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Should I vaccinate my dog against Lyme?

Dr. Jeff

Feb 23, 2017
Louise: What do you suggest the best route is to naturally treat lyme disease? I have a dog who exhibits the stiffness on occasion, he was diagnosed as positive for lyme, but i don't want to keep him on a steady diet of antibiotics...i gave him Colloidal Silver, twice a day for 2 weeks, and Metacam on occasion when he seemed in a little bit of pain...and now he looks good as new....should i keep him on Colloidal Silver, say once a month for a week, or just leave him until he shows signs of stiffness again? I'd hate for the bacteria to get ahead of him again...thanks

Hi Louise-

The best treatment for a dog with antibodies to Lyme organisms is a great and commonly asked question. My thoughts and general approach to these patients is below. You will find much more detail about the disease itself in Dr. Jordan's excellent article on this website. http://www.dogsnaturallymagazine.com/lyme-disease-and-lyme-vaccine-disease/

Believe it or not, nowadays there are still docs that have trouble even defining the dis-ease. Some don't even believe it exists in dogs! I'm personally in the group who absolutely feel that it exists and is a problem. However, it is vastly over diagnosed in my opinion. Some might even say that this epidemic of over diagnosis became a "SNAP" within the past 10 years. Many annual heartworm tests started including Lyme. Coincidentally, this is also about when vets started diagnosing more and more Lyme. Hmmm…

Many (the vast majority?) of dogs who test positive for Lyme antibodies do not have the disease. They have the antibodies. Period. This proves only that there has been exposure to ticks that carry and transmit the causative Borrelia organism or that the dog has had previous vaccination. Regarding this antibody positivity, I've always wondered why vets then don't say that a dog with positive distemper and parvo titers has these diseases?? Seems strange. Of course, these dogs are clearly are not sick. Then again, neither are the vast majority of Lyme antibody positive dogs. In fact, antibody production is one sign of a strong immune system that is more resistant to disease. Somehow though, this logic is not applicable to Lyme positive dogs.
The best prevention for Lyme disease is not vaccination. It is practicing good tick control. </strong>Careful daily inspection and removal of ticks is critical. Other effective natural preventatives include oral supplements that make your dog less attractive to ticks and topical essential oils. Products like the excellent nutritional yeast and garlic Vetline vitamins and the rose geranium oil in Flea Flicker Tick Kicker.

The sometimes vague symptoms of dogs with true Lyme is part of the problem with its' diagnosis. Does the older, lower energy, stiff dog that also has a positive Lyme titer have active disease? Usually not in my experience however close monitoring and active holistic vet treatment is still indicated. Along with dis-ease symptoms, the most important part of a Lyme diagnosis is rapid response to antibiotics. This rapid response is rarely seen in those cases that have been referred to my practice.

Acute Lyme disease symptoms are pretty obvious. A great example is a recent young patient of mine who was a totally normal dog when he went to sleep. In the morning he was really, really sick. He couldn't get up, could barely raise his head and was running an almost 104 fever. This is the typical scenario, but the question remains. What to do? Does this acutely ill pup need emergency antibiotic therapy lasting weeks and weeks?

In my experience killing the organisms is not the answer. A healthy immune system is. Antibiotics do not eliminate infections of any kind. In fact, all of the antibiotics in the world will not save the life of the patient who lacks an immune system. These immune compromised patients can die from a simple infection. Despite taking the proper antibiotic for killing the organism. Therefore, fostering a strong immune system is key.

In the case I just mentioned, a few doses of a homeopathic remedy chosen based on the symptoms was enough to strengthen the immune system and quickly return this patient to full health. There are many, many other similar cases both in dogs and people. This includes me. My case was pretty severe (fever over 105 for days) and responded within hours to carefully chosen homeopathic remedies. You can read my personal case here: https://www.homevet.com/personal-experience-of-a-ct-vet-homeopath-with-lyme-disease/

Another wonderful effect of homeopathic treatment is decreased susceptibility to future infections. On the other hand, antibiotic treatment may actually increase the risk.

I have found several of the deep-acting homeopathic medicines to be especially useful. Most of those which I've used can be found at http://www.dogsnaturallymagazine.com/homeopathic-treatment-for-dogs-an-acute-materia-media/ One that has been mentioned in other articles for use in Lyme cases which is often applicable after a bite or similar trauma is Ledum. Personally though I have never found it to be helpful for my patients.

Diagnosis of patients with acute Lyme symptoms may seem pretty straightforward, but what about "chronic" Lyme? Does it even exist? There are definitely some dogs who seem stiff and down in the dumps that improve markedly after doxycycline. However, this does not mean that they had Lyme disease. The most commonly used antibiotic in this situation is doxycycline. It is a little known fact that doxy also has anti-inflammatory effects similar to those of steroids. In addition, Metacam, Rimadyl, Tramadol and other similar pain killers are often administered concomitantly and may be the cause for any improvement seen.

Proper diagnosis is important but unfortunately rarely performed. Let's see what full diagnosis of an infectious disease like Lyme entails. When the body is exposed to an organism, it mounts an immune response that can be measured with an antibody titer. Thus the positive result. However, in most cases the infection is easily eliminated. This happens many times every day. Proper immune surveillance and reactivity allows all organisms to survive.When a dog is Lyme "positive" and the titer gets repeated (by the same reference laboratory) in about six weeks, it will be the same as it was the first time. Still positive, but not rising. This shows that the infection is not active. When was the last time that you heard about paired titer testing like this for a dog with questionable Lyme disease?? Probably never.

Chronic Lyme may indeed exist but is really a diagnosis of exclusion. To make it, baseline blood and urine tests are needed. I can't overemphasize how important this is. Many, many problems can cause the "ADR" (aint doing right) syndrome and get mis-diagnosed as Lyme. Clues to these other disorders can often be found in this routine screening. Even better is running periodic annual tests (ideally run through outside diagnostic labs and not in house). Doing so allows evaluation of important trends in red blood cell count, kidney and liver values, blood and urine protein, etc. Protein levels are especially critical. Chronic Lyme has been associated with kidney failure. This is especially prevalent in Labs and Goldens. Albumin (and other small) protein loss through the kidneys can become critical. It is always best to catch this and other problems as early as possible. The question then becomes what is the best treatment.

The answer is that it depends. In early cases even with problems like fever, lethargy, depression, stiffness, decreased appetite, etc. biochemical abnormalities are usually absent. Optimizing diet, lifestyle and constitutional homeopathic treatment is often all that is needed. This sounds like your pup's situation Louise. In later, more structural stages however more aggressive therapy is usually needed. One recent case of mine like this stands out. Jake is a 4 year old lab mix who was rescued from a difficult life in Pennsylvania by the fabulous On The Wings of Angels Rescue in Florida. He is very fortunate to now live in a safe, loving environment. At the end of last summer he started acting "off" and was brought to the local vet. They found severe kidney failure and life threateningly low blood protein levels. Jake was in very, very bad shape. He was even developing fluid accumulation in his tissues (edema) from his severely low albumin levels. Because of the dire nature, the vet recommended either intensive care hospitalization or euthanasia. Most similar patients are hospitalized and may never get to go home.

The manager of the rescue kennel chose neither option. Further investigation revealed that Jake's severe kidney failure and urine protein loss were associated with very high Lyme antibody levels. We started treating Jake gently with homeopathic medicines. Intensive homeopathic prescribing was able to resolve his edema and return him to a normal life. It has not however cured the already progressed structural changes in his kidneys. The body aided by homeopathic stimulation can not fully repair end stage kidney diseases. Kidney cells just do not regenerate the way other organs such as the liver. Despite this fact, homeopathy can help pets with end stage diseases have a good quality of life for as long as possible. To help support Jake's body, he is currently on several different nutritional supplements and conventional medications. Needless to say, he will never again be vaccinated. The last vaccine ever administered, before this all started, was for Lyme.

Fortunately your dog Louise sounds quite a bit healthier than Jake. Rather than waiting for further symptoms, I'd advise being proactive about keeping him in top condition and preventing future problems. Support your pup's body to help it cope best with his stiffness and Lyme positivity. You can best boost his healing ability with fresh food feeding, plenty of exercise and mental stimulation. Antioxidant and immune supportive supplements like Antiox which is grape seed extract, IgG 2000 (a pure and potent colostrum type product) and immune glandulars like Immu GO. Colloidal silver is not a supplement that I use or especially recommend. That being said Louise, in most situations, I don't typically advise stopping anything that seems to be helping. The main exception is when patients are being treated homeopathically. In this case giving more than one medicinal substance at a time can make assessment of the effect of the homeopathic medicine more difficult. With silver this is especially problematic. Argentum metallicum (silver) is commonly used in homeopathy and causes many of its' own symptoms. These include stiffness and lethargy.

Above all, have fun living with and loving your dog. Use the many wonderful resources here to learn how to keep him as healthy as he can be. This will pay off in many ways for years to come!

Be well.

Dr. Jeff


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