Lyme Disease, Education About Affects for People and Dogs Ongoing


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Three people in the Northeast who abruptly died in the past 13 months had an undetected heart inflammation caused by Lyme disease, according to a federal study that suggests death from the deer tick-borne bacteria is more common than previously thought, according to the Boston Globe .

While Lyme disease doesn’t exactly affect dogs the same way it affects people – can Lyme in dogs cause a similar problem? No one knows for sure.

Here’s what is known about Lyme and dogs. Some dogs are asymptomatic, others get sick and still others get sicker. Some dogs are infected not only by Lyme but also a cocktail of nasty sounding organisms.

In people, Lyme sometimes causes life altering and life threatening complications, and some people just feel “cruddy” on many days, affecting their quality of life. We know that because people tell us so, but dogs can not.

This study was prompted by a tissue bank doctor’s discovery of an odd pattern of inflammation in the heart of a Massachusetts man who was found dead after a car accident a year ago. Testing showed the man had unrecognized Lyme disease, which probably led to cardiac arrest, causing his car to veer off the road.

He and the other two patients who died were from New York and Connecticut, all between the ages of 26 and 38.

Now, this is key: None of the people who died was previously known to have Lyme. In dogs we can actually more accurately test to determine if the dog has exposed to Lyme (or for that matter, Anaplasma phagocytophilum and Ehrlichia canis) than we can in people.This reiterates the importance of testing our dogs for tick disease.

Only four deaths have been previously attributed in published medical reports to heart inflammation caused by Lyme disease, but the infection is a growing problem in the United States, particularly in the Northeast. Lyme is spreading, aside from the Northeast, as prevalence maps show, Lyme is quickly continuing to move as the population of tick carrying animals spread.

The CDC is urging people in New England and other areas with a high incidence of Lyme disease to see a doctor immediately if they experience heart palpitations, chest pain, light-headedness, fainting, or shortness of breath, in addition to more commonly recognized Lyme symptoms of fever, rash, and body aches and most certainly the Lyme tell-tail “bulls eye rash.”

In people, there are an estimated 300,000 cases of Lyme each year in the United States.

Though many experts in the “Lyme world,” including parasitoligists,  suggests Lyme remains under-diagnosed in people even though the CDC recently concurred adjusted their data on how often Lyme occurs in people.

Similarly, Lyme is thought to be under-diagnosed in dogs. And in dogs, as mentioned, just because a dog is acting “normal,” doesn’t mean that the dog feels great. Dogs can’t ask their people to test them for Lyme. Some symptoms are obvious that there is something wrong, but there is no single symptom which screams Lyme. Lethargy or lameness, for example, may have other causes. And some dogs are, as far as we can tell, asymptotic.

Do at least some dogs with Lyme, adjust and learn to live it – but really often feel “cruddy?.” No one knows.

Where Lyme is common, dogs should be tested.

Only about one percent of human Lyme patients are believed to have severe heart inflammation, known as carditis, which is treatable with appropriate antibiotics and, in rare cases, a pacemaker. But the fact that otherwise healthy young people with no significant symptoms could unexpectedly die from undiagnosed Lyme disease adds to health officials’ growing worries about the disease discovered 40 years ago in Connecticut.

“The discovery. made all of us nervous,’’ said Catherine M. Brown, Massachusetts public health veterinarian and one of the authors of the report. She said it underscores the need to prevent Lyme disease in the first place and to identify it early so that patients get appropriate antibiotic treatment.