I often talk about being an advocate for your dog when it comes to training. I advise telling people “No” if they try to pet your fearful dog. I recommend watching a training class before you sign up to be certain it fits what you’re looking for and, even then, being willing to stand up and say “No” if you don’t agree with what you’re being told. But training isn’t the only time you need to advocate for your dog.
For the first time in almost 5.5 years, I found a tick on Risa this December. I couldn’t believe it. We’d been lucky so long. I had wanted to get the tick itself tested to determine whether or not it was carrying any tick-borne illnesses but it turned out that option is no longer available. The only choice I had was to wait 6 weeks and have Risa’s blood drawn and tested.
I brought her in this week to have the blood draw. I even still had the tick so I brought it in for identification as well. It was a deer tick, much to my dismay, though it was not fully engorged. I was a bit more optimistic that we might have gotten lucky; the tick hadn’t been there for too long. The vet ran the test in house so we got results shortly after I arrived home. They weren’t sure why I had asked for the test to be run as Risa had it run 6 months earlier at her annual visit. When I mentioned that I had found a tick on her, I was informed that one of the technicians thought they had seen a slight bit of dye on the Lyme portion of the test. I inquired further and discovered that only one of the techs thought it could be a positive and no one else who looked at it saw anything. Even Risa’s vet thought it was a negative result. But her vet recommended re-testing with a more sensitive tick test in four weeks.
This didn’t sit right with me. I had already waited 6 weeks to see if maybe she was infected and I didn’t want to wait 4 more if she was actually Lyme positive. (Lyme can be a very sneaky disease and cause some serious, chronic problems if left untreated.) I found out through a friend of mine and the test manufacturer’s website that even the slightest bit of dye indicates a positive result. I called the vet to discuss this with her further and suggested that maybe we should start Risa on antibiotics anyway as a precaution. I was worried. I had recently noticed Risa seemed to be experiencing some joint discomfort, especially on our walks. I knew that inflammation of the joints was a symptom of Lyme. Having a ‘weak positive’ Lyme test and joint issues made me suspect something was going on.
When I got a chance to speak to the doctor, she put my mind at ease. She really didn’t think the test was positive and didn’t want to start Risa on a course of doxycycline (the antibiotic most often used to treat tick diseases) just in case. After all, if Risa were positive, she didn’t have a value for the level of the disease so there was no way to judge whether or not the treatment was effective. I discussed my options with her and decided to have the Snap test redone the next day. I brought Risa in again (she was thrilled to be sure) and we had the blood draw done again. This time, it was sent directly to the lab to be tested so that, if it did come up positive, they would run the C6 and determine the level of the disease automatically (and for a cheaper price than having the C6 done alone).
At this point, I thought we’d dodged a bullet. I felt like I was being stupid for questioning my vet and insisting something be done. I got a call Friday night about Risa’s newest results and she did indeed test positive for Lyme disease. Her vet set up the medication for her and I started her on it yesterday.
Throughout this whole ordeal, I felt like someone was looking out for us. Had the heartworm/tick test been done at her annual visit, I might never have gotten a call about it. Everyone would have assumed it was a negative result and I would have gone on with life while Risa got sicker. While the disease went untreated. As difficult as it was to question my veterinarian, I’m glad I did. It’s never easy to question someone who has more experience and knowledge than you do. It was even tougher for me because I used to work at that hospital.
Our vet has always been accepting of my ‘outside the box’ choices when it comes to Risa. She’s not a fan of raw feeding at all but has always been impressed with Risa’s teeth and her overall health. Even though she doesn’t condone what I do, she never gives me a hard time about it and can clearly see it’s working for us. She’s also been great in handling Risa who is a less than ideal patient with her intense veterinary fears. So it was not easy to be upset, worried, and insist we do something. But I’m so glad I did.