Lyme disease is becoming increasingly common in our region and as many of you know it can be frustrating to treat in our dogs. The toughest part for us and for many veterinarians is how best to treat a dog that tests positive for Lyme antibodies on our 4DX heartworm test but isn’t showing any clinical signs (symptoms). Because Lyme antibodies can last for a long time, detecting antibodies doesn’t mean that there is actually disease that needs to be treated. It’s not only a pain to give twice daily antibiotics to your dog for a month when they are not necessary, it is also a good way to spread antibiotic resistance. There are sessions on this conundrum at every continuing education conference we go to with lots of varying opinions over the years!
Fortunately, the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine recently published a consensus statement from a panel of experts in the field summarizing our current knowledge and providing recommendations going forward.
Veterinary medicine is an ever-evolving field – that is why we love it! Because of this new consensus statement, we are changing what we recommend for follow-up if your dog tests positive for Lyme antibodies on their annual 4DX heartworm test. If this occurs, we now recommend sending out a urinalysis to look for any evidence of protein in your dog’s urine since this can be a hidden sign of Lyme disease. As long as your dog does not have any protein in their urine and is showing no other signs of Lyme disease, no treatment is needed.
If you are worried about your dog’s risk of Lyme disease, any of our doctors are happy to discuss your pet’s individual lifestyle and risk. For all pets in this area, we recommend being on year round oral flea and tick prevention to help reduce the chance of Lyme disease as well as other tick-borne diseases. I have found ticks on my dog, Anya, in the middle of winter after walking her on a paved path around our neighborhood! For dogs that are at a higher risk based on their lifestyle, we also recommend vaccinating for Lyme disease.
Written by Emily Cornwell, DVM, PhD, CertAqV
Map from the Companion Animal Parasite Council showing the percentage of dogs in Maryland that have tested positive for Lyme disease so far this year. Dogs in Montgomery County are considered at a high risk of infection with 6.31% of dogs in our county testing positive for Lyme disease so far this year.
Last winter my husband, John, and I took an incredible trip to Hawaii (the Big Island and Kauai). While on a hike through a beautiful canyon on the Big Island, we found an abandoned dog that was severely dehydrated and exhausted. We carried him to the top of the canyon, and after searching (to no avail) for his owner, we took him to a local veterinarian to get some basic treatment, and found him a home. We have stayed in contact with his wonderful new owner, and he is doing wonderfully!
Upon realization that this had been the highlight of our incredible trip, we decided to base our next trip around giving back. My husband and I are going to Otovalo, Ecuador, where we’ll be volunteering with an organization called World Vets (worldvets.org). It’s a bit of a trek to get to Ecuador, with pretty much a day of traveling on either end, but we’re super excited for a variety of reasons. We will be working to improve the health and welfare of animals, which is an issue near and dear to our hearts, we absolutely love to travel, and we both love experiencing new cultures, languages, FOODS, and animals/people. We have a particular affinity in our travels for places that are volcanically active, so Ecuador fits right in! After a week of work in a clinic in Otovalo, we plan to explore in and around Quito, with (hopefully) a day hike at one of the nearby volcanoes. We look forward to sharing stories and pictures about our adventures, so stay tuned…
Written by Lisa Challberg, DVM, cVMA
Below are a couple of pictures of Neville the pup when he was found in Hawaii.