Tick Borne Illness Diagnosis & Treatment Protocols/ Success Stories

Ticked Off! - Tick Panels for Dummies - Infected Litters - K9 Breast Cancer - Heartworm Positive Treatment and Success Stories

Dogs & Puppies Diagnosed and Undergoing Treatment for Vector Borne Diseases

New Treatment Protocols for Coinfections

After following several dogs and puppies with coinfections struggle with doxycycline antibiotic treatment alone- with our vet's support- we are now using additional antibiotics with much success in our infected foster dog population. Because coinfections may show up on a second or third tick serology- we always repeat the same test. Here are our current testing and treatment protocols:

  • Mandatory IDEXX 371 IFA serology panel for Ehrlichia, Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. IDEXX 371 Positive titers are the following: Ehrlichia 1:25, Lyme disease 1:100, RMSF 1:25. I prefer this test to find the low titers for infection for Ehrlichia and RMSF- HOWEVER- this test often misses low titers for Lyme disease consistenty. To look for Babesia Canis we are using either NC State serology, MSU's Serology or Texas A & M's Tick Serology. We are in the interum stages of testing a few dogs for Texas A & M's tick panel and its accuracy. The advantages of Texas A & M is that the titers for infection are much lower and their philosophy for treatment is similar to ours- TREAT ALL POSITIVES. Texas A & M Positive Titers are the following: Babesia 1:8- 1:32, Ehrlichia 1:20, Lyme disease 1:60, RMSF 1:16. I am also working on a Tick Panel's for Dummies page- stay tuned!!
  • Mandatory CBC/Chem (IDEXX preferred due to tighter values) We are currently tracking HIGHS and LOWS in lab work to note possible markers for disease.
  • Lyme Disease: Ceftin and Doxycycline- MINIMUM 2 months-Ideally 2 months Ceftin- up to 6 months for possible co-infections. Repeat Tick Panel and CBC/Chem. (We always assume there are co infections hiding).
  • Ehrlichia: Baytril- MINIMUM 3 weeks- and Doxycycline MINIMUM 2 months- up to 6 months for possible co-infections. Repeat Tick Panel and CBC/Chem. (Assume there are co infections hiding).
  • Rocky Mountain spotted fever: Doxycycline MINIMUM 4 months- up to a year or more. RMSF is the most troubling disease and many dogs can become carriers. Repeat Tick Panel and CBC/Chem. (Assume there are co infections hiding).
  • Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever: Ceftin - MINIMUM 2 months- Doxycycline MINIMUM 6 months- up to a year or more especially in older dogs. Repeat Tick Panel and CBC/Chem. (Assume there are co infections hiding).
  • Lyme disease and Ehrlichia: Ceftin - MINIMUM 2 months- Doxycycline MINIMUM 6 months. We have also used Baytril 3 weeks to mix things up but it will not clear up a Lyme disease infection. Repeat IDEXX 371 Tick Panel and CBC/Chem. (Assume there are co infections hiding).
  • Ehrlichia and Rocky Mountain spotted fever: Baytril - MINIMUM 3 weeks- Doxycycline MINIMUM 6 months- or up to year especially in older dogs. Repeat Tick Panel and CBC/Chem. (Assume there are co infections hiding).
  • Babesia and Lyme disease: Ceftin - MINIMUM 2 months- Doxycycline MINIMUM ?? months. Repeat Tick Panel and CBC/Chem and follow dog's progress. (Assume there are co infections hiding). This is new territory for us and we are reviewing the best treatment options for the Babesia coinfection.
  • Babesia, Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever: Ceftin - MINIMUM 2 months- Doxycycline MINIMUM ?? months. For Louis we also used Mepron and Azithromax but after repeated tick panels- the Babesia came back. Repeat Tick Panel and CBC/Chem often. (Assume there are co infections hiding) This is new territory for us and we are reviewing the best treatment options for the Babesia coinfection.
  • Below is a short list of dogs and puppies that IBR has currently diagnosed for tick borne illnesses (TBI) including Lyme disease (Borrelia burgdorferi), Ehrlichia canis, Babesia Canis, Anaplasma phagocytophilum and Rocky Mountain spotted fever (Rickettsia rickettsii). Many in foster care are still undergoing treatment--but our success rates are pretty good and most go on to wonderful forever homes.


    Class of 2007 - Class of 2008 - Class of 2009 - Class of 2010 - Class of 2011

    I still have quite a few dogs to list as these sections are currently under construction. I also hope to add every lab result next to each dogs listing. Thanks to the supportive vets we have been lucky to work with across the country--this research has been made possible. Much thanks to Dr. Libby (Ohio), Dr. Lynn (Illinois), Dr. Chris (Illinois), Dr. Dan (Minnesota) and many other individual veterinary clinics across Illinois and the Midwest that were willing to do tick panels at our request for our new foster dogs and puppies. We are especially greatful to Dr. Hanover of the Animal Hospital of Gurnee. Because he started testing all our incoming rescue dogs and puppies with the IDEXX 371 tick panel--we have gained most of our knowledge with regards to rising titers and length of treatment protocols and more importantly the differences and accuracies of the testing that is available to most vets and also the reliability of these tests.

    I was diagnosed with Lyme disease in 1999 after struggling for a year with symptoms until I finally found a doctor willing to listen to me. While I under went antibiotic therapy on many occasions, I still come out of remission after mosquito season starts in June. This is about the same time we see many of our dogs with tick borne illnesses start to act goofy. I suspect that multiple mosquito bites wreak havoc with our immune systems and gives the underlying illness an opportunity to rebound. This is just my theory. Because of my illness and personal struggle, I fight incredibly hard for these dogs as #1- they can't tell you how they are feeling and #2- that early testing and treatment can often save a life of misery. Also after 10 years in dog rescue, we have lost some amazing dogs post adoption and some didn't live past 7. Many we adopted out before 2007 didn't have tick panels done because we didn't know any better. Lastly, since I am not a licensed vet--I do hope that my hard work listing each and every dog and puppy we have diagnosed and treated-- with the support of our vets using new standards of treatments based on testing and retesting-- will help other pets afflicted with these terrible diseases. It has been quite the journey...

    Lisa Spakowski, IBR Founder & President


    The Basis of Our Research

    Fleas and ticks are everywhere and do not discriminate who they will prey on and any pet is at risk across the United States--not just hunting dogs. We are hopeful that what we are learning will help educate the vetting community as most are quite unfamiliar with what we are discovering about the length of treatment to help dogs recover besides other long term health issues if a co infection of Rocky Mountain spotted fever is missed. Please read our Ticked Off! section to learn about this very important health crisis affecting our pets.

    In an effort to educate the vetting and rescue communities about the seriousness of these diseases I have been trying to include the tests we have done on each dog or puppy and the length of treatment. Because we test and retest we are making huge strides in getting these dogs healthy. MANY of these infected dogs would have been put to sleep in other breed rescues or shelters due to the undesirable behaviors they can exhibit--especially the autistic-like fear aggression, but I can barely type the word euthanasia--much less consider it an option until I am sure we are exhausting all efforts to diagnose possible illnesses as a cause. So far, treatment for Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever has helped these dogs get better. They do come out from very dark places, full of pain and confusion, and watching the transformations as treatment starts has been incredibly rewarding and truly--life saving.

    In 2009 and 2010, we used many different testing laboratories and have found some are not as accurate as others. Currently we are limiting our Serology (antibody) testing to IDEXX Lab code 371 as much as possible. IDEXX 371 is an older code and is the basic serology tick panel for Lyme disease, Ehrlichia and RMSF. Many vets will use IDEXX 3716 Lyme Quant, but I have found inaccuracies in the Lyme serology testing of that test especially in dogs with low antibody levels. If that is not available, we use Antech Lab code SA330 although it might miss Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever in dogs with low antibody levels or dogs with new infections. Recently we started using Michigan State University's tick panel #60013. This panel consists of antibody titers for the following organisms: Lyme disease, Babesia canis, Ehrlichia canis, Anaplasma phagocytophilum, and RMSF.

    We do not support PCR testing at this time because the likelihood of finding disease DNA in an infected dog is very difficult. Also PCR testing is affected by antibiotic therapy so any PCR's done on dogs that have started treatment will be inaccurate. I have also learned through my conversations with the Vector Borne Disease Lab at North Carolina State University, that DNA in RMSF can only be detected--maybe--in the first 2 weeks of infection. Most of the dogs we are diagnosing and treating have been infected for years. While most of the information about RMSF states that it can not become chronic in pets, I am here to dispute that fact as we have amazing success rates when we treat dogs and puppies with titers as low as 1:25 and up to 1:1600. The phrase exposure titer is very misleading. Every dog's immune system is different. Some are stronger than others and many can live with these diseases for a very long time--birddogs especially-- but if not treated these pets will eventually succumb to these diseases as they become older when their immune systems fail.

    We absolutely do not support IDEXX 3DX or 4DX Snap tests as reliable tools for tick borne illnesses and even heartworm disease. It is better than nothing--but our research shows it will miss dogs with low antibody levels (from an early or long term infection) and does NOT test for Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF) which is the most common co infection linked to Lyme disease and Ehrlichia in the Midwest. There is also a lot of human error when using a 3DX or 4DX snap test so often there are false negatives. Most vets are also uneducated about the seriousness of co infections, and because of that, dogs will not be treated long enough (up to 16 or more weeks) and this is especially true with dogs also infected with heartworms. Dealing with one disease is hard enough- imagine being infected with 2 or 3 and heartworms besides.

    Our treatment protocols are based on positive serology results, Complete Blood Chemistries, symptoms and the pet's behavior. Often dogs and puppies have very subtle symptoms in the early stages of the disease that can be missed so we never rely on symptoms alone. We treat any dog with any positive antibody results for 8 weeks for one disease, 16 weeks for any co infection and longer if there is a heartworm disease complication often up to 6 months or more. We test every 2 months once the first positive illness is documented and follow up testing after doxycycline treatment has shown that often a 2nd or 3rd illness titer will show up. Because of this--antibiotic therapy needs to continue and follow up tick panels are crucial to help the pet recover. This is especially true in dogs with heartworm disease as a co infection.

    After consulting with a Human Lyme disease specialist in Elgin, IL, we are certain that our testing methods are the best way to determine illness and pursue a good treatment protocol for our dogs with positive antibody results. I found this web site to be most helpful in explaining how testing for humans is similar to the way we proceed to diagnose and treat our affected dogs and puppies. Quoting from the site "A blood test for antibodies to the bacterium is the preferred test for the diagnosis of Lyme disease. Acute and convalescent samples may be used to track progression of the disease by looking for changes in the amount of antibody present. If the tests are positive, then a Western blot test is ordered to confirm the findings." Of course a human patient can tell you they have terrible joint pain, feel feverish and have hot flashes and may feel very tired and achey. Pet owners know how their dog usually behaves and often just a lack of energy or loss of appetite are the only clues that something serious may be going on in their pet.

    If not caught and treated early, these diseases will cause pets incredible pain and suffering, and long term-- possible cancer (Hermangiosarcoma is common), kidney failure and death.

    I am not sure how many rescues are consistently testing their incoming dogs for these diseases using $100 Serology tests, I imagine we are nearly alone in this mandatory procedure. I do often get asked why are so many of the IBR dogs are testing positive, and my usual response is because we are looking for it and I know that there is a lot of ignorance in the pet community about flea and tick prevention. It is also expensive and too many pets are just treated as property and not taken care. Are the other breed rescues adopting out sick and infected dogs--of course they are--but there is not much I can do about that. It does make me incredibly sad that pets across the country are suffering and may eventually die if they have underlying tick borne illnesses and aren't diagnosed and treated in time. All I can do is put our research and success stories out there and hope that our amazing adoptions continue. We love these dogs as much as we love our own pets and many are adopted by volunteers--so if we can diagnose and treat any of these diseases adding to the quality of life of the pet, then the extra expense will be worth it. That's what fundraising garage sales are for!!

    Startling New Evidence About Disease Transmission from Mother to Pup

    The past few years we have been very concerned about how many young pups ages 4-6 months old that were tested for illnesses and came up positive. Many of these young dogs came into the rescue during the winter months where the liklihood of tick bites would be less problematic. We had been seeing a lot of RMSF linked to our deaf pups too. In 2009, I attended the First Annual Lyme Disease Walk in Libertyville, IL. At that event I met Lauren Egler, whose family has been devastated by Lyme disease and several co infections. Since Lauren's diagnosis, all of her children have also been diagnosed with the same diseases. I had read similar evidence about this transmission complication years ago when I was diagnosed, and when we had two infected mothers come into the rescue in early 2010, I knew we had an opportunity to prove these diseases were being transmitted to the pups from birth. I can't keep track of how many vets and lab technitions from IDEXX and Antech have told us that these diseases are absolutely not transmisable to puppies from their mothers. Well we have proof that they are wrong...


    2011 Stats So Far

    Rex- adored by his foster mom is now adopted.

    Rex working on pheasant 2-2011.


  • Dogs diagnosed and needing treatment for Heartworm disease: 6

  • Meringue (Setter-IL)/ HW+, Lyme disease & RMSF, Loren (Pointer-KY)/HW+,Lyme disease & RMSF, Mocha (Pointer-TN)/HW+, Lyme disease, Lord Byron (Setter-KY)/HW+, RMSF, Arlington (Pointer-TX) Ehrlichia and Lyme disease, Sophie (Pointer-IL) RMSF,

  • Other incoming dogs & puppies with tick borne illnesses: 25

  • Barbi Q (Pointer-IL)/ Lyme disease and RMSF, Cherice (Setter-IL) Lyme disease & Mammary cancer (put to sleep due to cancer metasticing to her lungs), Wetherby(Setter-IL)/ Ehrlichia & RMSF, Roxy Ratatouille (Chihuahua-IL)/Lyme disease, mammary tumor, Amber (Setter-IL)/Lyme and RMSF, nearly blind, Lady Amethyst (Pointer-KY)/ Lyme disease, Rex Harrison (Pointer-IN)/Lyme disease, Larkin (Setter-KY)/ Lyme disease, Thelmalou (Setter- OH) RMSF, Helen Jane (Pointer-IN) Lyme disease, Betty Spice (Pointer-OK) Lyme disease, RMSF, mammary tumors, Haley (Setter- IL) RMSF, Kisska (Pointer- IL) Ehrlichia, Carson (Pointer- IL) Lyme disease, Gina (Pointer-IL) Babesia and Lyme disease, Lord Tennyson (Setter) Anaplasma, Ehrlichia, Lyme disease and RMSF- deaf upon arrival but appears to be getting his hearing back, Ginny (Setter-IL) Ehrlichia and RMSF, Zoey (Chihuahua) Lyme disease and RMSF, Mildred (Setter- IL) Lyme disease, RMSF, mammary cancer, Bob White (Pointer-KY) Lyme disease, Amaryllis (Pointer- KY) Lyme disease and RMSF, Narcissus (Pointer) Lyme disease and RMSF, Emerald (Pointer mix) Lyme disease @ 5 months old- bladder infections, Scarlett (Pointer mix pup) Lyme disease @ 5 months old- bladder infections, Winchester (Setter mix) RMSF.

  • Nursing mothers diagnosed with TBI's: 1

  • Mandilyn (Pointer-IL)/Lyme disease diagnosis FINALLY after 15 months of testing. Mandi is currently in hospice care due to recurrent mast cell cancer on her left rear leg :O(. Daughter Perwinkle also has Lyme disease & RMSF. Bailey (Pointer- TX) Lyme disease and RMSF, Bronson (her son) Lyme disease at 4 months old- recurrent bladder infections.

  • Dogs & puppies previously adopted and diagnosed and undergoing treatment now for tick borne illnesses (new catagory): Mullberry (Setter- WI) RMSF, Chip (Setter mix- OH) Lyme disease, Addison (Irish Setter) Lyme disease and RMSF- Rage issues, Willoughby (Pointer) Lyme disease, RMSF, Anal Sac Adenocarcinoma (aggressive cancer) :O(,

  • Dogs or puppies diagnosed and undergoing treatment now after consulting with IBR about our TBI research (based on dog's behavior, tick bite and stray history): 2

  • Violet (English Setter- KS)/RMSF, Sam (Springer Spaniel- NE)/ 1st test- RMSF, 2nd test- Ehrlichia, Lyme disease & RMSF. Kip (Lab mix) Lyme disease and RMSF. Kip's owner was also diagnosed with Lyme disease. Freya (Weimaraner) Lyme disease- needed emergency spleenectomy, Chloie (Irish Setter) Lyme disease and RMSF- nearly died in 2009. Is currently blind. Millie (Springer Spaniel) Lyme disease, food allergies and aggression,

    Class of 2011

    Based on Most Recent Testing

    Please click on the dog's picture to see their original petfinder listing.


  • Dog's name: Gina
  • Breed: Pointer
  • State of origin: Centralia, IL
  • Diagnosed illness: Babesia and Lyme disease
  • Test/tests used and results: April 2011/ Antech SA330- Lyme disease 1:64, June 2011/ Texas A & M- Babesia 1:32, Lyme below 1:60. HIGH Monocytes could be a marker for Babesia. LABS
  • Approximate age of diagnosis: 1-2 years
  • Any notable behavior issues: Lethargic.
  • Treatment: Doxycycline and Ceftin started for Lyme- consulting with vet about Babesia treatment.
  • Adoption status: Adoptinon Pending!



  • Dog's name: Ginny
  • Breed: English Setter
  • State of origin: Peoria, IL
  • Diagnosed illness: Ehrlichia and RMSF
  • Test/tests used and results: April 2011/ IDEXX 371- RMSF 1:200, June 2011/ IDEXX 371 Ehrlichia 1:25, RMSF NEG. LABS
  • Approximate age of diagnosis: 3 years
  • Any notable behavior issues: Scatterbrained- no focus.
  • Treatment: Doxycycline - MIN 4 months, adding Baytril for 2 weeks- June.
  • Adoption status: Adoption Pending!



  • Dog's name: Larkin
  • Breed: English Setter
  • State of origin: Russellville, KY
  • Diagnosed illness: Lyme disease
  • Test/tests used and results: March 2011/ Antech SA330 Lyme disease.
  • Approximate age of diagnosis: 8 years
  • Any notable behavior issues: Blind in right eye/ rage fear aggression.
  • Adoption status: Undergoing antibiotic treatment- but hopeful.



  • Dog's name: Rex Harrison
  • Breed: Pointer
  • State of origin: Rennselaer, IN
  • Diagnosed illness: Lyme disease.
  • Test/tests used and results: February 2011/ IDEXX 371 Lyme Disease 1:100 (after 3 weeks doxy started) LABS
  • Approximate age of diagnosis: 4.5 year
  • Any notable behavior issues: Scatterbrained a little OCD.
  • Treatment: Doxycycline and Ceftin
  • Adoption status: ADOPTED!



  • Dog's name: Mocha
  • Breed: Pointer
  • State of origin: Tennessee
  • Diagnosed illness: Heartworm disease, Lyme disease.
  • Test/tests used and results: February 2011 IDEXX 371 Lyme disease 1:100. LABS
  • Approximate age of diagnosis: 4 years
  • Any notable behavior issues: Lethargic and fearful upon arrival Once doxy started Mocha's energy level increased and her personality started to come out
  • Treatment: Doxycycline pre-treatment for heartworm disease, Immiticide treatment, start Ceftin and Denamarin post treatment. Switch to Tetracycline after 3 months.
  • ADOPTED!



  • Dog's name: Lady Amethyst
  • Breed: Pointer
  • State of origin: Bowling Green, KY- Started Doxycycline 2-5-11
  • Diagnosed illness: Lyme disease.
  • Test/tests used and results: January/ 4DX Snap test- Neg, February 2011 IDEXX 371- NEG, March 2011/Repeat IDEXX 371 (after 3 weeks on doxy) POSITIVE Lyme disease- 1:100 LABS
  • Approximate age of diagnosis: 7-8 months.
  • Any notable behavior issues: Amethyst was turned into the shelter because she "would not hunt". She is a timid little Pointer that is slowly coming out of her shell in foster care. She slept A LOT when we started her on the doxycycline.
  • Adoption status: Adopted!



  • Dog's name: Amber
  • Breed: English Setter
  • State of origin: Vandalia, IL
  • Diagnosed illness: RMSF
  • Test/tests used and results: Antech SA330 HIGH 1:256. LABS
  • Approximate age of diagnosis: 8 years
  • Any notable behavior issues: While Amber is not blind--she is visually impaired most likely from the Anterior Uveitis the RMSF caused. We are hopeful that with continued treatment her vision may improve.
  • Adoption status: Adoptable.



  • Dog's name: Roxy Ratatouille
  • Breed: Chihuahua
  • State of origin: Quincy, IL
  • Diagnosed illness: Lyme disease.
  • Test/tests used and results: January 2011/IDEXX 371- Lyme disease 1:400. LABS
  • Approximate age of diagnosis: 10-12 years
  • Any notable behavior issues: Roxy came into the rescue in terrible shape. She was blind in one eye, was missing teeth, she had a bladder infection, 2 mast cells tumors and her skin and coat were infected. She was also malnourished. Once we had the Lyme diagnosis and started her on the correct medication, Roxy's health improved dramatically.
  • Adoption status: ADOPTED!



  • Dog's name: Loren
  • Breed: Pointer
  • State of origin: Russellville, KY
  • Diagnosed illness: Heartworm disease, Lyme disease and RMSF.
  • Test/tests used and results: January 2011/ IDEXX 371- Lyme disease 1:200, RMSF 1:100. LABS
  • Approximate age of diagnosis: 4-6 years
  • Any notable behavior issues: Lethargic upon arrival complicated by Kennel Cough. Once doxycycline treatment started Loren started to feel better. Immiticide heartworm treatment was in late February.
  • Adoption status: Adoptable in May 2011.



  • Dog's name: Wetherby
  • Breed: English Setter
  • State of origin: Freeport, IL
  • Diagnosed illness: Ehrlichia and RMSF.
  • Test/tests used and results: January 2011/ IDEXX 371- Ehrlichia 1:25, RMSF 1:25. LABS
  • Approximate age of diagnosis: 4-6 years
  • Any notable behavior issues: Wetherby had a few bite wounds on his head--so he was attacked prior to our bringing him into the program.
  • Adoption status: Adopted/ February 2011.



  • Dog's name: Cherise
  • Breed: English Setter
  • State of origin: Quincy, IL
  • Diagnosed illness: Lyme disease- mammary cancer.
  • Test/tests used and results: January 2011/ IDEXX 371- Lyme disease 1:100. LABS
  • Approximate age of diagnosis: 7-8 years
  • Any notable behavior issues: Cher had some vision problems and her eyes were slightly cloudy upon arrival. She also had a bit of fear aggression that has since gone away when we started to treat her Lyme disease.
  • Adoption status: Cher was put to sleep when it was discovered that her cancer had metasticized to her lungs. We were devastated by her loss.



  • Dog's name: Barbi Q.
  • Breed: Pointer
  • State of origin: Fairfield, IL
  • Diagnosed illness: Lyme disease and RMSF. Shattered leg due to being shot in the leg.
  • Test/tests used and results: January 2011/ IDEXX 371- Lyme disease 1:100, RMSF 1:200.. LABS
  • Approximate age of diagnosis: 2 years
  • Any notable behavior issues: Barbi had suffered the worst from the hand of an unkind person. She was a little fearful but is just so sweet in person. We are hopeful we can kick both diseases out of her. So far so good- she is such a player!!
  • Adoption status: Adoptable



  • Dog's name: Sugarland.
  • Breed: Pointer
  • State of origin: Hopkinsville, KY.
  • Diagnosed illness: Lyme disease and RMSF. Deaf and some vision problems.
  • Test/tests used and results: January 2011/ Antech SA330 NEG, February 2011/ IDEXX 371 Lyme disease 1:100, RMSF 1:25. LABS
  • Approximate age of diagnosis: 3-5 years
  • Any notable behavior issues: Considering her handicaps--Sugarland is one of the sweetest dogs we have ever brought into the rescue. She LOVES other dogs and is very playful!
  • ADOPTED!

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