Tick-borne disease testing helps pets, practice thrive


Testing, treatment, and public health all play a part.

Ticks have been sucking dogs' blood and infecting them with diseases for a long time. But you can use the latest tests, treatments, and preventives to stay ahead of the eight-legged onslaught, helping dogs and your bottom line.

Dr. Matt Eberts, working in tick-endemic Minnesota at his Lakeland Veterinary Hospital in Baxter, says one of the biggest boons in the fight against Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses has been in-clinic testing. "We used to have to do two different blood tests to detect Lyme disease, and they had to be sent to an outside lab for a few days," Dr. Eberts says. "That was about $50 to $60 per test for me, and $100 for the client."

Dr. Eberts now relies on a single test that detects Lyme disease, anaplasmosis, and ehrlichiosis, as well as heartworm infection. The test can be performed in less than 10 minutes right in the clinic, and Dr. Eberts recommends that all dogs be tested annually as part of general-wellness screening. His clients aren't balking at the new charge of $40 to $50; he has 70 percent compliance with the new test.

Faster results and a lower client cost also lead to more diagnostic testing. "Once we get a positive result, we know there has been some exposure and this warrants further testing to see if the dog has an active infection," says Dr. Eberts.

Even if a dog tests negative for tick-borne disease, Dr. Eberts still recommends year-round tick control. "Dogs may not develop a strong immunity," he says. "They can get anaplasmosis this year, and they can be back with it next year."

The bedrock of the whole plan is the hospital team. Dr. Eberts went over the new test with every team member so they could answer clients' questions.

"I also had the staff test their own animals," he says. "They were all on board after that."

And finally, Dr. Eberts reminds clients how important tick control and disease prevention is for them as well. "We're part of our clients' healthcare team, too," Dr. Eberts says. "And it really bonds pet owners to my practice when they know I'm looking out for them."

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