Does Your Pet Have Lyme Disease?
The test for Lyme, known as the Idexx Snap 3Dx or 4Dx, comes back affirmative whether your dog is sick or was simply exposed to the Ixodes tick at any time (exposure does not always progress to the disease). Rarely, the opposite can occur, too: The test may be negative in very early stages of the disease, despite subtle symptoms you are observing in your pet. But you can get definitive answers--and proper treatment for your pup--if you know your options. Here's my advice.
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If the Idexx test is positive and he is showing no symptoms:
Ask for a urine test that looks for protein loss through the kidney. It's inconvenient--you've got to wrangle a urine specimen for your vet to send to the lab--but it will confirm that he needs treatment. Plus, you can potentially avoid the use of antibiotics that may have side effects, including vomiting and sun sensitivity.
If the Idexx test is positive and he is showing symptoms:
Treat with the antibiotic doxycycline for 1 month.
If the Idexx test is negative and he is showing no symptoms:
You're in the clear--but keep up with preventive measures
If the Idexx test is negative and he is showing symptoms:
Ask for the urine test--it could be a very recent infection, which means your dog hasn't yet begun producing antibodies that would result in a positive test result.
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Keep Your Dog Safe
The right preventive steps can protect your pooch from the ravages of Lyme disease--and spare him the side effects of treatment.
- Vaccinate against the disease if you live in a prime Lyme state (dogs who live on the East Coast or in Minnesota or Wisconsin are most susceptible), own a hunting dog that ranges widely in a rural area, or hike in the woods frequently with your pet.
- If the above doesn't apply to you, opt for a monthly prescription-strength preventive like tick-killing Frontline or K9 Advantix. (These are topical spot-on oil treatments that are applied monthly between your dog's shoulders and are absorbed into his skin and hair.) If you live in a severely tick-infested area, use these in conjunction with a Preventic collar, which contains ingredients that paralyze ticks, preventing them from attaching to your dog.
- Be vigilant about checking your dog after every walk (examine the inside of the thighs, the ears, and the belly, which are the places the pesky critters most love to hide)--and remove any bugs you find with a pair of tweezers. Remember: Lyme is transmitted within a 36-to 48-hour window--so if you act quickly to remove the pests, there's a good chance your pet will remain disease free.
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Two breeds at high risk Golden retrievers and Labs are far more vulnerable to Lyme than most breeds. Although the reason remains a mystery, the disease progresses more quickly than in other dogs, and they may go from having a positive test result to death by kidney failure in just a few months. Here are the extra steps you should take to keep these two breeds safe:
1. Always use Frontline and a Preventic collar. When used in tandem, these two treatments are nearly 100% effective.
2. If you notice any of the Lyme symptoms mentioned, bring your dog to the vet immediately for some blood and urine tests.