The Billion Dollar Lyme Disease Scam
Center for Disease Control (CDC), Lyme disease cases (human) for 2006.
"Lyme disease vaccines and testing, as well as Lyme treatment of asymptomatic dogs, is a huge scam costing American dog owners hundreds of millions of dollars a year."
In a previous post about Lyme disease, I gave good medically-sound advice, which can be summarized as follows:
- Just say NO to Lyme disease vaccination. This is junk billing.
- Just say NO to Lyme testing; the tests ALL give false positives, none of the tests tell you if your dog has the disease, and ALL the tests cost more than Lyme treatment which is the only definitive test of the disease.
- Treat suspected Lyme disease with doxycycline (5 mg per pound of dog) which you can purchase without prescription and without visiting a vet. If your formerly lame, lethargic and stiff-jointed dog shows marked improvement after a few days, keep the dog on doxycycline for a full 5 week regime.
My tolerance for nonsense is low, and it's even lower from anonymous posters, and so I let fly, calling prattle exactly what it was, and noting that the medical literature agreed with me.
In response, I got back a short nasty-gram from someone signed "Gil" who did not give an email address or offer a single corrective citation to what I said.
No matter. The world is a small place, and it was not hard for me to figure out who "Gil" was.
Gil Ash has a small web site about Lyme disease in which she suggests that folks should ignore what anyone else says (including their own veterinarian) and keep looking around until they find a vet who will take their money to do Lyme testing, Lyme titers, and Lyme treatment. The veterinarian she seems to lean on for Lyme disease information is a "holistic" vet in Texas (where there is very little Lyme it should be said -- see map) who specializes in ... horses.
A second poster then chimed in, suggesting I needed to take a chill pill because Lyme was a really serious disease, and she should know because she owned a "potential" Search-and-Rescue dog that had been wrecked by Lyme disease. Her evidence for the horror of Lyme is that her own dog had tested positive for Lyme and was fearful of noise, lights and sounds, and was aggressive to other animals (but not to humans).
Now, to cut to the chase, Gil's advice on Lyme disease is not supported, and I assume Gil knows it, as it's simply NOT that hard to find good information on Lyme disease.
I will cover Lyme disease in detail in a second, but for now let me get rid of a stray strand of worry and confusion that Gil attempts to throw into the mix: Babesia.
If you are worried about Babesia, you probably shouldn't be, as it turns out you are 20 times more likely to be hit by lightning than to catch Babesia microti, the human version of the disease, while Babesia gibsoni, the more serious canine version of the disease is not much more common, and its occurrence seems to be almost entirely limited to Pit bull terriers. Babesia canis, the less virulent (and more common) form of Babesia is generally asymptomatic, and does not require treatment. Finally, it should be noted that Babesia symptoms in dogs (when they occur) are not the same as that for Lyme, which generally presents as lameness and stiff joints.
As to the second poster, it turns out that blaming an animal's unrelated problems on Lyme disease is such a common phenomenon it is actually mentioned in the literature on Lyme. Here's a hint: a bit of bacteria does not tell an animal to bite other dogs but to leave the human in the house alone.
Fear and aggression are NOT symptoms of Lyme disease. Fear and aggression are, more likely, due to a twist of genetics and/or poor socialization of the animal.
OK, now back to Lyme disease. First, a little history.
America is a huge country, and we are no longer a new one. With a population of well over 300 million people, and the modern historical time line going back more than 300 years, I think it's safe to say there have a few hundred million dogs in the U.S. over that time. And yet, Lyme disease was not diagnosed in humans until 1975, and was not diagnosed in dogs until 1984.
What does this suggest?
Well, for one thing, it suggests that Lyme disease may not be very common.
Which it isn't.
In fact, Lyme disease is very rare over most of the U.S., and the prevalence of the disease is heavily skewed to a few relatively small regions of the country (see map at top).
And while relatively few humans catch Lyme disease, dogs are even less likely to catch it.
The good news is that since 1984, when Lyme was first identified in dogs, a heck of a lot of stuff has been written about Lyme disease's prevalence, symptoms, epidemiology, diagnosis, and treatment in dogs.
Most of this literature is marketing stuff cobbled up by drug companies trying to sell Lyme tests, Lyme vaccines, and Lyme cures, but some legitimate research on this disease has been done as well.
This legitimate research has, for the most part, shown that most of the "problems" associated with Lyme disease, other than leg lameness, joint stiffness, and lethargy, cannot be replicated in a laboratory setting in which dogs are intentionally infected with Lyme disease.
I could reference all of this literature, but it's not necessary, as the "Consensus Statement of the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine on Lyme Disease" offers an excellent "best practices" paper as to what can and should be done regarding Lyme.
Read the whole thing if you want, but I will summarize -- in plain English -- the basics of what you need to know, with appropriate highlighted text to be found on the PDF:
- Lyme disease in dogs is very rare nationally, and Lyme disease itself is endemic to only a small portion of the U.S.
- It is much harder for a dog to catch Lyme disease than it is for a human.
- 95 percent of the dogs that catch Lyme from a tick are asymptomatic (no symptoms).
- An asymptomatic dog does not need to be tested for Lyme, as an asymptomatic dog does not need treatment, and treatment will not completely rid the dog of Lyme infection in any case.
- All Lyme tests and titers give false positives or otherwise offer up only meaningless information that tell you nothing about whether the dog actually has Lyme disease or will come down with it.
- A dog with symptoms of Lyme disease should not be tested for Lyme, as tests and titers do not prove that Lyme is the causal agent of any observed problem. The ONLY 100% indication that Lyme disease is a causal agent of a problem in a dog is if the dog responds to appropriate antibiotic treatment. Said treatment is cheaper than either a test for Lyme disease or an assay titer.
- The best treatment for Lyme disease is oral doxycycline (5 mg a pound) for five weeks. Longer treatment periods have not been shown to be therapeutic. Doxycycline is also an effective treatment for several other tick-borne diseases such as Ehrlichiosis, Anaplasmosis and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. Note that neither doxy nor any other treatment will rid a dog of Lyme antibodies; they will remain in the dog forever, and repeated infection from another tick bite is always possible.
- Most dogs that come down with Lyme-related lameness, lethargy, or joint stiffness get dramatically better after 2-3 days worth of treatment with doxycycline. If so, continue doxycycline treatment for a full 5 weeks. In humans, long-term doxycylin treatment has not been shown to be more effective than placebos, and there is no evidence to suggest it as a sensible regime for dogs
- Lyme vaccines are more likely to do harm than good, and should NOT be given even in Lyme-endemic areas.
- Some dog owners and veterinarians are only too happy to blame other medical issues on Lyme disease. However, if your dog does not get better after a five-week treatment of doxycycline, the problem is probably something other than Lyme, such as an a congenital autoimmune disorder.
Boil it all down, and what you have is a simple fact: Lyme disease vaccines, testing, and medically unnecessary treatment of asymptomatic dogs is a huge scam costing American dog owners hundreds of millions of dollars a year.
As noted in my earlier post, you should say NO to Lyme disease vaccination and NO to Lyme testing. If your dog comes up lame or stiff, do nothing for two weeks; it's probably as simple as a sprain, bruise, or cut pad. If the dog does not get better, however, and no other problem seems evident, treat the dog with doxycycline that you have ordered on your own and without a prescription. If the dog dramatically improves in 2-3 days, then the issue is Lyme disease, and continue to treat with doxycycline for a full 5-week regime.
Bird-biotic doxycycline can be ordered from Amazon or Revival Animal Health, and contains a 100 mg dose of doxycycline, which is a perfect dose for a 20-pound terrier. Scale up or down for a larger or smaller dog, dosing 5 mg per pound of dog, twice a day (once every 12 hours).
This is a repost from April 25, 2008.
- Related Posts:
** Lyme Disease: Hard to Catch and Easy to Halt
** Veterinary Trades Say It's Time to Rip-off the Rubes
** Is Your Veterinarian Clean? Don't Count On It.
** Cruciate Ligament Injuries in Dogs
** Vet Pricing Has Nothing To Do With Care