Lyme disease, the most common vector-borne disease (transmitted by insects or arthropods) in people, is caused by corkscrew-shaped bacteria, Borrelia burgdorferi, carried by ticks that transmit the infection when they feed on animals and humans.
In the United States, Lyme disease occurs predominantly on the Pacific Coast, the Midwest, and Atlantic Coast states. About 75% of dogs living in endemic regions are exposed to infected ticks, but only a small percentage develop signs of disease.
Infected ticks must feed for about 24 hours to transmit the bacteria to a susceptible animal, so quick removal of ticks from your pet reduces the chance of infection.
If your pet has been diagnosed with Lyme disease you are not at risk of becoming infected directly from your animal. The bacteria increase to high levels in the blood of wildlife, but humans and domestic animals develop only low levels of the bacteria in their blood and at not high enough to infect a feeding tick.
The most common sign of Lyme disease in dogs is arthritis, which causes sudden lameness, pain, and sometimes swelling in one or more joints. Other signs may include fever, lack of appetite, dehydration, inactivity, and swollen lymph nodes.
In severe cases, the infection can cause kidney failure and death, although this does not occur commonly in dogs.
Humans often show a skin rash that looks like a target, but this is rarely seen in infected dogs.
A diagnosis of Lyme disease is usually made based upon a history of being in an endemic area, signs of arthritis, and favorable response to treatment.
A blood test can measure antibodies to the bacteria, but many dogs that live in endemic regions will have a positive result. A positive only confirms the dog was exposed to Borrelia burgdorferi, but not all exposed dogs show signs of disease.
Lyme disease is easily treated with antibiotics, and symptoms usually regress rapidly in response to treatment. Untreated, the disease becomes chronic and can cause kidney damage.
The best method of preventing Lyme disease is to avoid tick-infested areas, especially in the spring when the young ticks are most active.
When returning from a tick-infested area, do a thorough search for ticks on yourself and your animals. Ticks should be removed carefully with tweezers, pinching the tick near the point they enter the skin.
There are also many highly effective veterinary products that will kill ticks on your dog before they can transmit the bacteria. Early removal of ticks reduces the chance of transmission.
A vaccine has been approved for use in dogs for Lyme disease prevention, but most authors of veterinary articles on Lyme disease do not recommend vaccinating dogs in non-endemic areas. Not all authors agree on how effective the vaccine is in preventing Lyme disease or whether it should be given in endemic regions. For more information about tick control products or Lyme disease, consult your veterinarian.
What should I do if I suspect my dog may have Lyme disease?
If your dog is showing symptoms of Lyme disease, contact your veterinarian or the WSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital at 509-335-0711.
This information is not meant to be a substitute for veterinary care. Always follow the instructions provided by your veterinarian. Washington State University assumes no liability for injury to you or your pet incurred by following these descriptions or procedures.
If your pet is having a seizure, remain calm. Note the time the seizure started and how long it lasted, as this information could be helpful to your veterinarian.
To prevent your animal from hurting itself, attempt to move it away from hard objects like stairs and furniture. Cushion its head and gently hold and comfort it until it begins to regain consciousness.
Always call a veterinarian after your pet has a seizure. The WSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital can be reached at 509-335-0711.
Seizures can be generalized, affecting the entire body and usually lasting several seconds to a couple of minutes, or remaining localized to one body region and usually lasting a couple of seconds.
Most commonly, animals will fall to their side and make paddling movements with their limbs. They will often urinate, salivate, and defecate during the episodes. Seizures may start in one region of the body and then the entire body.
There are several reasons a dog may have a seizure, but most are from primary brain disease (intracranial) or a disturbance outside the brain (extracranial).
Intracranial causes of seizures may include structural disease, such as hydrocephalus, head trauma, inflammatory brain disease (encephalitis), strokes, and neoplasia (brain cancer).
Poison and metabolic diseases are the most common extracranial causes. Metabolic diseases include low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), high blood sugar (hyperglycemia), liver disease, kidney disease, electrolyte disturbances, toxins (poisons), and anemia.
Idiopathic epilepsy is another common cause of seizures in dogs. These are seizures of unknown cause. These episodes are thought to be due to “mal-wiring” within the brain. Idiopathic epilepsy is seen in dogs between the ages of 6 months and 6 years of age. It is more common in certain breeds like border collies, Australian shepherds, Labrador retrievers, beagles, Belgian Tervurens, collies, and German shepherds, however, it can occur in any breed of dog or cat.
To determine the cause of seizures, your veterinarian may recommend physical and neurologic exams, blood work, checking blood pressure, sometimes chest X-rays, liver function tests, or brain imaging such as CT scan or MRI.
If an underlying disease is found, treating the disease may help make the seizures stop. If the seizures are recurrent, anticonvulsant medications are often given.
The choice of medication, such as anticonvulsants, depends upon the characteristics of the animal’s problem. It is important to remember that once your pet begins taking an anticonvulsant, it should not be changed without consulting with your veterinarian. Most animals with idiopathic epilepsy will require anticonvulsant medication for the rest of their lives.
This information is not meant to be a substitute for veterinary care. Always follow the instructions provided by your veterinarian.
Effect of N-acetylcysteine in dogs with spinal cord injury – a prospective, blinded clinical trial
Spinal cord injury is a common problem in veterinary medicine. In severe cases, spinal cord injury can lead to permanent loss of sensation, paralysis, urinary and fecal incontinence, and, in some cases, death. N-acetylcysteine (NAC) is an antioxidant commonly used in veterinary medicine for the treatment of acetaminophen toxicity. In clinical studies NAC has been shown to have valuable effects for humans and laboratory animals with spinal and brain injuries. NAC is affordable, has little to no adverse side effects, and has a wide margin of safety. The purpose of this study is to evaluate whether NAC helps to lower the biomarkers of spinal cord injury and oxidative stress and aid in the recovery of dogs with spinal cord injuries.
By participating in this study, you and your dog will be contributing to potentially groundbreaking research that will help determine if N-acetylcysteine can help dogs such as yours with spinal cord injuries. Dogs enrolled in this study will receive the assigned study treatment (either NAC or placebo) at no cost to their owners.
Once enrolled, your dog will be randomly assigned to one of two groups: the study group (which will receive NAC) or the control group (which will receive a placebo). All dogs will receive their assigned treatment intravenously starting from the time of MRI/CT diagnosis, then every 6 hours for a total of 7 treatments and will need to remain at the WSU VTH for the duration of these treatments (approximately 48 hours). Blood and urine will be collected prior to the first treatment and two hours after the last treatment to measure biomarker levels.
Dr. Sarvenaz Bagheri
Resident in Neurology & Neurosurgery
CSF Metabolomics in idiopathic epileptic dogs and meningoencephalitis of unknown etiology
This study is designed to identify and profile cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) differences between healthy dogs and dogs with seizure disorders not caused by tumors or other structural abnormalities.
Metabolomics is the study of very small molecules, known as metabolites, found in biological fluids, tissues, and cells. For this study, we will look at the metabolic profile in populations of “normal” dogs and compare those to dogs with specific seizure disorders that are considered less responsive to medical treatment: idiopathic epilepsy, meningoenceopalomyelitis of unknown etiology (MUE), and seizure-like diseases such as “fly biting syndrome” and movement disorders. Our is to discover whether specific CSF metabolic profiles exist, for each of these diseases, which can offer a better understanding of the underlying cause and an explanation for the altered response to medical treatment. In addition to gaining more knowledge, we hope that this study will lead to future studies that explore new, more effective treatments.
By participating in this study, you and your dog will be helping us learn more about diseases that are traditionally difficult to treat.
This study is being conducted in dogs that weigh more than 5lbs. To be eligible for this study, dogs must have an appointment with the Neurology Service at the WSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital (WSU VTH). Dogs enrolled in this study must suffer from seizures and have no sign of a tumor or other structural abnormalities.
Dogs in this study will be at the WSU VTH for an appointment with the neurology service because they are having seizures. By nature of their appointment, these dogs will already be scheduled for a neurologic exam, blood work and a spinal tap. Once the spinal tap is completed, study participation is complete.
For the spinal tap, dogs will be anesthetized and routinely monitored by an anesthesiologist. A 3×3 square-shaped area will be shaved and cleaned on the back of the dog’s head prior to the tap. Using a standardized sterile technique, a board-certified neurologist will obtain CSF.
*This study will be making use of the CSF and blood leftover after laboratory testing for your dog’s appointment has been completed. No extra CSF or blood will be drawn for this study.
Owners are responsible for bringing their dog to the WSU VTH for the appointment. They are responsible for the costs associated with the diagnosis of their dog’s seizure disorder, including the cost of the anesthesia necessary for the spinal tap procedure.
Dr. Yael Merbl
Assistant Professor, Neurology and Neurosurgery