Jul 15, 2023

Ticks are a big problem in Western PA.  Not only are there a lot of them, but a good percentage (more than 25%) carry B. burgdorferi, the bacteria that causes Lyme disease.  And deer ticks are quite small (sometimes only the size of a pinhead), with coloring similar to many dogs, making them very easy to miss.

Of all dogs in Butler County that get tested for Lyme, approximately 1 out of every 8 is positive.  Not all dogs that test positive will show typical signs of fever and lameness.

Lyme infection, regardless of whether or not there have been symptoms, and regardless of whether or not the pet has been treated with antibiotics, can turn into Lyme Nephritis in some dogs.  When Lyme (or any) bacteria invade the body, the normal defense to combat infection is the production of antibodies.  The antibodies adhere to the invaders, forming “antibody-antigen complexes”.   For as-of-yet unknown reasons, in some dogs, the complexes collect in the kidneys, blocking normal function and leading to kidney failure. 

Unfortunately, this condition carries an extremely poor prognosis; it is nearly always fatal.

Between mid-August and mid-October of 2021, this clinic saw 5 cases of Lyme nephritis; and all were relatively young dogs.  It deeply saddens us every time we diagnose a case, so we want to educate folks on prevention.  And the ONLY way to prevent this heartbreaking condition is to prevent exposure to Lyme in the first place.  Treating Lyme infection with antibiotics does NOT prevent the possibility of developing Lyme nephritis.

Three steps that you can take to prevent exposure/infection are:

  1. Inspect your dog for ticks every time he has been outside and remove them promptly.  It takes about 48 hours for the Lyme bacteria to get transferred from the tick to your dog, so getting them off right away is very helpful.
  2. Use QUALITY Flea and Tick preventatives.  At our office we offer NexGard, Seresto collars and Vectra 3d, and our online pharmacy has several other excellent choices.  Because there is no product at this time that will keep ticks off 100%, some people choose to use a topical preventative and an oral preventative simultaneously for extra protection, especially during the worst of tick season (spring and fall).
  3. Vaccinate your dog against Lyme disease.  We recommend and offer the BI Recombitek vaccine.  It has few side effects (unlike many of the older vaccines) and delivers approximately 85% protection from infection.

In summary, while Lyme nephritis is a scary outcome of Lyme infection, you do have some measure of control in preventing this devastating complication.  If you have any questions, please call our office at 724-285-4225; we will be happy to answer them!