Despite his initial year of life being full of vet visits and health troubles, Dylan enjoyed great health for several years. He occasionally had stiff joints which was to be expected with his shoulder surgery at 10 months old but then suddenly around the age of 6 he suffered severe joint pain which started suddenly and while initial pain medication brought relief, rapidly we found that even the stronger pain relief was ineffective.
The vet diagnosed arthritis based on the history of joint surgery and examination and soon we discussed the limits of pain medication with one vet saying I should just enjoy the last weeks or months before we reach the end of the road that pain relief could take us down, not easy to hear. But it just didn’t seem right to me – the speed of onset, how rapidly pain relief became ineffective, the occasions where other joints were painful for a while all didn’t seem right to me.
I started to research Lyme Disease as I remembered that 2 or 3 months before this happened Dylan has picked up 3 ticks. It all made sense, it fitted what I was seeing and so I offered my theory to the vet but immediately this was dismissed because he didn’t fit the classic text book presentation but I was offered the opportunity to put him through a general anaesthetic so joint fluid could be drained and tested to confirm or refute the theory, all at a very considerable cost, not to mention the inherent risks involved with any anaesthetic. An xray would have come at similar cost and risks and would have confirmed joint inflammation, but not the cause.
Several months later and in a different area I had cause to take Dylan to a different vet. He needed routine bloods, partly to check that the months of pain medication had not damaged his liver or other organs. During the consultation I discussed my Lyme Disease theory with the vet and he was very receptive to the idea. If the routine bloods showed nothing of concern he was willing to trial antibiotics so we could see if there was an apparent link to Lyme Disease, or another similar joint attacking infection.
Bloods came back normal, so treatment began and its worth mentioning that for some time Dylan had been limping 100% of the time, severely, even with 2 types of pain relief at their strongest dose.
Next came something I didn’t really expect. Within 48 hours Dylan was walking normally. He limped slightly probably 10% of the time, and all with zero pain medication. The difference was astounding. I could tell he felt better too, he was more active and wanted to run and bounce around, he was pain free and it showed.
Treatment continued for a while and at times he began to limp a little, but Lyme Disease is a tough one to crack so set backs were expected, but we got through it. He may require further courses of antibiotics at times, but we now at least know the likely cause when a sudden episode of limping occurs and treat it promptly.
Situation now is he is on no pain relief and there is no limping. He does find it difficult to walk long distances, but after a rest he is fine to carry on. Its also worth mentioning that he has lost 4 kg that he had gained due to inactivity now that he is able to get exercise more fully.
Lyme Disease is, it seems, underappreciated in the UK. I know understand its not a common condition, however its one worth considering when there is a known history of tick bites. Dylan didn’t present as a classic case, he was fairly well in himself other than the joint pain. He had a high temperature that was dismissed as being due to being a nervous patient. Other joints were involved at times but one joint remained the main problem. I was told that Lyme Disease was unlikely because he wasn’t very ill. The truth is, not all dogs display classic symptoms as set out in a text book.
The best defence is prevention with use of a reputable spot on to tackle fleas and ticks. Avoiding areas that deer are attracted to can also reduce the risk of a tick bite. If your dog gets a tick bite, proper removal as soon as possible is vital. Some vets will consider a prophylactic course of antibiotics after a tick bite which has been proven to reduce the risk of infection. For more information visit http://www.bada-uk.org/ – the site has lots of useful information, although sadly now the charity running it has closed.
And on a final note, its not just dogs – ticks like humans too. Stay safe and deal with tick bites quickly and effectively.
As a side note, I normally include a relevant photo in blog posts however I really hate ticks and the idea of photographing one is nauseating – so please enjoy the photo of Dylan instead