Lyme disease is here – Max’s Story

Up until very recently we rarely saw Lyme disease at our practice in Porters Lake. We hear more and more about it spreading throughout the Maritimes, and it is a major health concern in people as well as in our canine friends.

I wanted to share the story of Max, a lovely dog that I saw recently. Max is usually a very active 12-year-old husky mix. He has a few aches and pains that come with older age but he is still enjoying his walks. He and his mom even volunteer through St John Ambulance as a therapy dog team.

Max came in to see us because he was he wasn’t feeling his usual sparky self. He was having a hard time getting around, didn’t want to get out of his bed, and was limping badly on one of his front legs. He had been playing hard with his doggy friend the day before, so his owner thought he may have strained or sprained his leg.

After gathering details of his symptoms from his owner, I examined Max. He had a slight fever and his left carpus (wrist joint) was visibly swollen. Max was very brave and trying not to show that he was sore but it was clearly painful for him when I felt his leg. We shaved some of his lovely husky fur looking for any wounds on the leg and none were found.

I decided an x-ray was in order to make sure there were no fractures in his leg. His x-ray showed only soft tissue swelling, no fractures. It was at that point that I became very suspicious that Max might have Lyme disease. He had the classic symptoms I had seen before when I lived and practiced in an area of the US where we commonly saw 2 or 3 cases a day of Lyme.

Luckily, in dogs, unlike in people, we have a fairly simple blood test for Lyme disease. A few drops of blood and we get an answer quite quickly- positive or negative for the Lyme antibody.

We tested Max for Lyme and he was positive! It was the first case of Lyme disease I had seen since starting work in Porters Lake. I asked his owner if she had found any ticks on Max, she didn’t remember seeing any this season. Max was on a flea and tick preventative as well. As best we could figure out, Max must have gotten exposed to a tick one of those few warm days we had in very early spring, before he was started on his seasonal medication.

The good news for Max is that Lyme disease in dogs, when caught early and restricted to the joints, is very treatable. We started Max on an antibiotic and an anti-inflammatory medication and he was doing well enough the next day to come for a visit to show us how much better he was feeling! He is not likely to have any long-term effects from the disease.

I wanted to share Max’s case to let everyone know that Lyme disease is here on the Eastern Shore, and that ticks are active and looking for food anytime the temperature rises above 4 degrees Celsius-even if there is still snow on the ground!

Dr. Celeste Forgeron DVM