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Minnesota has a high prevalence of tick-borne diseases including Lyme, Ehrlichiosis, and Anaplasmosis.  In fact, in Ramsey County alone, 1 in 14 dogs tested positive for Lyme disease and 1 in 22 dogs tested positive for Anaplasmosis in 2015.  (For additional information about the prevalence of these diseases, please visit the Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC) to review the prevalence maps for your county.)

Due to the high prevalence of these diseases in our area, we are recommending tick-borne disease screening for all dogs, not just those showing clinical signs of disease, along with the annual heartworm test.  The 4Dx test evaluates your dog for heartworm disease, Lyme, Ehrlichia, and Anaplasma.  

a) Heartworm Disease: Heartworm disease is a parasitic infection transmitted by mosquitoes.  Symptoms may include mild persistent cough, fatigue, inability to exercise, weight loss, or reduced appetite.  Many dogs do not show clinical signs until their disease is advanced.

b) Lyme Disease: Lyme disease is a bacterial infection transmitted by deer ticks.  Symptoms may include lameness, reluctance to move, swollen or painful joints, lack of energy, or an increase in urination.  Lyme disease can cause chronic damage to the joints and kidneys.

c) Ehrlichiosis: Ehrlichiosis is a bacterial infection transmitted by brown dog ticks and lone star ticks.  Symptoms may include loss of appetite, depression, lameness, swollen or painful joints, bleeding abnormalities, and pale gums.  Some pets may develop life-threatening changes to their red blood cells or platelets with this disease.

d) Anaplasmosis: Anaplasmosis is a bacterial infection transmitted by deer ticks and brown dog ticks.  Symptoms may include lack of energy, lameness, swollen or painful joints, and a loss of appetite.  Some pets may develop life-threatening changes to their red blood cells or platelets with this disease.

Negative Test Results

 If your dog is negative for all four diseases, no further diagnostic testing is necessary.  A 4Dx test will be recommended annually.

 Positive Test Results

1) If your dog is positive for heartworm disease, we will recommend additional diagnostic testing and will discuss his or her treatment options with you. 

2) If your pet tests positive for Lyme, Ehrlichia, or Anaplasma, it's important to understand that this test only indicates the presence of antibodies against these organisms.  A positive test indicates exposure to these organisms, but it does not necessarily indicate that there is clinical disease.  A positive test warrants additional testing to evaluate whether therapy is necessary.  

Lyme: If your pet tests positive for Lyme, we will recommend a quantitative test called a Quant C6.  This test provides a numerical measurement of his antibody level.  If this value is low, treatment may not be necessary.  This value will also provide a baseline prior to treatment to allow us to measure success of therapy (if needed).  Some patients require extended therapy to treat this disease.  The cost of the Quant C6 test is $49.50.  It will require an additional blood draw that may be scheduled as a technician appointment.  If your pet has any clinical signs, we may also recommend specific testing to evaluate his or her kidney function.

Anaplasma or Ehrlichia: If your pet tests positive for Anaplasma or Ehrlichia and is not symptomatic, these diseases may not require treatment. However, both diseases can cause life-threatening changes to the white blood cells, red blood cells, or platelets.  If positive, it is important to make sure that these values are normal.  We recommend a follow up complete blood count (CBC) for all patients who test positive for these organisms.  The cost of this test is $58.50.  It will require an additional blood draw that may be scheduled as a technician appointment.

Tick-borne diseases can cause a variety of signs, including joint pain, stiffness, lethargy, neurological signs, vomiting, diarrhea, lack of appetite, and abnormalities in the blood cells.  In some cases, these diseases can be life-threatening.  Treatment consists of an extended course of antibiotics, usually doxycycline, in addition to supportive care if needed.  

Of course, we always recommend that all at-risk dogs receive monthly flea/tick prevention (Nexgard or Frontline Plus) and an annual Lyme vaccination. Ask us about our special promotions on Nexgard, Frontline Plus, and other preventative products!

If you have any questions about tick-borne diseases in your pet, please contact us at (651) 645-2808 or group@stfrancisabh.com.  Additional information can be found in our Pet Library: http://www.stfrancisanimalandbird.com/index.php/pet-resources/library/8-dog-and-cat-care/51-tick-borne-diseases-lyme-ehrlichiosis.