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Matthew Kearns

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By Matthew Kearns, DVM

COVID is terrible and let’s face it: sheltering in place, and social distancing stinks!!! One silver lining is I have seen a large number of new puppies at my clinic and new puppies need potty training. 

Understanding the physiology of elimination in puppies is crucial. Puppies have a smaller anatomy and, because their bladder and bowels are physically smaller, they fill quicker. Some trainers recommend going outside with the puppy every hour in the beginning. However, a good rule of thumb is, take the number of months old the puppy is plus one hour. For example, if a puppy is two months old, he or she can last two plus one, or three hours total (puppies can usually last longer at night). 

Also, the act of drinking and eating stimulates their bladder and bowels, so try to take them out both before and after meals.   

The old saying, “you get more bees with honey than vinegar” is true. Positive reinforcement goes much farther than negative. Either go outside with the puppy or be present when they go in their designated spot. I personally feel it is okay to train a puppy outdoors at a very young age if one is careful. If you take your puppy outside, make sure he or she is only allowed in an area that is clean and free of anything potentially toxic, material that could cause a choking episode or potential intestinal obstruction, and free of ticks or excrement from stray or wild animals. 

We can also use commands such as “make a pee” or “make a poo” and when the puppy goes give lots of praise, a treat, or both. You may sound a little mentally unbalanced to your neighbors in the beginning, but it pays off in the long run. 

If your puppy has an accident and you do not catch him or her in the act, do not scold, but rather just clean it up (even if you only leave the room for thirty seconds). The puppy will not remember that they did it, but will remember a screaming owner. This will cause the puppy to be afraid of you and look for a more discrete place to go. 

If you do catch your puppy in the act it is okay to say “NO” or clap your hands to get their attention, but never spank them. Rather, quickly pick your puppy up, carry them outside to finish, and give them lots of praise if they do. When you do clean up use something to neutralize the odor like an enzymatic cleaner.   

I hope this information helps. My next article will be on crate training, an excellent tool to teach the puppy to hold their bladder and bowels.

Dr. Kearns practices veterinary medicine from his Port Jefferson office and is pictured with his son Matthew and his dog Jasmine. Have a question for the vet? Email it to [email protected] and see his answer in an upcoming column.

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By Matthew Kearns, DVM

Dr. Matthew Kearns

My last article (issue of April 30) describes the benefits of spaying or neutering dogs and cats for both medical and behavioral reasons. Overall, dogs and cats that are spayed and neutered live longer than unspayed and unneutered pets, so the question of “when” is usually before, or after puberty. Full disclosure is that there is far more published data on the advantages and disadvantages of spay/neuter in dogs than cats. This article also focuses on dogs and cats that were not spayed or neutered before adoption/rescue. 

Studies have shown a significant reduction in euthanasia at shelters that employ an early (8 to 12 weeks old) spay/neuter program. Euthanasia is still the number one cause of death for pets in the United States so I want to make clear that I applaud shelters and rescues that employ juvenile spay/neuter programs. 

The risk of certain types of cancer associated with the reproductive tract (mammary, ovarian, uterine, testicular) decreases significantly. Prostatic cancer remains unchanged neutered versus unneutered males but prostatic cancer is very uncommon in dogs or cats, so it is not really an issue. The risk of other types of cancer may actually increase in spayed/neutered purebred large to giant breed dog: specifically, osteosarcoma (bone cancer), splenic hemangiosarcoma, mast cell tumor, and bladder transitional cell carcinoma. These studies only evaluated risk in purebred dogs. Purebred breeds at higher risk include Golden Retrievers, Newfoundland, Irish Wolfhound, German Shepherd, American Staffordshire Terrier, and Rottweiler.

Non-cancerous developmental disorders in dogs such as hip dysplasia and cranial cruciate ligament rupture (the veterinary equivalent of anterior cruciate ligament) were in higher percentages in spayed and neutered patients. One should keep in mind that many of these studies compare dogs that were spayed or neutered before six months of age, which means before puberty.

Obesity and urinary incontinence (females only) are increased in spayed or neutered dogs. The studies that also covered obesity specifically also noted that owners that were obese tended to have obese dogs regardless of spay/neuter status.

In conclusion I have started to discuss with owners when to spay or neuter their pets. I still recommend spaying/neutering cats by, or before, six months of age. I don’t make recommendations for when to neuter dogs, but rather explore with owners pushing back the spay/neuter date until around a year of age to allow the dog to go through puberty (as long as there are no unwanted behaviors developing). 

I do not recommend leaving dogs or cats intact throughout their lives unless they are breeding animals but that is just my opinion. I would recommend discussing the pros and cons with your own veterinarian before making a decision as to when the right time is for your pet.

Dr. Kearns practices veterinary medicine from his Port Jefferson office and is pictured with his son Matthew and his dog Jasmine. Have a question for the vet? Email it to [email protected] and see his answer in an upcoming column.

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By Matthew Kearns, DVM

I was listening to a radio program and they had a segment on how COVID-19 was affecting animal shelters and rescues. The reporter was interviewing the director of a “no kill” shelter and the director was concerned that they might need to change their policy if adoptions fell off. 

Preventing unwanted puppies and kittens is still the main goal of spay/neuter programs because it is estimated that over 10,000 pets are still euthanized every day in the United States (this equates a euthanasia approximately one pet every 11 seconds). 

I still have pet owners that come into my clinic that are concerned about the long-term health concerns with spaying their dog or cat. These are responsible clients that I know would not allow an “accidental breeding,” but there are both health and behavioral benefits to spaying and neutering dogs or cats.

Males: The elimination of the sources of testosterone will dramatically reduce the risk of roaming, as well as fighting behavior. Other unwanted behaviors such as marking, mounting and certain types of aggressions towards humans are also lowered dramatically or eliminated altogether. 

The smell of male cat urine is significantly diminished. The risk of testicular tumors is altogether eliminated and other types of tumors such as perianal adenomas and transmissible venereal tumor (TVT) are dramatically decreased. Other non-cancerous medical conditions such as benign prostatic hyperplasia, prostatic cysts and abscesses, and perineal hernias are minimized.  

Females: The elimination of the hormones estrogen and progesterone terminates the heat cycle, as well as all symptoms/behaviors associated with the heat cycle. These symptoms in female dogs include “spotting,” or small amounts of a blood-tinged vaginal discharge. Spaying eliminates having to buy those specially equipped “doggy diapers” I hear so much about. 

Female cats do not normally have this type of spotting, however behaviors associated with the feline heat cycle can become maddening. The howling and rolling around have had my clients call our hospital wondering what is wrong with their cat. I try to diplomatically explain that these dramatic gestures are your precious kitty’s way of saying “I NEED A MAN!!!” 

Healthwise, removal of the ovaries and uterus eliminates the risk of a condition called pyometra (an infection of the uterus), as well as uterine and ovarian neoplasia. Spaying dogs and cats dramatically reduce the risk of TVT and mammary (breast) cancer.

Overall, the benefits of spaying or neutering (if you do not plan on using your pet for breeding) outweighs the risks of not performing this surgery. However, there has been a shift in the veterinary community’s position as to when is the best time to schedule these procedures. In my next article I hope to discuss “the when” in spaying or neutering our pets.

Dr. Kearns practices veterinary medicine from his Port Jefferson office and is pictured with his son Matthew and his dog Jasmine. Have a question for the vet? Email it to [email protected] and see his answer in an upcoming column.

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By Matthew Kearns, DVM 

COVID-19 has brought into focus just how a pandemic can cripple society on so many levels and how important vaccines are in our lives today. Developing a safe and effective vaccine against COVID-19 has become the “holy grail” of human medicine. 

Vaccines are defined as a biological preparation of weakened or killed microorganisms, or portions of the DNA of these organisms (viruses, bacteria, or rickettsiae) to stimulate the immune system to prevent or ameliorate disease. 

The word “vaccine” comes from the Latin, vacca, which means “cow”, because the first vaccine was actually derived from cowpox. Dr. Edward Jenner, an English physician that lived in the 1700’s, discovered that humans inoculated with the fluid from the blisters of cowpox helped prevent the development of smallpox. Since that time vaccines have been used to prevent disease, as well as the development of new vaccines to prevent or treat cancer. 

How do vaccines work? 

Puppies and kittens are born without an immune system. The protection they receive comes in the form of maternal antibodies (antibodies from the mother) in colostrum (the first milk from the mother). These antibodies are absorbed through the gastrointestinal tract into the newborn puppy or kitten and these maternal antibodies protect them for the first four weeks of life.  

After the first four weeks of life the protection from maternal antibodies declines and they will have to develop their own immune system to fight infection. Unfortunately, there is a window (between the ages of four to eight weeks) from when a puppy or kitten gradually loses protection from maternal antibodies, BUT before their own immune system begins to develop and is able to start to fight infection. That is why veterinarians recommend keeping puppies and kittens away from other dogs and cats before they start the vaccinations. Many infections can be very serious (eg., parvo, distemper, rabies, feline leukemia, etc.) and possibly fatal if the kitten or puppy is exposed before they have adequate immunity to it.  

The goal of vaccines is to administer them before our pets are exposed to the infection naturally but after the pet has the ability to use the vaccine. This means at an age where the puppy or kitten have lost a majority of the protection from their maternal antibodies yet old enough for their immune system to use the vaccine to fight infection (ideally between the ages of eight to nine weeks). 

Administering vaccines before eight to nine weeks is controversial because maternal antibodies can interfere or inactivate the vaccine and the puppy or kitten will receive little (if any) protection. Don’t worry. There are established vaccination protocols for a pet of any age. 

Remember during these difficult times to not forget about the health of our four-legged family members. Call your veterinarian’s office to make sure your dog or cat is up to date on their vaccines.

Dr. Kearns practices veterinary medicine from his Port Jefferson office and is pictured with his son Matthew and his dog Jasmine. Have a question for the vet? Email it to [email protected] and see his answer in an upcoming column

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By Matthew Kearns, DVM

Concerns about a human coronavirus, better known as COVID 19, is raising fears for a global outbreak. The good news is that although COVID 19 may have its origins in a coronavirus found in bats, THERE IS NO EVIDENCE AT THIS TIME that the known canine and feline coronaviruses can spread from animals to humans. The risk of spread of COVID 19 is human to human at this time.

Coronavirus in dogs typically causes enteritis, or inflammation of the bowel. Most of the cases cause a mild, self-limiting diarrhea that lasts for a few days and does not even require a trip to the veterinarian’s office. Less commonly, more severe diarrhea, loss of appetite, or vomiting occur. 

More recently, a canine coronavirus respiratory virus has been isolated in association with other respiratory viruses into a disease termed Canine Infectious Respiratory Disease Complex (CIRDC). Again, the symptoms are usually mild and self-limiting rarely causing death.

Coronavirus in cats is much more serious. Most coronavirus in cats also cause self-limiting gastrointestinal symptoms similar to dogs. However, there is a particular strain of feline coronavirus that leads to a disease process called Feline Infectious Peritonitis, or FIP for short. 

This FIP strain of the coronavirus appears to be a mutation of one of the more benign strains of the enteric (gut) coronavirus. Rather than a self-limiting diarrhea, the deadly FIP develops. FIP has two forms: a “wet form” and a “dry form.” In the wet form a high fever and effusion develops. This effusion, or protein rich fluid, usually develops in the abdomen causing a peritonitis. Less commonly the fluid develops in the chest cavity causing a pleural effusion. In either case the outcome is severe and always fatal. The symptoms develop rapidly (over a few days to, at most, a few weeks). The patient stops eating and is usually humanely euthanized if he or she does not pass away on their own. 

There is also a less common “dry form” of the disease. The dry form of FIP is a slower developing sequela of the disease. Rather than a rapid progression of disease over a few weeks, the dry form takes months to years. The dry form produces a granulomatous response and produces deposits of a specific type of scar tissue in internal organs. These internal organs then begin to dysfunction and ultimately shut down. 

My experience has shown patients usually are humanely euthanized or pass away from kidney failure secondary to the dry form of FIP. The kidneys, unlike some other organs, do not regenerate cells or repair damage. Once a certain percentage of the kidneys stops functioning the rest of the body quickly shuts down.

There are both feline and canine coronavirus vaccines but their actual efficacy is questionable. There are so many strains that the single strain in the vaccine protect against them all. It would be like having a single flu vaccine that is never modified year to year. The good news is that most cases of both feline and canine coronavirus are mild and self-limiting. Also, I have found no information at this time that states that the canine or feline coronavirus poses any threat to human health. 

If you have questions that are not answered in this article, or are concerned about the health of your individual pet please contact your regular veterinarian for an appointment.  

Dr. Kearns practices veterinary medicine from his Port Jefferson office and is pictured with his son Matthew and his dog Jasmine. Have a question for the vet? Email it to [email protected] and see his answer in an upcoming column.

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By Matthew Kearns, DVM

When I bring up dental procedures with pet owners, the concern is pets require anesthesia for dental work. That invariably brings the question, “Is there anything we can do at home to prevent this?” The answer is a resounding “YES!!!”

First, I would like to briefly review the pathology of periodontal disease. Dogs and cats do not suffer from dental disease as much as humans. They suffer from periodontal disease. 

Dental disease refers to pathology with the tooth itself: caries, cavities, etc. Periodontal disease refers to pathology of the structures around the tooth: gingiva (gums), the periodontal ligament, perialveolar bone. 

Periodontal disease begins with plaque. It has been proven that even within 24 hours of a professional cleaning, a thin film of bacteria, saliva and food (also known as plaque) accumulates on the enamel of the tooth. Plaque that is not removed mineralizes within 10 days into tartar or a calculus. Once tartar takes hold a shift develops from aerobic bacteria (bacteria that need oxygen to survive) to nasty anaerobic bacteria (those that need little or no oxygen to survive). Anaerobic bacteria secrete toxins that inflame the gums and lead to small abscesses or pockets under the gums. Bacteria start to destroy the support structures around the tooth which is very painful. If not treated then the tooth will need to be removed. 

Brushing: Brushing the teeth removes this film before it has a chance to mineralize. If you do decide to brush your pet’s teeth first pick a toothbrush and toothpaste that is veterinary approved. We humans know to rinse and spit when done brushing, but our pets do not. Swallowing human toothpaste is harmful because it has too much sodium, fluoride and is sweetened with saccharin. 

Pet-safe toothpaste comes in a variety of flavors that pets will like (chicken, beef, fish, etc.) better than good old-fashioned fresh mint. When you first begin just put a little toothpaste on the end of the brush and let your pet investigate. If they sniff, lick or even just chew on the brush that is fine. Then start by gently just brushing the front teeth. Once they tolerate that, start to work toward the back teeth. 

Dental Treats/Diets: Effective brushing of your pet’s teeth needs to be done daily (at least four times per week) and scheduling time to brush your pet’s teeth can be difficult. I have yet to meet an owner able to teach his or her dog/cat to brush their own teeth. Certain prescription diets (Hill’s t/d® and Purina Pro Plan DH®) literally clean the teeth as your pet eats. There are also treats that do the same. Look for the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) seal on the packaging. If you can’t find a VOHC-approved treat, remember this slogan, “If you wouldn’t want to get hit in the knee with this dental treat, don’t let your pet chew on it.” That means if it is too hard your pet runs the risk of damaging their teeth. 

Rinses: Again, look for the VOHC seal of approval. The safest and most effective rinses contain chlorhexidine. Chlorhexidine is most effective against the development of plaque, and chlorhexidine-based rinses are considered the gold standard of veterinary oral rinses. Rinses containing xylitol, or fluoride, should be avoided in my opinion because of their potential for toxicity.

This is not a complete list of dental home care products so, as always, please consult with your own veterinarian for a more in-depth conversation. In addition, I can’t guarantee that even if you follow through with all these recommendations that your dog or cat will not need professional dental care (including extractions), but it certainly helps. Remember, BIG SMILES!!!

Dr. Kearns practices veterinary medicine from his Port Jefferson office and is pictured with his son Matthew and his dog Jasmine. Have a question for the vet? Email it to [email protected] and see his answer in an upcoming column.

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By Matthew Kearns, DVM

I’ve always had trouble instituting New Year’s resolutions. Shortened daylight hours and colder weather make it sooooohhh difficult to get up early and exercise. I also instinctively look for starchy foods instead of fresh fruits and vegetables. Our pets face the same problems. 

Wild animals in colder climates slow down their metabolism and hibernate during winter months as temperatures drop and food becomes scarce. Domesticated dogs and cats are not so far removed from their wild ancestors that their own bodies react the same way. How do we avoid the inertia that inevitably sets in with winter weather?

The first thing is to keep an exercise routine in place. One of the few advantages of global warming is although temperatures drop, we don’t see as much snow and ice as in previous years. Sticking with daily walks helps keep their (and our) waistline at a manageable diameter. When the weather is not cooperating and our pets only go out long enough to do their business consider an indoor exercise routine. Rolling a ball to play fetch or using toys designed for cats to induce their stalking instincts are viable alternatives to playing outside. 

The second phase of our New Year’s resolutions is to take a closer look at calorie intake during colder months. I always recommend evaluating how many treats, rawhides, table scraps, etc. our pets receive. During the winter months we may need to decrease or eliminate these extras. 

I also see a lot of pets that gain weight the winter after they’ve been spayed or neutered and that can be difficult to take off again. Studies have shown that spaying and neutering dogs and cats does slow metabolism but, just because your pet was spayed or neutered does not mean that they will automatically become obese if we monitor their calorie intake and adjust properly. 

If we are exercising and reducing calories but not seeing a reduction in weight, it’s time to talk to our veterinarian about underlying disease. Glandular disorders such as underactive thyroid in dogs can lead to obesity and, without thyroid supplementation, no amount of diet and exercise will help them. Older dogs and cats frequently suffer from obesity secondary to arthritis. These pets exercise less because they are unable to move like when they were younger. 

Supplements and medications are available to help make them more comfortable and exercise more. Increased exercise and subsequent weight loss could reduce or eliminate medications (I recommend supplements lifelong).  

I hope this information is helpful in keeping our pets from gaining too much during the winter months. Now, onto my New Year’s resolution … UGH!!!

Dr. Kearns practices veterinary medicine from his Port Jefferson office and is pictured with his son Matthew and his dog Jasmine. Have a question for the vet? Email it to [email protected] and see his answer in an upcoming column.

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By Matthew Kearns, DVM

Dr. Matthew Kearns

No matter which holiday we celebrate this time of year a pet dog or cat makes a great gift. The bond is almost always immediate and lasts a lifetime. Conversely, the thought of losing a pet is terrible. Since the advent of pet microchip identification, many a lost pet has been returned to its owner safe and sound. There are, however, still some lingering doubts about the safety and efficacy of these chips. I hope to clear that up in this article.

A microchip is an identification chip only and does not contain a power source. Once inserted, the chip will not give off any energy that could be harmful to your pet. The chip is passive, or inert. What that means is, when the microchip scanner is waved over it, the chip receives energy similar to a radio antenna. The chip then gives the scanner back the energy in the way of data, or information.  

Pet microchips are very small (about the size of a grain of rice) and can be injected under the skin without any anesthetic. I do not wish to imply that the pets that receive this injection do not feel the needle, but it is far from major surgery. At our hospital we offer to implant the chip at the time of spay or neuter (when the patient is already anesthetized) to reduce the anxiety and discomfort of the pet. These chips do not tend to migrate after implantation and rarely cause any discomfort.

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The notion that there is a direct link between microchips and cancer is greatly exaggerated in the media and on the internet. It is true that these chips have been documented to cause a type of cancer called “injection site sarcoma” in lab mice and rats. These animals are very prone to this type of cancer when any material is injected under the skin. To this date there is only ONE documented case of cancer in a dog that was directly linked to the implantation of a microchip.  

Older microchips and microchip scanners were not as successful and there were accounts of pets that were needlessly euthanized as a result. However, in a study published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association (JAVMA) in 2008, the newer chips and scanners reported at least a 90 percent (in some scanners and chips up to a 98 percent) success rate in identifying the chip. Another study published in JAVMA in 2009 approximately 75 percent of dogs and approximately 65 percent of cats that were turned over to shelters were able to be reunited with their owners via the microchip (of those owners that were not reunited 35 percent had disconnected phones and another 25 percent never returned phone calls from the shelter).

If you wish to get a pet this holiday season and wish to find them again if lost, then I would suggest you have a discussion with your veterinarian about microchipping.    

I wish to extend a joyous holiday season and a Happy New Year to all the faithful readers of my column. I also wish to thank the editor of the Arts and Lifestyles section, Heidi Sutton, and all the staff at Times Beacon Record News Media for another great year.  

Dr. Kearns practices veterinary medicine from his Port Jefferson office and is pictured with his son Matthew and his dog Jasmine. Have a question for the vet? Email it to [email protected] to see his answer in an upcoming column.

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By Matthew Kearns, DVM

Dr. Matthew Kearns

When I think of turkeys in the month of November, I usually am thinking about a main course with a little stuffing, potatoes, gravy and cranberry sauce. However, many believe turkeys can also make good pets. Domesticated turkeys are quite friendly and can be socialized to humans and other pets.

Before considering acquiring any turkeys please make sure to consult your neighbors. Turkeys (especially males) will make a gobble sound in reaction to any strange noise and the females will make a variety of sounds. What I mean is, both genders make a lot of noise. 

Make sure there is enough room to exercise. Turkeys need about 90 square feet to be able to properly “shake their tail feathers” and make sure the enclosure has a fence that is at least 6 feet high. Most domesticated turkeys cannot, or will not, attempt to fly over the fence, but it is possible and they may require routine clipping of the flight feathers to prevent a “great escape.” They also need safety from predators at night. A commercially made turkey pen or 8×6-foot garden shed makes a good enclosure. This size shed can house up to more than one turkey. 

Good husbandry is a key. A dirt floor with either hay or shavings is easiest to keep clean and not hard on the turkey’s feet. The hay or shavings should be changed every few days. 

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There is also one consideration if you wish to keep both turkeys and chickens as pets. Chickens carry but are not affected by a single-celled parasite called Histomanis meleagridis, leading to a condition known as blackhead. This parasite causes diarrhea, liver damage and sudden death in turkeys. Therefore, do not house the turkeys and chickens together, nor keep the turkeys in an area that has recently been used by chickens. Periodic treatments with anti-parasitc medications also reduce the risk of blackhead. 

Food is easy. Fowl pellets are the mainstay of their diet and they can be bought at any feed store or online. Young turkeys may initially prefer to eat bugs such as crickets, mealworms and beetles but will quickly transition to pellets if you crush the bugs and pellets and mix them together. 

Turkeys also will eat a variety of fruits, vegetables and nuts. Items such as kale, grapes, berries, etc. are all delicious additions to a turkey’s diet. Crushed oyster shells make not only an excellent source of calcium but also help grind food for digestion in a part of the turkey’s stomach called the gizzard.

I have to admit that I don’t own any turkeys, nor have I treated any turkeys but who knows what the future holds. “Gobble, Gobble”!!!!!

Dr. Kearns practices veterinary medicine from his Port Jefferson office and is pictured with his son Matthew and his dog Jasmine. Have a question for the vet? Email it to [email protected] to see his answer in an upcoming column.

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By Matthew Kearns, DVM

Dr. Matthew Kearns

We recently had a dog present to our clinic for weight loss and decreased appetite. Initially, the owners were suspicious that a change in diet was the culprit. However, as the situation progressed in a negative direction, the owners consented to blood work and it was discovered that the dog’s kidneys were functioning very poorly. Even after referring this patient to a specialty hospital, her condition worsened. She was dead within less than two weeks of a diagnosis of Lyme nephritis.  

Nephritis is defined as inflammation of the kidneys. Lyme nephritis is an uncommon manifestation of the infection with the bacteria that causes Lyme disease, Borrelia burgdorferi (Lyme arthritis, or swelling of the joints, is the most common manifestation of disease). What makes Lyme nephritis so dangerous is that it is not only the infection that triggers this condition but also the immune system’s response to the infection. It is the development of an antigen-antibody complex that triggers inflammation in the kidneys and, ultimately, the destruction of the organ.

Antigens are foreign proteins that trigger a response by the body’s immune system. Most antigens are viruses, bacteria, abnormal cells, etc. Antibodies are proteins produced by the immune system in response to antigens. Antibodies identify and tag antigens which signal white blood cells to destroy these foreign invaders. Usually this process just clears the infection or destroys abnormal cells before they can become tumors or cancers. Sometimes the antigen and antibody combine to form a single unit called an antigen-antibody complex. These complexes circulate throughout the bloodstream until they lodge in the body’s tissue (in this case the kidney). Once the antigen-antibody complex deposits in tissues it triggers an inflammatory response that damages the tissue itself. 

Lyme nephritis is especially dangerous because the inflammation secondary to these complexes continues even after the infection is cleared and leads to a condition called a protein losing nephropathy. A protein losing nephropathy leads to protein loss, as well as progressive destruction of the kidneys until they shut down completely (as with what happened to our patient). There is no such thing as kidney transplants in dogs at this time and dialysis is both expensive and limited as to which clinics can provide this service. 

The best defense to this condition is to vaccinate against Lyme disease before an infection occurs. It is usually a series of two vaccines and then once annually. Remember that this vaccine is only effective if given annually so don’t skip.  

In summary, if you live in an area where tick exposure is at higher risk, or you have found ticks on your dog (even if they’ve tested negative in the past), I would recommend a serious conversation about vaccinating your dog against Lyme disease.

Dr. Kearns practices veterinary medicine from his Port Jefferson office and is pictured with his son Matthew and his dog Jasmine. Have a question for the vet? Email it to [email protected] to see his answer in an upcoming column.