A rugged rascal since puppyhood, Cowboy had weathered many scuffs, but in spring 2012 his owner, Jay Phillips, noticed something very wrong. Though he had been fine the previous day, suddenly the Boston terrier was reluctant to move or eat and began crying late one night. He seemed limp and in the morning he was paralyzed from the neck down.
"It was terrifying," said Phillips. "I raced him to Cornell University Hospital for Animals and they took samples for a bunch of tests."
The doctors suspected Lyme disease, and proteinuria and hypoalbuminemia seen on blood work raised concern about the possibility of Lyme nephritis, a condition in which Lyme disease attacks the kidneys.
"Test results told us that Cowboy's kidneys were being damaged at two different locations, both at the glomerulus (or filtering apparatus) and the renal tubules (concentrating apparatus)," said Dr. Catherine Cortright, who oversaw the case. "The glomerular damage was causing protein to leak into Cowboy's urine. The tubular damage resulted in glucose remaining in the urine rather than being pumped back into the body and saved. It caused cells to be sloughed into the renal tubules and appear in the urine."
Testing at the Animal Health Diagnostic Center revealed that Cowboy had chronic Lyme disease and was experiencing an acute flare up. Lyme disease can present two different clinical scenarios: an acute infection, or chronic disease. The acute form usually attacks the joints, causing an intermittent lameness that may move from one joint to another. The more chronic disease is the result of antibodies against the bacteria building up in the blood and blocking the filters of the kidney, causing extensive kidney damage that can be fatal.