Canine Lyme disease

Treatment

Treatment protocols

Asking clients how much time their dogs spend outside during a typical day is important, because most pet owners are unaware that this is a high risk factor for canine Lyme disease in many areas of Canada.

A positive dog with signs is a sick dog

  • Dogs that test positive, and show clinical signs must be treated with antibiotic therapy immediately
  • Most practitioners prefer doxycycline, because it will also treat other tick-borne diseases, such as canine anaplasmosis, that may exist as a co-infection
  • Approximately two weeks after the start of the treatment, the dog should be vaccinated with a Lyme vaccine to help prevent future infection

To treat or not to treat a positive, asymptomatic dog?

  • A positive dog is not necessarily a sick dog
  • At the time of the test the dog may not show any clinical signs
  • Treating or not treating a positive, asymptomatic dog is up to the veterinarian and the pet owner
  • He may develop signs weeks or months later and need to be treated
  • His immune system may overcome the infection and he will never be sick

Two clinical cases

Two cases from a practitioner in a veterinary clinic in a Lyme endemic area demonstrate how treatment protocols are based on a combination of testing, clinical signs, risk factors and the approval of the dog owner. The cases show treatment procedures for a positive, symptomatic dog in Case 1 and the complexities of treating a positive, asymptomatic dog in Case 2.

CASE 1 - Zola:

Diagnosis and treatment for a symptomatic dog that tested positive for Lyme disease.

This case demonstrates that:

  • Annual screening for Lyme disease is important, whether the dog is symptomatic or asymptomatic
  • A Lyme positive test, can confirm a diagnosis based on presenting signs
  • Treatment is clearly indicated for a positive, symptomatic dog
  • Lyme vaccination should be given two weeks after the start of antibiotic therapy to prevent future infection
  • Monitor for the quantitative C6 level annually to make sure the infection is under control
  • About 75 percent of dogs will have a lifelong C6 titer even if the infection is under control

CASE 2 - Archie:

Diagnosis and treatment for an asymptomatic dog that tested positive for Lyme and anaplasmosis infections.

This case demonstrates that:

  • Annual screening allows the veterinarian to catch infections in the subclinical phase before they have a chance to cause the disease
  • Dogs testing positive but asymptomatic for Lyme disease and anaplasmosis (co-infections) are at increased risk for developing clinical disease
  • The decision to treat or not to treat a positive asymptomatic dog is up to the veterinarian and the pet owner
  • Positive, asymptomatic dogs should be vaccinated with a Lyme vaccine to prevent future infection
  • Many dogs will become symptomatic later
  • Some dogs will never have clinical signs
  • Once a dog is C6 positive, it will usually remain C6 positive for life, even if the infection is under control
  • Preventive strategies such as tick control and Lyme vaccination can help reduce the risk of Lyme disease
Lyme disease
has been
found in all 10
Canadian
provinces
The threat of Lyme disease is probably greater in dogs than in humans
Dogs will often show no signs of Lyme disease
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