Lyme Disease and Pets, What Is the Deal?

Lyme Disease and Pets, What Is the Deal?

Female deer tick

Lyme disease is a potentially serious infection caused by the bacteria Borelia burgedoferi and transmitted by the deer tick or black legged tick, Ixodes scapularis.  In this article, I will attempt to explain the differences and similarities between this disease in people and in dogs, the best preventative measures, and testing and treatment of veterinary patients.

The Northeast United States has the highest incidence of Lyme disease. The Center for Disease Control has collected a great deal of information on the condition as it affects people. The veterinary community also has paid special attention to this infection in recent years, developing a much better understanding of the disease, tests to help us identify affected patients, and preventative measures including highly effective tick control and vaccinations against the bacteria.

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What is your diagnosis?

What is your diagnosis?

Presentation

Abigail is an approximately 50 pound, female, spayed, adult, mixed breed dog who presented to Animal Kind for acute signs of pain. She had begun crying out and trembling that morning. Her person reported no history of injury. She was being given a low dose of the corticosteroid, prednisone every other day to control the symptoms of her chronic allergic skin disease.

On physical exam, Abigail seemed painful when moving from a sitting or prone position to standing and resented handling of her right hind leg. However, she was extremely tense and nervous during the examination and the veterinarian was unable to confidently localize the source of her discomfort.

Despite our good intentions, situations like this one with Abigail arise frequently. Veterinarians understand that animals in distress are often very nervous especially in unfamiliar surroundings with unfamiliar people. We do our best under these circumstances to use patience, experience, and the sometimes tests to further investigate. What would you do in this situation?

Diagnostic Tests

Based on her signs and examination findings, the veterinarian recommended radiographs (x-rays) of Abigail’s back and hips. The images are included below.  (Click on each x-ray to see the full image.)


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