Wednesday, August 30, 2017

The Billion Dollar Lyme Disease Scam

Center for Disease Control (CDC), Lyme disease cases (human) for 2015.

"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:

  1. Just say NO to Lyme disease vaccination. This is junk billing.
  2. 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.
  3. Treat suspected Lyme disease with doxycycline (5 mg per pound of dog)  or amoxicillin  (20 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 or amoxicillin for a full 5-week regime.

First, a little history.

America is a huge country, and we are no longer a new one. With a population of well over 325 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, 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:

  1. Lyme disease in dogs is very rare nationally, and Lyme disease itself is endemic to only a small portion of the U.S.
  2. It is much harder for a dog to catch Lyme disease than it is for a human.
  3. 95 percent of the dogs that catch Lyme from a tick are asymptomatic (no symptoms).
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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. 
  7. The best treatment for Lyme disease is oral doxycycline (5 mg a pound) or amoxicillin (20 mg per 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 or amox 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.
  8. 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 or amoxicillin. If so, continue doxycycline or amoxicillin treatment for a full 5 weeks. In humans, long-term doxycylin or amoxicillin 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
  9. Lyme vaccines are more likely to do harm than good, and should NOT be given even in Lyme-endemic areas.
  10. 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 or amoxicillin, the problem is probably something other than Lyme, such as a congenital autoimmune disorder.

What's all this mean?

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 or amoxicillin 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 or amoxicillin 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).  Follow the same regime for amoxicillin, but with a 500 mg dose for a 20-pound terrier.

This is a repost from April 2008 that has been updated with a 2015 CDC map and a link to amoxicillin as an alternative low-cost Lyme treatment now that the price of doxycycline has shot through the roof. 



PipedreamFarm said...

Like other diseases Lyme risk is related to exposure rates. Our risks are much higher than most. We've treated affected dogs at least 6 times in the past 7 years. Some were identified by testing and responded to treatment; some were just treated and responded to treatment.

Symptoms are also more evident when dogs are in more physical and mental stress than what is typical for pets. I've learned to spot subtle symptoms while our dogs are working livestock (loss on mental stamina and inability to improve physical fitness) that even you may not reconize in your working dogs. These symptoms were then confirmed with testing and response to treatment.

One of our livestock guardian dogs came up positive for Lyme; we thought he was just maturing. Within a few days of treatment he was acting younger, healthier. Following your recommendation of not treating without seeing symptoms his infection would have continued possibly leading to additional issues.

I am aware of cases (know the dogs personally) where undiagnosed Lyme led to kidney disease.

Fifitrixiebelle said...

I've been combing through your very interesting posts. I've been reading for hours on the Net, and it's very difficult to wade through, and find something different than, the many posts on Lyme by vets -- advocating, of course, the tests, the preventatives, the vaccines. I'm suspect of all this bc I had Lyme and was blown away by all of the misinformation on Lyme in humans.

Just pulled a dead, fully engorged deer tick off of my dog. She has no symptoms. I don't see that you address a prophylactic antibiotic treatment - for dogs. Sorry if I missed it. So I assume then, that you do not believe that is necessary?

PBurns said...

No. Not a believer in it. It's like taking antibiotics every time you get on the train because someone might be sick and give it to you. You do not take antibiotics as a prophylaxis; you take them to treat something. If you do not obviously have something, there is nothing to treat.