The Heartbreak of Lyme Disease

A reader wrote in about losing her dog to Lyme disease. It turned out she wasn’t alone in her grief.

Lyme disease is a serious ailment. By: az1172
Lyme disease is a serious ailment. By: az1172

Last week, I talked about how Petful readers had trouble finding affordable diabetes medication for their cats. Today, I wanted to share one more reader experience, this time with Lyme disease.

A reader wrote to me not long ago and shared her heartbreaking story of losing a young dog to Lyme disease. Her sweet 5-year-old Lab was fine one day and very sick the next.

Within a week, the experts at the specialty hospital told her there was little hope, and she had to say goodbye to her sweet dog, who had been happily running around the week before.

This reader had read my article on Lyme disease and learned that I had lost my own dog to the same disease.  This woman was filled with guilt that she might have missed something, that she could have done something more to prevent the loss of her Labrador Retriever.

She expressed great relief when I told her she had done all she could to prevent her dog from acquiring a fatal and rare form of Lyme disease, Lyme nephritis (kidney failure).

Don’t Miss: How to Remove Ticks From Dogs Safely

Tick-Borne Diseases

These stories are always tough to hear, and they reiterate the need for tick prevention in all tick-endemic areas. Despite this pet parent’s best efforts, the sad truth is that nothing is 100% effective in preventing tick-borne diseases.

I am still a proponent of using state-of-the-art tick preventives because they save thousands of dog lives. Unfortunately, there are still some tragic cases out there, but these are few and far between.

Researching the latest data on Lyme disease, we now know that Labs and goldens are predisposed to Lyme nephritis. We don’t know why. Happily, fewer than 2% of dogs that test positive for Lyme disease develop nephritis, so it is rare. Unfortunately, our dogs were among the 2%, even though we had done everything to prevent ticks from landing on our dogs…except relocate to a non-tick area! We shared the same grief and the same feeling of helplessness when faced with the diagnosis.

Pen Pals

There is a bittersweet side to this sad story of pet loss. My technician Emily, who downloads the business e-mails, was moved by the story of the young Lab whose life was cut short by Lyme nephritis.

Emily wrote back to this reader sharing that she had lost her own Lab, Otter, to bone cancer at an early age, and shared my Petful article “The Sad Story of Otter.”

The 2 have struck up a correspondence about loving and grieving, and our reader was moved to make a small donation to the Otter fund in honor of the great pup and the Boston Marathon victims. They have exchanged pictures of their sweet Labs in their goofy, fun-loving days, and this has given them both some peace.

Emily’s family has now welcomed a sweet young Lab pup into their family and shared pictures of wonderful puppy-head Olive with my reader. Our hope is that this reader will soon be ready to open her heart again.

Dr. Debora Lichtenberg, VMD

View posts by Dr. Debora Lichtenberg, VMD
Dr. Debora Lichtenberg, VMD, is a small animal and exotics veterinarian who has split her time between a veterinary practice in Pelham, Massachusetts, and her studio in New York City. Dr. Lichtenberg is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine with 30 years of experience. Her special interests are soft tissue surgery and oncology.

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