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New: Connection Between Lyme Disease and Kidney Disease

May 11, 2018
The team at Peterborough West Animal Hospital knows that tick encounters are increasingly hard to avoid. These adaptable parasites are responsible for spreading a variety of  diseases throughout Canada and the United States, and their range is increasing. Unfortunately, due to issues such as mice and deer overpopulation (they serve as hosts for ticks), reforestation, suburban sprawl, and patterns in bird migration, among others, ticks and other bugs are taking root in new regions including our own.  To understand the real-world impact of these diseases, read our article on “How Lyme Disease Affected My Family“. Add climate change on top of our boundary-less society, and it’s clear that your dog—and your family—may be meeting more parasites.  This is why the veterinarians at Peterborough West Animal Hospital urge you to be vigilant with testing and using prevention to minimize your pet’s exposure to disease. A single tick can transmit multiple infectious agents that can cause serious illness. Because dogs can’t tell you how they feel and may not always show clinical signs, it can be challenging to understand the true harm of any given infection to a pet’s health. Therefore, it is so important for all dogs to be screened annually for exposure to tick-borne diseases. An infection from a tick can lead to health issues, including chronic conditions affecting a variety of body systems—blood, joints, kidneys, and others. These complications can be hard for the doctors at Peterborough West Animal Hospital to diagnose if we don’t understand that a dog has been exposed to an infected tick. A new study from IDEXX (the laboratory that Peterborough West Animal Hospital uses for our lab samples) shows a connection between chronic kidney disease (CKD) and dogs exposed to infected ticks in areas where Lyme disease and E. canis are endemic. This research shows that dogs exposed to Lyme disease are at a 43% higher risk of developing kidney disease. For dogs exposed to Ehrlichia in E. canis-endemic areas, that number jumps to 300%. This research included both symptomatic and seemingly healthy dogs.

Why should I ask my veterinarian about screening for exposure to infected ticks?

All dogs should be screened annually because it’s quite possible your pet could be fighting an infection and not showing any visible signs of illness. At Peterborough West Animal Hospital we can screen your dog using the IDEXX SNAP® 4Dx® Plus Test, which is a comprehensive test for tick- and mosquito-transmitted infections. To learn more about this and other diagnostic tests we offer, visit our Veterinary Diagnostics page. Running a comprehensive test once a year is important to monitor your pet’s health.  Peterborough West Animal Hospital also recommends taking a little extra blood and run more blood and urine tests to monitor your pet’s health (some tests include kidneys, liver, heart, pancreas etc.).  Ask us about our wellness blood work and urine testing that can be combined with the Lyme/Heartworm testing. This new data suggests that certain dogs, regardless of visible signs, may be at increased risk of ensuing diseases, making annual health monitoring even more important in tick-exposed pets.

What are the signs of Lyme disease or Ehrlichia?

Drs. Sargent, Giffen and Purvis want our clients to know Lyme disease, as well as Ehrlichia have similar signs that may include fever, fatigue, and enlarged lymph nodes. Lyme disease can also be accompanied by joint pain. However, many dogs with antibodies to Lyme disease or Ehrlichia may show no visible signs of their infection. If your pet’s blood indicates exposure to an infected tick, the veterinarians at Peterborough West Animal Hospital can quickly and easily follow up with blood work and urinalysis to determine if there is hidden or underlying tick-borne disease and formulate a treatment plan for your pet.  We are also able monitor kidney function with the IDEXX SDMA® Test to help catch early signs of kidney function loss in at-risk pets. With this information, we can determine what treatments are appropriate.

What happens if my dog’s results are negative?

A negative test result for exposure to infected ticks indicates preventive measures are working, which should be great news for you and your pet. To protect our pets and ourselves (if your pet has been exposed it is safe to assume you have also been at risk of exposure), it’s critical to stay alert to the risks and use tick prevention on our pets. Regularly screening of your pet—whether symptomatic or seemingly healthy—to identify exposure to infected ticks is very important. If you have not done so already please make an appointment today at Peterborough West Animal Hospital to have your pet screened for exposure to tick-borne disease and wellness testing.