Luna's Story

Sunset's Lunar Eclipse

  • Sire: Lobuff Sirius Black at Chucklebrook 
  • Dam: Sunset's Summer Sequoia 
  • May 23, 2008 - December 23, 2011
Sunset's Summer Sequoia's lovely litter of 9 puppies arrived on May 23, 2008.  When the puppies were 8 weeks old, I selected one of the black girls to be the newest member of my canine family.  Sunset's Lunar Eclipse grew up to be everything I wanted in a Labrador retriever- beautiful, smart, affectionate, easy to train, and a joy to to live with.  She loved to retrieve balls, run a Rally Obedience course, and cuddle as often as possible. 

I was delighted when Luna obtained PennHip, OFA hips, elbows, cardiac, eye, and EIC health clearances.  The next step was to find a stud dog that would be a good match for her.  I was looking for a good-natured, mellow to moderately active male with a classic Labrador temperament and correct conformation.  I found a lovely chocolate male at Sky Farm Labradors.  
Before she was bred, I had a complete physical exam done that included some blood work to make sure she was healthy.  On April 24, 2011, Luna whelped a beautiful litter sired by CH. Venetian's Copy That.  She was a devoted mother to her 8 puppies.  Luna and all her puppies were strong and healthy throughout the next 2 months.  I wanted to keep a black female, but the pick female was a chocolate girl.  So, Sunset's Dark Sienna joined my canine family.  

Luna and Lyme Nephritis
Luna tested Lyme-positive when she was one years old, but she didn't have any symptoms of the disease.  At that time, asymptomatic dogs were not treated.  Many dogs that are Lyme-positive never develop Lyme disease.  Based on the recommendations of her veterinarian, I continued to vaccinate Luna against Lyme disease.  She received a Lyme booster August 2011. Luna seemed to be a happy, healthy girl until the fall of 2011.

When her puppy Sienna was about 6 months old, another breeder and dear friend expressed concerns about Luna's Lyme-positive status.  My friend had been gathering information on Lyme disease and Lyme nephritis for several months.  She had heard about several bitches that had died from Lyme nephritis a few months after whelping a litter.  I made an appointment with my veterinarian to discuss Lyme disease and Luna's risks if I decided to breed her again.  Luna was happy, active, and alert.  She seemed healthy and full of life.  We came up with a plan to  guard against an active infection if I decided to breed her again.  It didn't occur to me or the veterinarian that Luna was already suffering from the early stage of Lyme nephritis.  

A month later, I was preparing to enroll Luna in a beginner level agility class.  The instructor required kennel cough immunization.  During the appointment, I mentioned that she was eating a little slower than normal, about 30 seconds longer.  The veterinarian did a physical exam and found no abnormalities.  No blood work was done.  A week later, she was still eating a little slower than normal.  In every other way, her activity level and behavior seemed normal.  I thought I was probably overreacting when I took her back to the veterinarian.  Outwardly, she didn't seem to be sick.  She was still running around the dog yard, and chasing balls.  At this appointment, the veterinarian did a physical exam and some 
blood work.  The laboratory results were shocking.  For several minutes, it was an effort for me to just take a breath.  Her kidney function test results were critically high, she was anemic, and her platelet count was critically low.  Additional testing was done to determine the cause of her illness.  Both Lyme disease and Leptospirosis were possibilities.  Initially, Lyme nephritis was not on the top of the list because Luna didn't seem sick.  Due to her low platelet count, the veterinarian could not do a renal biopsy.  Luna was treated aggressively, with IV fluid therapy, antibiotics, and number of other medications for several weeks.  Soon, Lyme nephritis became the most probably diagnosis.  Sadly, Luna did not respond to the treatment and her condition worsened quickly.  I made the decision to end her suffering on December 23, 2011.  

The renal biopsy confirmed the diagnosis of Lyme nephritis.  
I don't know if her pregnancy and/or the recent Lyme vaccination contributed to her death.  
Future veterinary studies may provide additional insights into this complex disease process and the immune response to vaccinations. Hopefully a
 more effective treatment protocol will be available if I have to travel down this very rough road again.  

I treasure all the wonderful memories I have of my beautiful sweet Luna during her short time with me.  She 
is gone but not forgotten, and a little bit of her lives on in her beautiful puppies.  In many ways, Luna's lovely daughter Sienna reminds me of her.  

Canine Lyme Disease
Lyme Disease is caused by Borrelia burgdorferi.  This spiral-shaped bacteria can not survive outside a host.  It is transmitted by ticks, primarily the deer tick.  The primary reservoir of B. burgdorferi is the white-footed mouse.  The larval tick feeds on the mouse.  A mouse infected with B. burgdorferi passes the bacteria to the tick.  The lymph and adult tick feeds on mammals, especially the white-tailed deer.  The tick remains attached for 24 to 48 hours before transmitting the bacteria to either a dog or other mammal hosts.  
This organism is very clever: it can change shape, alter surface proteins, and hide in a dormant phase for years.  

Most cases of Lyme disease in this country are in the Northeast and North Central states.  Most Lyme-positive dogs do not develop symptoms and never get sick.  Others are not as lucky.

Lyme arthritis in dogs is associated with lameness and fever.  The current treatment recommendation is a 30-day course of doxycycline.  Most dogs with Lyme arthritis respond quickly to antibiotic therapy, but now, some scientists/veterinarians think it is unlikely that the bacteria is eradicated.  A latent, inactive infection can develop.  Some dogs remain asymptomatic.  Unfortunately, other Lyme-positive dogs suffer from chronic inflammation that can damage the kidneys, heart or the nervous system.  

Lyme nephritis is a very serious form of the disease. Labrador and Golden Retrievers are at a higher risk for Lyme nephritis.  Young dogs are more severely affected than older dogs.  The immune system of the infected dog produces large amounts of antibodies that are not effective in destroying the bacteria.  Unfortunately, the large antibody complexes that form become trapped in the kidney, resulting in immune complex glomerulonephritis.  Kidney function is slowly destroyed, and most dogs do not recover.  The Lyme vaccine is derived from the bacteria, and it contains proteins found on the surface of the bacteria.  It is possible that the damaging immune response can be triggered by the proteins in the Lyme vaccine with or without the presence of the Lyme bacteria. 

My Protection and Prevention Plan
 I plan to continue doing as much as possible to reduce the risk of Lyme disease in my canine companions.
  • Vaccination against B. burgdorferi is controversial, especially for Lyme-positive dogs.  For now, I plan to vaccinate my young dogs that have not been exposed to the bacteria twice a year, in the spring and fall.  A new vaccine includes 2 surface protein found on B. burgdorferi, Osp A and Osp C.  Hopefully this updated formula will provide more effective immunity.  
  • My dogs are tested for Lyme disease once a year. 
  • Bravecto, a chewable tablet, provides protection against fleas and ticks for up to 12 weeks. 
  • Ticks are attached for 24 to 48 hours before that bacteria is transmitted to the dog, so it is important to check for ticks daily.  There is evidence that a single dose of doxycycline can prevent the transmission of the organism if given immediately after the removal of a recently attached tick, so I have doxycycline on hand.
  • There are several ways to reduce the environmental risks.  I have a fenced-in area for my dogs that I mow regularly.  I also keep a 4-foot area outside the dog fence mowed and cleared of bushes. Ticks are found in higher numbers in areas with tall grasses and low bushes.  Trimming the lower branches of trees so more sunlight reaches the ground also helps control the tick population.  After several years of these practice, I have noted a significant reduction in the number of ticks I remove from my dogs.  In addition, I plan to start spraying the area around my dog yard with a safe insecticide formulated to eliminate ticks.
  • Controlling the mouse population is a priority since they are a reservoir of the bacteria.