A year ago, today- my sister’s dog passed away at only 3 years old from what I believe was undiagnosed Lyme disease. I have had 3 dogs of my own that I believe had undiagnosed Lyme disease as well. Two passed at 9 years old, and the most recent furfriend I lost to Lyme was only 5. He probably would have gone sooner, had we given him steroids like my sister’s dog got on a regular basis? Steroids and Lyme (or any other infection, but ESPECIALLY Lyme) do not mix well. One knocks out the immune system, and the other takes full advantage of that to dig in even deeper. My sweet Poodle Boy has been gone less than 2 weeks, and I’m still reeling from the shock of what happened. I’m wanting to write about it while it is still fresh, but I won’t be able to tell it all in one post. It’s still too painful, but I want to help even just ONE dog owner, if I can, see Lyme disease in their dog and have a chance to save their faithful best furfriend. My dog didn’t really have a chance, with an acute Lyme infection in addition to co-infections (most likely Babesia, according to the ER vet doctor) and more than likely vaccine damage. He was sick as a puppy, as well- and I don’t know if he had Lyme already when we got him at almost 5 months old. We were the 5th house he lived at after the breeder, for whatever reason, and I do know he had a nasty Giardia (stomach parasite) bug that was keeping him from housebreaking. After we treated him for that, he seemed to feel so much better, I thought we were through the rough part, and that he’d live a full & happy life. My sister reminded me there were reports of him having seizures before he came to live with us, but we never saw any, or didn’t recognize them when we did… Seizures as a pup may have been an early infection (or a sign of congenital Lyme), and/or a bad reaction to the vaccines (which shouldn’t have been given until he got over the Giardia infection, at the very least!)? Little did we know what was lurking, waiting to rear its ugly head less than a month ago. All we know for sure is that his little body couldn’t take insult after injury, and after his last round of vaccines last November (3 of them at once: leptospira booster, 3 yr rabies, and bordatella ***NOTE: Leptospirosis is a spirochete bacteria, just like LYME! Hmmm…!), I can look back and see him “slowing down” and acting more like an “old dog”, even though he was only 5 years old (roughly 40 in human years).
He had the following symptoms of Lyme:
- Sudden lameness, shifting from one leg/joint to another
- Walking in pain with arched back, as if on eggshells- also, not wanting to move or walk at all
- Lethargy, sleeping all the time, not even wanting (or able) to raise head or wag tail at times
- Depression, not interested in anything- not toys, food, other dogs, even the mailman (The Archnemesis!!!)
- Trouble breathing, panting, gasping for air, labored breathing- coughing and clearing throat
- Fever- between 102-105, never below 102 in the last 2 weeks of his life. 106 is considered fatal for dogs…
- Twitching and tremors, often coming in waves- or muscle spasms in only one leg while lying down
- Personality changes, hard to explain, but just not acting like himself- sometime not recognizing me- dementia
- Stiff neck and shoulders, holding a strange posture with neck and head, like a turtle sticking head out of shell
- Loss of appetite, even for “favorite” foods- we were having to force-feed him after he started Doxycycline
- Sensitivity to touch, not wanting to be petted, flinching upon contact- even if dog sees you reaching towards him first
My guess is that he had a headache, but how is a dog supposed to tell that he has a headache (as well as other symptoms)? All I know is that looking in his eyes, which looked vacant and glazed-over, were like looking at mine at the worst of my Lyme symptoms. The last time I was reinfected in 2010 I had a terrible headache for 10 days, straight. Dogs probably have many more symptoms that they just can’t describe to us humans, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t get headaches or even feel nauseated (in the absence of vomiting).
His other symptoms that may have been caused by Lyme or a co-infection(s) (such as Babesiosis aka Babesia) were:
- Runny eyes and nose, lots of drainage down throat- choking and gagging, not wanting to lie on back
- Bladder infection, incontinence, frequent urination and excessive water drinking (Lyme affects kidneys), blood in urine, dark-colored urine (his was a dark orange), an indication of bilirubin and the death of many RBCs (red blood cells)
- Extremely high WBC count- ER vet said highest she’d ever seen, ruling out an autoimmune disorder and proof of infection(s)
- Liver stress, throwing enzymes- jaundice, yellowing of sclera in eyes (white part) or pale gums
- Kidney stress, protein in urine
- Pounding, racing heart
Ok, that’s all I can take for now. There isn’t much good information out there on Lyme for dogs, so I’ll try to get as much info together as I can, as well as relating my experience with my beloved dog. I’m also wondering- why don’t cats get Lyme (they do, but very rarely)?