The C6 Antibody Test for Lyme Disease in Dogs

lyme disease dogs symptomsThe C6 antibody Lyme disease test for dogs is already available in some veterinary practices to test for antibodies resulting from recent vaccination. This can help prevent unnecessary antibiotic treatment of dogs following a positive titer result due to previous vaccination rather than present infection. Indeed, most veterinarians will not treat a dog unless high titers of antibody are found in tests accompanied by Lyme disease symptoms. Conversely, treating joint pain and arthritis symptoms in a dog with prednisone when rheumatoid arthritis is the suspected cause of the symptoms could exacerbate an infection with Lyme disease by suppressing the immune system’s attack on the bacteria.

Dogs with Compromised Immunity

Dogs already on immunosuppressive medication are at particular risk from Lyme infection although symptoms may not show up initially as the body’s normal inflammatory response to invading bacteria is inhibited. Results from a quantitative C6 antibody test usually take about a week but this test does provide a picture of the extent of antibodies to Lyme disease in the dog’s system and, therefore, an indication of the degree of current infection in most cases. A C6 antibody test can also provide a baseline by which future tests can be judged if Lyme disease is suspected or where treatment has been applied for infection.

Is that Tick Infected with Lyme?

Not all tick bites in dogs have the potential to transmit Lyme disease however, and some of the most commonly seen ticks in North America carry entirely different bacteria causing other canine (and human) diseases. These include the Brown dog tick which can transmit canine ehrlichiosis and is found in the southwestern and Gulf Coast states, the Lone Star tick, which carries the same infection, as well as Rocky Mountain spotted fever and southern tick-associated rash, and the American Dog Tick which also carries Rocky Mountain spotted fever. The black-legged tick, also known as the Deer tick, despite using several animals as hosts, is the major cause of canine Lyme disease and canine anaplasmosis. This tick is found in the northeastern, mid-Atlantic and upper midwestern states but not all such ticks are carriers of the Borrelia bacteria. The Western Black-Legged tick is the most common carrier or Lyme disease in western states in the US. In some states, such as those in Pacific coastal areas, the rates of infection in ticks are just 2-4%, whereas closer to 80% of tick populations have been found in tick tests to carry Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato in areas of Connecticut where Lyme disease was first documented and named.

Why Ticks Like Dogs

Dogs present an excellent opportunity for ticks to feed as they are low to the ground and easily accessible by ticks looking for a host, often wander into dense vegetation or roll around in grass, and provide excellent cover due to their fur once a tick is actually attached and feeding. Ticks’ favorite areas for biting a dog include the ears, between the toes, within skin folds, and in the armpits, and a dog can have multiple ticks present at any one time, some of which may be carrying the Borrelia bacteria. Finding just one tick when checking a dog should not signal the end of the tick-check as more may be present; a thorough examination is required to eradicate all ticks that may be present in the dog’s fur. Ticks may often be mistaken for skin tags and the difficulty in seeing the bull’s eye rash that may occur in early infection makes it hard to know if a dog has been bitten by a troublesome tick. Improvements in testing have made it easier to detect an ongoing infection, thereby allowing for more rapid intervention and treatment for Lyme disease in dogs and improving their prognosis.