The kidneys are an organ that definitely takes a beating. They are involved continuously with filtering the blood of waste products, maintaining electrolyte balance, ensuring adequate hydration, promoting appropriate blood pressure, and even managing red blood cell production. It is no surprise that, with age, some of our patients start to exhibit signs of decreased kidney function, or chronic kidney disease (CKD). 

We have long recognized that vector-borne diseases like Lyme disease can affect kidney function, but we are just starting to understand how intertwined chronic kidney disease in dogs and tick borne disease really are. Keep reading to take a deeper dive with your pet-experts at Kaua’i North Shore Animal Clinic.

Vector-Borne Diseases in Dogs

It’s not a fun surprise to find an unexpected hitchhiker on your dog. Besides carrying major ick-factor, ticks can also transmit disease. 

There are several common vector-borne diseases in dogs that can have serious consequences:

  • Lyme Disease Lyme is a bacterial infection transmitted by the deer tick. Affected pets may have fever, lethargy, swollen joints, lameness, and other symptoms. Lyme disease can cause damage to the joints and cause fatal kidney damage. 
  • AnaplasmosisAlso transmitted by the deer tick, anaplasmosis can cause high fevers, swollen joints, vomiting, and diarrhea. Long-term joint pain and other complications are also possible
  • EhrlichiosisThis serious infection is transmitted by the brown dog tick. It most often causes fever and muscle aches. Untreated the infection can lead to complications including blindness and death.
  • Rocky Mountain Spotted FeverFever, joint pain, swollen lymph nodes, and swelling in the face and legs are all possible symptoms of RMSF. In more serious cases neurological signs or kidney failure may also occur. 

The Link to Kidney Health

It is universally recognized that vector-borne diseases like Lyme can affect the kidneys. It seems, though, that we may be underestimating the role that Lyme disease and Ehrlichia may play in the development of chronic kidney disease in dogs, perhaps some that have never even been formally diagnosed with a tick exposure.

Recently, two studies conducted in order to investigate whether tick-borne disease increases the risk of chronic kidney disease in dogs. The findings from these studies indicate that:

  • There does seem to be an association with increased incidence of canine CKD in tick disease endemic areas
  • Dogs who tested positive for antibodies against Lyme disease had a 43% increased risk of developing CKD
  • Dogs who tested positive for antibodies against Ehrlichia had a 112% increased risk of developing CKD

This information definitely is enough to make us stop and assess things more. Could a more robust plan to prevent and screen for vector-borne disease in veterinary care improve kidney function and health for our patients? 

Protecting Your Pet

There are many reasons to make an effort to protect pets against vector-borne diseases, but this newer information about longer term health effects highlights the need for a good pet wellness strategy. 

Protecting your pet against vector-borne disease and potential long term effects including chronic kidney disease means:

  • Using veterinary-recommended vector prevention products
  • Checking your pet regularly for ticks, especially after high-risk activities
  • Screening your pet as recommended for tick borne disease
  • Performing routine lab work that screens for signs of early kidney disease regularly (this should include an SDMA blood test, which allows for earlier than traditional identification of kidney insufficiency)

The sooner we identify a problem, the sooner we can intervene. Since many tick-borne diseases are susceptible to antibiotic treatment if diagnosed, early detection means a chance to avoid long term consequences. 

Contact us to discuss your pet’s care and set up a consultation to be sure that your tick-prevention game is on point.