Worried About a Positive Test for Lyme Disease?

Hang on!  Wait! Just because your dog tests positive for Lyme disease in the vet’s office does NOT mean you need to treat with antibiotics!

My sister and two friends of mine recently took their dogs to their vets for an annual exam. All the dogs seemed totally healthy and had no complaints at all. Their vets did a quick office SNAP blood test for Lyme disease (the tick borne disease endemic across the East Coast and much of the country) and the dogs tested positive for Lyme. All three of their vets prescribed those dogs a month’s worth of doxycycline to “treat” the Lyme disease.

But those dogs probably did not have Lyme disease!!

Dogs that do have Lyme disease show some or all signs of the illness: lameness, fever, enlarged lymph nodes, lack of appetite, lethargy.

I continue to be frustrated and baffled that so many dogs who are tested for Lyme (as they should be) are often prescribed drugs that they do not need 95% of the time.

As you will hear in the interview below, Dr. Donna Spector explains that experts in the field estimate that 70-90% of all healthy dogs in areas with the disease will test positive for it — without having Lyme disease.

Only 5% of dogs exposed to the bacteria will ever get clinical signs of it — in which case the dog would need those antibiotics to clear the bacteria from his system.

I urge you to listen to my conversation with Dr. Donna Spector — the board certified veterinary internist who is my co-host on our Radio Pet Lady Network show The Expert Vet. She came on Dog Talk last year to help clarify widespread confusion by owners and vets in how to interpret and manage test results.

Lyme Disease: What You Need to Know

Dog Talk (05-02-2015) #419: “Everything you need to know about Lyme disease and might have to educate your own vet about.” Dr. Donna Spector, Tracie’s co-host on the Radio Pet Lady network show THE EXPERT VET brings everyone up to date on the when/why/how of Lyme disease.

Listen to Dog Talk: Lyme Disease: What You Need To Know

As you will hear in this interview, Dr. Donna explains that a positive test generally means that a dog has been exposed to the bacteria that causes Lyme (because you live in an environment that is endemic to the ticks that carry it) and their body has mounted a successful immune response to the bacteria. That’s actually a good thing!

She also explains that experts recommend that you test the urine of a dog with a positive Lyme test to make sure there is no protein in their urine. That can be the earliest sign of the illness and can actually result in kidney failure and even death if not diagnosed and treated.

—Tracie Hotchner
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photo credit: Marty via photopin (license)