I am truly admiring the muddy, brown grass in my backyard that the melting snow has finally revealed! Being the veterinarian that I am, I am also thinking of fleas and ticks that I know the rabbits and deer have left behind. Some years back, in April, our 5-month golden puppy developed Lyme disease and he had just been in our yard and suburban neighborhood. He was lame and lethargic, not his naughty puppy self. Fortunately, he responded well to doxycycline and we vowed to keep all of our dogs, always, on year-round preventative. Most cases of Lyme disease respond as Toby did but the kidney form of Lyme disease, Lyme nephritis, is deadly. I will always remember this case.
“Bella” was a 6-year-old lab mix dog loved by her family. She came in one day because she “just was not right”. She hadn’t been eating as well and seemed blah, not playing with the kids. Her blood work showed high kidney values and her urine was not concentrated. Her tick test was positive for Lyme. We diagnosed Lyme nephritis and explained the grave prognosis. We admitted her started IV fluids and doxycycline immediately and transferred her to a specialty hospital. After hospitalization, IV fluids, and antibiotics for 7 days, she was feeling better but her kidney values were not improving. She then was transferred to Red River Specialty Center in Fargo for kidney dialysis. I did not know dialysis for dogs was even an option! Again, she felt better but her kidney numbers improved only slightly. She was discharged with 5 medications to help blood flow to the kidneys. This was an off-the-charts, dedicated owner and a very compliant, trusting dog. Over the next year and a half, I would help Bella with appetite support, monthly lab work, and blood pressure monitoring while keeping her specialists informed. I learned a lot and she had a lot of good days with her family. Bella eventually succumbed to her disease after 16 months of sophisticated treatment and untold thousands of dollars. That was a very sad day and one that I will not forget.
I hope that telling this story will get someone who thinks their dog is not outside enough, doesn’t live where ticks are, or that it is not warm enough, to start tick prevention and continue it year-round.
Talk to SFAH staff about the products and enhanced rebates for 2023. Also, consider adding the tick testing to your heartworm test. It shows exposure to tick disease and can be done on the same blood sample for a small increased price.
This article has been written by Dr. Paula Schanck