Diagnosis of Lyme Disease in Dogs

Initially, it may be difficult to obtain a positive diagnosis for Lyme Disease, since it's very possible for the symptoms of Lyme Disease to be mistaken for another medical condition. However, through a few diagnostic procedures, it is possible to positively diagnose a dog for Lyme Disease. As with many medical diagnostic procedures, there is no one test that will allow a veterinarian to positively diagnose a dog for Lyme Disease. Several of these diagnostic procedures may have to be performed before a diagnosis is obtained.

Risk of Exposure

This is probably the first question a veterinarian will ask you if your dog is suspected to have Lyme Disease. It's important to try to remember the last time your dog could possibly have been exposed to ticks, or if you have recently pulled any ticks from your dog. If you have saved any of the ticks from your dog, they may then be tested for the bacteria that causes Lyme Disease. At this time, a veterinarian may also proceed to give your dog a thorough examination to check for any existing ticks.

Blood Testing

Since Lyme Disease is caused by the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi, it is possible to test a dog suspected to have Lyme Disease for presence of antibodies against this bacteria in the blood. However, if the affected dog has previously had a vaccine to prevent Lyme Disease, this will compromise the blood test, since residual vaccine-related antibodies may still be present. It's very important to let your veterinarian known if your dog has been vaccinated against Lyme Disease.

If this is the case, a special blood test will have to be performed. However, this blood test alone is not enough to obtain a positive diagnosis for Lyme Disease. A veterinarian will have to take other factors into account, such as the visible symptoms, home location of the dog, and previous medical history.

Antibiotic Therapy Response

In cases where a dog is suspected to have Lyme Disease, antibiotic treatments may be started as part of the diagnostic procedure. If a dog shows a positive response to the specific antibiotic therapy, then it is possible to obtain a positive diagnosis for Lyme Disease. If not, however, this may or may not be an indication of another medical condition that is affecting the dog.

Ecological and Epidemiological Criteria

When confronted by a dog that is exhibiting symptoms that may or may not be indicative of Lyme Disease, a veterinarian may weigh in the geographical area where the dog may have contracted Lyme Disease. However, this may or may not be useful, as Lyme Disease has been reported in 47 of the lower 48 states. When Lyme Disease is mis-diagnosed, it is often times because a veterinarian will rule out Lyme Disease as the disease affecting a dog that is exhibiting symptoms (due to low occurrences of Lyme Disease in the dog's location). This is why it is not wise to only use location as a possible indicator of a positive occurrence of Lyme Disease.

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