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Lyme Disease Test – Dogs

Lyme disease dog blood testDogs, like humans, are at risk of contracting Lyme disease following a bite from an infected tick and, with no definitive Lyme disease test, dogs may remain infected and untreated for a considerable period of time. This can lead to permanent tissue damage and the development of disseminated infection with Borrelia bacteria that becomes harder to eradicate. The detection of Lyme disease in dogs is further problematized by the fact that a large number of dogs may have been exposed to the Borrelia bacteria that cause the condition without actually developing symptoms of Lyme disease. The dog, having fought off the infection, will likely display antibodies to the bacteria in her/his blood even when no longer infected with the disease.

In cases where a tick bite has been observed but no symptoms of Lyme disease in dogs develop, or even during a routine blood test, the presence of antibodies to Lyme disease bacteria cannot, therefore, constitute sufficient proof for a diagnosis of the condition and most veterinarians will only consider such a diagnosis when confronted with clear symptoms of Lyme disease in dogs such as lameness, arthritis, fever, loss of appetite, and fatigue.

In cases where Lyme disease is suspected in a dog, the veterinarian will ask about exposure to areas where ticks are present, usually within the past five or six months, and any acute symptoms such as sudden lameness, loss of appetite, weight loss, or fatigue in your dog. It is often difficult to remember such events several months later which is one reason why developing accurate tests for Lyme disease in dogs, as well as in humans, is so important. Where blood tests appear warranted a sample will be taken from the dog for analysis using either a combination of the ELISA test and the Western Blot assay or one of the newer recombinant protein assays. In cases where a dog has been vaccinated against Lyme disease a C6 antibody test may be run to determine if positive titers are due to natural exposure or vaccination.

Vaccinations and Traditional Lyme Disease Tests

lyme disease vaccine for dogs puppy vaccination

Vaccinating a dog against Lyme disease has presented difficulties in the past due to positive titer results found in dogs not previously vaccinated. The development of new tests for Lyme disease antibodies in dogs, such as the C6 antibody test, now allow veterinarians to differentiate between those antibodies that result from natural exposure and those present due to the effects of vaccination. The standard test for Lyme disease in dogs has, historically, relied on the detection of antibodies in the blood using a combination of the ELISA test and a Western Blot assay. The ELISA (Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay) test has a high degree of sensitivity and the Western Blot is considered specific enough that, when combined, the tests give an accurate determination of the presence of Lyme disease antibodies. This combination of tests, one with a high degree of sensitivity and one which is more specific, has become the gold-standard for Lyme disease testing in recent times but new tests based on recombinant proteins are becoming commercially available, making testing easier, more accurate and precise, and more cost-effective.

The emergence of new Borrelia species that cause illnesses or symptoms similar to Lyme disease, along with seropositivity in many dogs has provided challenges for those developing tests for the disease. Researchers at Cornell University have recently developed a fluorescent bead-based multiples assay to detect antibodies to Borrelia burgdorferi outer surface proteins in the blood of dogs to test for Lyme disease. This combination approach, presented by Wagner, et al (2011), detects the presence of outer surface protein A (OspA), OspC and OspF using just one test, thereby saving time, money, and effort for clinicians and patients. The sensitivity of the combined test for the three outer surface proteins were 83%, 62%, and 82% respectively, with specificities of 90%, 89%, and 86%, respectively. The ability to detect the presence of these allows for the confirmation of antibodies originating from vaccination or natural exposure.

Continue Reading –> C6 Antibody Lyme Disease Test for Dogs


Wagner B, Freer H, Rollins A, Erb HN., A fluorescent bead-based multiplex assay for the simultaneous detection of antibodies to B. burgdorferi outer surface proteins in canine serum, Vet Immunol Immunopathol. 2011 Apr 15;140(3-4):190-8. Epub 2010 Dec 10.

Bunikis J, Barbour AG., Laboratory testing for suspected Lyme disease, Med Clin North Am. 2002 Mar;86(2):311-40.