test. The veterinarian vaccinated her but did not treat her for the disease. Another veterinarian recommended an antibiotic. Which treatment is correct? Daisy Responds If you had asked one more veterinarian, you might well have received a third recommendation: to conduct a Lyme C6 quantitative antibody test and base the treatment decision on the result. According to a poll conducted in May by the veterinary journal Clinician’s Brief, veterinarians are evenly divided among the three treatment options. Let me explain the theory behind each, to help you become a better informed member of Misty’s heath care team. First, let’s look at the decision not to prescribe an antibiotic but to vaccinate instead. The SNAP test showed Misty had been exposed to Lyme disease. She wasn’t sick, so your veterinarian felt she required no treatment. Moreover, the potential risks of antibiotic use may outweigh the negligible benefits in this situation. Furthermore, no study has proven that treating non-clinical Lyme-positive dogs prevents them from getting sick later. With regard to Lyme vaccination, the SNAP test proved Misty’s lifestyle exposes her to ticks, so your veterinarian vaccinated her to prevent disease in the future. Many veterinarians also recommend a product that kills ticks, such as K9 Advantix or Frontline Plus. The second option, to treat all dogs that test positive, is employed by one-third of veterinarians, because they feel the antibiotic is relatively safe and inexpensive, and they’re not very concerned about bacteria becoming resistant to it in the future. Finally, one-third of veterinarians recommend an additional test, usually the Lyme C6 quantitative antibody test to determine exactly how high the dog’s antibody level is. Levels below 30 indicate exposure but not active disease. On the other hand, if the C6 quantitative test detects antibody levels over 30, most veterinarians treat with an antibiotic. The SNAP test shows only whether the dog has antibodies but doesn’t measure the level. All three treatment options are considered acceptable. Unfortunately, no one knows yet which will prove to be the best course.
Experts are saying that we are in store for a large spike in Lyme disease cases this spring. The surge is expected to begin in May and last until July. Call the hospital today to talk with our medical staff about whether your pet should be vaccinated against Lyme disease. Lyme disease is one of the most common tick-transmitted diseases in the world, and left untreated it can cause serious health problem for your pet. So why the projected big increase this year? According to HealthDay News: “The reason is that oak trees produced relatively few acorns this year, part of a normal cycle of boom and bust years for the acorn crop. But the small crop means trouble for the white-footed mouse, which feeds on the acorns. “We had a boom in acorns, followed by a boom in mice. And now, on the heels of one of the smallest acorn crops we’ve ever seen, the mouse population is crashing,” Richard Ostfeld, a disease ecologist at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook, N.Y., said in an institute news release. “What does that have to do with Lyme disease? “Mice are the preferred host for black-legged ticks, which transmit Lyme disease. Black-legged ticks need a bloodmeal at three different stages — as larvae, as nymphs and as adults. As of the spring, the larval ticks that fed on 2011’s large mouse population will be looking for their nymphal meal. “This spring, there will be a lot of Borrelia burgdorferi-infected black-legged ticks in our forests looking for a blood meal. And instead of finding a white-footed mouse, they are going to find other mammals — like us,” Ostfeld added. Borrelia burgdorferi is the bacterium that causes Lyme disease. Here’s a link to the full article.