Lyme disease in dogs

Are you and your dog both at risk for Lyme? It's terrible to think so, yet those energizing hikes through the forest that you and your canine pal adore may be putting you at a greater risk for infection. Even if you're not a frequent hiker, you know how man's best friend loves to rummage through the bushes around the edge of the yard and snuffle through piles of leaves. Hedges and leaf piles are prime hiding spots for ticks.

Lyme is endemic in the northeastern US, and increasing incidences of the illness are being reported in northern California and the Pacific northwest. Dogs living in other parts of the country may be at less of a risk for exposure. But before you allow yourself to believe your dog is out of the woods (so to speak), bear in mind that Lyme infection has been reported in every state.

Lyme in dogs manifests differently than in humans. When bitten by an infected tick, 30 - 50% of people will develop a skin rash and flu-like symptoms. However, dogs are not likely to develop symptoms for many weeks or months. Your dog might exhibit signs of arthritis from painful joint inflammation, or he might run a fever. Your veterinarian can prescribe a course of antibiotics such as doxycycline or Amoxicillin, which many dogs respond well to. As in humans, all the bacteria may not be killed with this course. Long term or chronic Lyme may or may not be a problem for our beloved buddies.

  • According to an article by Wendy C. Brooks, DVM, DipABVP Educational Director of, dogs do not tend to develop neurologic or heart issues.
  • However, kidney disease may occur in response to stimulation by latent pathogens over a long period of time.

Preventing Lyme infection might be possible with the use of powerful tick repellents and collars. However, even if you use these agents you should take the time to check your dog daily for ticks whenever you think there has been exposure. There is no hard evidence to prove that a tick must be attached for 48 hours before it can spew its Lyme bacteria into the animal on which it's feeding. If the tick is disturbed while feeding, it may dump its toxins into the bloodstream of the host animal.

  • If you find a tick on your pet, grasp the tick firmly but gently with a tweezers and pull it straight out without twisting or turning it.
  • Never suffocate the tick by putting anything on it, such as Vaseline or soap. Doing so may cause it to unload its bacteria before you remove it.

The bad news is that diagnosing Lyme disease in dogs is as tricky as it is for humans. Spirochetes are notorious for being able to hide masterfully from the host's immune system. Therefore, detecting antibodies to the Lyme bacteria is nearly impossible. If you and your vet suspect that your furry buddy might have Lyme, the good news is that a 2 - 4 week course of antibiotics should bring your pet relief from symptoms quickly, within 48 hours.

Marguerite's Lyme story

"It's been a rollercoaster," says Marguerite, who began looking for a Lyme literate doctor when she first contracted the disease many years ago. She had just experienced the death of her second husband. She had two adorable puppies, and was active in church, taking yoga, working and staying physically fit when she discovered she had Lyme disease. Living in the heartland of Lyme in Fairfield, Connecticut, she was bitten more than once.

She got herself to an infectious disease doctor the minute she detected a tick bite, and was given short courses of doxycycline, which she now suspects were not long enough. She even received the controversial Lyme vaccine, which was only available for a brief period of time due to its ineffectiveness.

This is a frustrating and familiar story: Marguerite's Lyme symptoms began as flu-like feelings and migraine headaches. Her severe low back pain and neurological challenges made it very difficult to work, even though her company allowed her to work from home. She developed apnea, insomnia, painful swelling in the joints and more. She's gone to three infectious disease doctors who she says won't even listen to her positive test results for Lyme. Today, she uses patches for pain control, and is actively looking for a Lyme aware doctor to treat her.

We wish you well, Marguerite!

Members can listen to Marguerite's story. Please consider joining the LDRD.

How to find a Lyme doctor

Currently, there are two standards of treatment for Lyme disease. If you have Lyme symptoms, or suspect you may have Lyme, please contact a Lyme literate medical doctor, or LLMD. Go to the Lyme Disease Association doctor referrals page.

You'll need to register using your email address, and follow the simple directions to find a doctor near you. It doesn't take long and it's easy to do. If you need a Lyme specialist, we urge you to find one soon.

Infectious disease doctors (IDSA) may not have knowledge of Lyme disease, and may lack the experience that ILADS specialists can offer in diagnosing and treating Lyme. ILADS member Ginger Savely, RN, has treated over a thousand patients suffering with Lyme symptoms. She says "you can get better!"

If Lyme is left untreated it can be debilitating. The good news is you can get better. Find a doctor who knows how to diagnose and treat Lyme now.

CJ's Lyme success story

"You've gotta hear this!"

That was the subject line in CJ's note to me the other day. Turns out she was right -- I did. I just hung up this minute from our conversation, and I'm still smiling. She's one of those sunshiny souls that just can't help but affect people that way. What does she do for a living? She's the office manager of a trapeze school. Not your normal occupation, but then CJ isn't your average person. Actually, she participates in ironman competitions. Does she still have Lyme? Yes. Does she let it bring her down? If she does, she's not letting it show.

CJ's success story, like everyone who has struggled to defeat the disability that can accompany Lyme disease, comes at a price. She was misunderstood and misdiagnosed for a long time. As a teenager, she attended music camp where she concentrated on her highly developed skills as a flautist. Gifted on both the flute and piccolo, and disciplined about practice, she was headed for a life of professional music.

However, a tick bite that she got at camp stopped her in her tracks. She called home, begging her puzzled mother to let her leave early. Her mom knew something was seriously wrong.

CJ's story takes many jogs and unexpected turns. She falls in love, marries, then deals head on with an unsupportive spouse (a bastard and a s^%#head, to quote her precisely). And the most remarkable thing happens. She finds inspiration in a nine-year-old leukemia patient facing two years of chemotherapy. She is a nurse. At his bedside, she tells him that she's going to run in a charity race on his behalf. He looks at her, asks "can you run?"

LDRD Members can login (to the left) and listen to CJ's story.

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Who inspires you?

I'm a huge Amy Tan fan. If you haven't read her novels, you're missing out on some super funny and insightful stories. Read this and whet your appetite. I remember when I found out shortly after my Lyme diagnosis that Amy Tan also suffered for years from misdiagnosis and severe neuroborreliosis. Reading her story, I hung on every word. Of course, I had to read s-l-o-w-l-y. At that point, it often took me hours to comprehend one page of information. I determined that if the brilliant Amy Tan could slip so low and still pull herself out, I could too. She knew how tough it was. You know how it is. I don't want to be in this club, but since I have no choice I'm going to look around and find someone to inspire me.

Musician Darryl Hall was diagnosed with Lyme the same week I was. I feel solidarity with him. Another fabulous novelist, Rebecca Wells, has Lyme. We've got some great role models. GW Bush has had Lyme, and the White House doctors say he's fully recovered. Alice Walker, another amazing writer whose work I've always loved, has had Lyme disease. Just knowing we're not alone, and in fact, we're in some pretty good company, makes me feel a smidge better. Tell me, who inspires you?

IDSA Lyme guidelines to be reviewed

The IDSA is now accepting applications for members to serve on the review panel of treatment guidelines for Lyme disease. Urge your Lyme aware doctor to apply. This is their opportunity to serve the people affected by this epidemic.

In May, 2008, the IDSA agreed to have an independent panel review the guidelines, to determine whether they need to be revised or not. The agreement was part of a settlement reached when Attorney General of Connecticut, Richard Blumenthal, called for an antitrust investigation into the writing process of the 2006 IDSA guidelines for Lyme treatment.

This is a historic moment in US medical history. Although review of treatment guidelines is a normal part of IDSA procedure, this is the first time it has been legally ordered to invite an independent panel of doctors and scientists to conduct the review.

From the IDSA website:

"A panel of eight to 12 physicians and scientists will be assembled to review and critically appraise the literature on Lyme disease. The panel will also consider data and other information submitted to IDSA and will hold a public hearing where individuals may present data to the panel for consideration. At the conclusion of this process, the review panel will evaluate whether each of the recommendations in the 2006 guidelines is supported by the scientific evidence and will make a recommendation to IDSA as to whether its 2006 guidelines should be revised or updated. Any proposed recommendations shall require a supermajority of 75 percent or more of the total voting members of the panel."

The review time is estimated to take 8 - 12 months. We'll be keeping an eye on the entire process, and posting our notes here. Especially interesting will be the public hearing, which will be available for viewing online at the IDSA website.

ABC Great Lyme Debate - Part 3

Part 3 of ABC's Great Lyme Debate.
Families and whole neighborhoods have contracted this debilitating disease.
Watch how experts gather ticks on a collecting expedition.

Please watch and share this educational video, and drop a note of thanks to journalist Kathy Fowler at ABC, for calling attention to Lyme disease. Our comments matter.

ABC covers Lyme debate - part 2

LDRD vlog
Watch the video

* Lyme disease tests are often misleading
* Lyme symptoms can mimic hundreds of other conditions
* Many Lyme patients do not receive a correct diagnosis until the Lyme bacteria has had a chance to replicate throughout their body

Does your doctor know how to test for Lyme? Is he or she Lyme aware? ILADS physician Dr. Raphael Stricker told us in an exclusive LDRD interview that the conventional Lyme tests have a "coin-toss sensitivity," meaning that you could get the same results if you just flip a coin.

Do you have to go outside IDSA recommendations to get the answers you need? The woman in this news story considers herself virtually cured of Lyme, after two and a half years of antibiotics therapy.

Are some conventional doctors beginning to understand that these tests, developed over 30 years ago, are outdated and inadequate?

Watch this brief news story on the great Lyme debate. Journalist Kathy Fowler continues the 3-part investigation. Leave your comments here and also send drop her a note at [email protected] Please share this link with others you know are concerned about Lyme disease symptoms.

ABC covers the Lyme Debate

* Is Lyme disease an unrecognized epidemic?
* If left untreated, will it become chronic?
* Can Lyme be treated with long-term antibiotics?

Or do you believe, as IDSA docs do, that the Lyme epidemic is nonexistent? Is chronic Lyme disease all in the patients' head? Are long-term antibiotics dangerous?

These questions simmer at the heart of the great Lyme debate, which is played out every day in decisions made by IDSA doctors on one hand, and ILADS physicians on the other. The IDSA is currently reviewing its treatment guidelines.

Who's correct? Where do you stand? Anyone who has ever been doubted by their Infectious Disease doctor, and all of us whose lives are affected by Lyme will want to watch this three part story.

ABC News covers the Lyme controversy. Take a look. If you appreciate this report, please take a moment to call or email ABC and let them know. Our opinions as viewers matter to them.


Deer and mice survive Lyme

What should we take with a grain? Advice.

For example, I just read this: if your cat spends time outdoors and is acting lethargic, ask your vet to test for Lyme disease.

Um, buddy, I don't know about your cat....

I'm being a little facetious here. Of course it is wise to keep an eye on your pet. Our felines are strictly indoor beasts, so I worry less. However, if you've got a dog or a horse, a ferret or even a lazy outdoors cat, do what you can to protect them. Not only can Goldie or Jake fall sick from Lyme himself, he may also bring ticks, and their Borrelia burgdorferi poison, home to you.

Deer and mice, and many other critters, do not get sick from the Lyme bacteria for some reason. Deer can travel many miles in their lifetime, playing host to any number of vile little ticks, who can often be found around their neck or ears. When an infected tick bites a deer, the deer becomes part of the cycle. It doesn't get ill but it harbors the bacteria, which is then passed on to any uninfected ticks who come along to feed.

We can try, but we can't get rid of ticks. In fact, as the biodiversity of our environment shrinks, the tick population is exploding. And so are the numbers of ticks who are already infected with Borrelia burgdorferi, according to Dr. Eva Sapi, director of Lyme research at UNH, Connecticut. Deer and mice and the ticks they carry don't have as many natural enemies as they once did. Plus they're incredibly adaptive to change. These animals can survive in terrain that many of their predators cannot. Dr. Sapi says that another factor in the higher numbers of infected ticks may be the warmer temperatures in winter. Tick populations that used to die off in freezing temps now winter over.

Reputable Lyme researchers like Dr. Sapi and Dr. Alan MacDonald are working to figure out how to kill Borrelia burgdorferi, and how to cure Lyme. We hope you'll listen to these two skilled scientists, as well as the other Lyme experts who have participated in our Interviews with Experts series. Although the explosion of the tick population is unfortunate, it's also resulting in more media coverage on Lyme disease, and more money for researching Lyme as a serious disease.

We'll continue to scope out the most reliable, professional Lyme specialists available, and record them here for you.

Now, I'm off to wake up my lazy cat. Time for her to earn some kibble and catch this flying bug...

Borrelia Burgdorferi, Lyme bacteria

Borrelia burgdorferi, or Bb, is the notorious bacteria that causes Lyme disease. Bb is just one of three hundred strains of spirochetes worldwide. Other strains of spirochetes cause diseases such as relapsing fever and syphilis. Bb is a spiral-shaped microscopic organism that can scoot around inside the body by rotating in place, like a corkscrew. After its host, the tick, downloads Bb into the bloodstream of a critter or a person, the spirochete can leave the blood stream and invade the tissues and organs.

Although it can cause such frightful, wide-ranging symptoms, to glimpse this tiny pathogen requires a powerful microscope. The Bb spirochete is infinitesimally small. According to the Lyme Disease Foundation in Connecticut, as described in the book, Beating Lyme, it would take fifteen hundred of them laid end to end to equal one inch. "If bacteria were laid side to side, one hundred thousand Lyme bacteria would be required to equal one inch."

Willy Burgdorfer, PhD, was the entomologist who discovered the Lyme microorganism. Scientists honored Dr. Burgdorfer by naming the Lyme spirochete after him. I've just received a copy of Beating Lyme: Understanding and Treating This Complex and Often Misdiagnosed Disease, by Constance Bean with Lesley Ann Fein, MD, MPH. I think I'll pour myself another cup of green tea, settle in and read some more. Chances are you already know some of what's in the book, since Lyme patients tend to read voraciously in order to get educated about symptoms and treatment. We're adding book reviews to the LDRD, so keep an eye out for more news and expert recommendations.