Email Lisa if you have a tick borne disease testimonial you'ld like to share.
My name is Lisa Spakowski and I am the Founder & President of Illinois Birddog Rescue. I've had Lyme disease for almost 14 years- was infected after a tick attached to my back after a walk in the woods after an agility event on Purina Farms in St. Louis, MO in 1999. For 5 weeks after I pulled the attached tick off my back, I suffered with a migraine headache that would not subsideó24/7 it was endless. I never looked at my back during those weeks to see if I had the classic Lyme disease Bullís-eye rash- but I was suffering. I finally found an old script for doxycycline that I had used for years of acne and OMG- once I started that the headaches stopped. Being rather concerned that I was infected with a tick borne disease, I convinced a doctor who was part of my HMO to test me. The test came back BORDERLINE for Lyme disease = to 1:64. This doctor said I didn't have Lyme and sent me on my way. At the same time, my 6 year old dog Nasa was also found to have a tick on her but I have a feeling she had already been infected from an infection a year previous and died suddenly having bled out at the doggie ER. Her death took a terrible toll on me and thank goodness I had my Pointer Westleigh to keep me going as the depression and sadness was unbearable.
The months that followed I started to have tingling down my arms and at about the 11 month mark I could barely walk due to the joint pain in my lower back, hips down to my heels. I knew I was in trouble as I was only 33 years old. I did a lot of research and finally convinced my Chiropractor (who does muscle testing) to test me with his Lyme sample and I became weak the second he tested me. Dr. Carl had been treating me for my joint pains, asthma and food allergies, irritable bowel up to that point and had heard about a Lyme literate MD in Elgin that listened to all my symptoms and retested me. As I was symptomatic she sent me home with a few samples of Ceftin (Cefuroxime) and stated that if I felt better then we know because no test is fool proof for Lyme. IT WAS LIKE A MIRACLE when I started on the Ceftin- most of my symptoms went away and for a while we both thought I was cured. Maybe I was- but I do rescue hunting dogs and do run them in tick infested areas. I know better now that a year of untreated Lyme disease- I am incurable.
In 2006, I started to notice dogs that were negative on the IDEXX 4DX Snap test (most common annual heartworm test) were positive on the additional IDEXX 371 tick panel. This started to happen a lot. I also noticed that dogs that were tested negative with the IDEXX Lyme Quant C6 and 4DX Snap test were also positive on the 371 Dr. Hanover was using. We also noticed a lot of positive dogs with Antech's SA330 or the 371 that were negative with PCR/DNA testing while these dogs were symptomatic. I am not a genius- but being an artist I tend to be more observant than most and started to wonder why there were all these discrepancies in these tests.
The following years we tested and retested several dogs with chronic health issues and behavior problems and saw titers rise and fall - go negative only to see titers rise again. THEN- Lani came to me. Lani was a Lemon and White Pointer that came in from a high kill shelter in Henderson, KY- near the IL/KY border. Lani had OCD fence jumping issues, destruction of anything that contained foam (including several couches) could not be confined to a cage due to his separation anxiety and some aggression. He is the Pointer that helped me understand the most the link between tick borne disease and how it can supress a dog's natural instincts and in our pure bred birddogs- ability to scent point birds. Lani had been tested via MSU's tick panel upon arrival but their starting titers for infection were too high and he might have been recently infected. After 3 years in the program and going through 6 foster homes he came to me as a last resort and I did an IDEXX 371 on Lani and found his Lyme and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. After being tested on pheasant with ZERO instincts, a month on doxycycline-- he started to point tweeties in my yard. HOLY BIRDDOG BATMAN- we have discovered something very significant here. Since that day- we have tested hundreds of homeless hunters with no natural instincts- treated them for their low titers of infection and many have been adopted by pet/adoptive homes. I put a hunting title on Lani a few years later. I have no doubt Lani was infected from birth as his titers were never high and he is stuck at what most IDEXX and Veterinary Schools teach as "Exposure Titers". There is no such thing- any titer is cause for concern especially since mine was at 1:64 and I was so sick.
The one issue that I am confident in saying after several relapses in my own health and in my own foster dogs is that in most cases- if not caught early, Lyme disease is not curable. It can be managed and can cause a myriad of symptoms besides joint painóespecially in infected pets that canít tell you how they are feeling. The other thing I can state very confidently is that it is easier to test pets and get somewhat of an accurate reading for tick borne disease if you know what test to do and itís a heck-of-a lot easier to test our pets than humans if you have an open- minded vet and if they are not willing to treat -- to buy your own meds on the internet. Hunters routinely treat their own dogs having been frustrated with the lack of support from their own vets. The other thing I can safely state is that you can ask 10 different vets about tick borne disease and you will get 10 different answers the most ridiculous that Lyme disease is only on the East Coast and is not an issue in Illinois, Wisconsin or Ohio.
In the spring of 2012, my 15 year old tabby cat died from pneumonia complications at 15 years old. The vet we used for the rescue at the time of his illness- tested him with the IDEXX 371 and examined him but never returned my calls after the test came back positive for Lyme disease at a low titer of 1:100 when he started to go down hill. Indiana cat had struggled 2 years before with a similar health crisis and Azithromax helped him recover. Azithromax is a common drug used to treat Cat Scratch Fever (from fleas and ticks). Finally when Indiana started to have a seizure- he went to the same vet that put him on fluids and steriods. He was dead in less than 24 hours later. I told this same vet pred can compromise Lyme disease -- have seen other pets crash as it a drug that can suppress the immune system. My poor sweet cat- died alone drowning in his own fluids. I can't believe we were testing dog after dog and never thought to test my own cat...the guilt sometimes keeps me up at night. Sadly I had to continue using this vet because we had a lot of sick animals coming in and needed their discount. The following week we found Babesia, Ehrlichia, Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever in Fitwilliam- an ornery sickly young English Setter that came in from Virginia. Fitwillam is the Setter featured Tick Panels for Dummies
Currently my kitten Nathaniel that I saved with 2 broken legs 1/2 a mile from my home in the suburb of Wood Dale, Il (suburb 20 miles west of Chicago) on 2nd testing is fighting Ehrlichia and Lyme disease. My nearly 14 year old Setter- Thelmalou is fighting chronic Rocky Mountain spotted fever from a tick bite she got in the woods in February 2009. My guess is she also has Lyme disease and like me can't generate a titer higher then the testing which starts at 1:100. When she got infected, it was 30 degrees- never thought ticks would be out that soon and at the temp. I also has a suspiscious fever and chills and a few weeks later felt that terrible joint pain again in my hips and lower back. My guess is I was also infected with RMSF as I got better again once I started back on doxycycline. I advocate for my own pets for good reason and I will fight as hard for their lives as I do everyday for all the pets we bring into the IBR program. We share what we have learned for good reason. To date we are nearly 95% positive for tick borne disease in our rescue dog population and 100% in all the cats and kittens we have tested including 4 of the volunteer's cats.
This page is dedicated to those individuals that didn't take their vet's advice at face value and sought answers to help their pets get better after suffering terrible tragedies or near tragedies of their own. Many are good friends and the best foster homes I could have asked for. TRUST your instincts- they are almost always right. Glad I did- but sadly in Indiana's case- too late and for that I will always have regrets.