We recently had a very strange event which I think we should share around the rescue community: A young (~2 years) M Lab-mix, came into our program with a 'questionable' background; may have been aggressive to-ward some children; then again, maybe not. We kept him for a long while - months of fostering in our premier foster-home, no problems; placed him carefully, with a single middle-aged man who adored him. We also, as we do all our dogs, tested him for Lyme. He had it; we treated it; case closed -- we thought.
Everything went very well after adoption - the star of his obedience-class, frequent alum-visits to clinics for over a year. And truly adored by his adopter. Then, over 12-mos post-adopt, Mojo became suddenly, erratic-ally, and seriously aggressive: literally attacked visitors to his home, people in the vet's waiting room, etc. Terrifying. Very-sudden. Totally inexplicable. He was returned to us with genuine heartbreak from a very loving adopter. Mojo then went to our regular vet and was a totally different dog: bared teeth and growls at anyone who approached his kennel, lunged at other dogs when being walked, etc. We figured that whatever was happening with him, he had become unplaceable and started a TDC (Tough Decisions Committee - something we 'convene' that is open to anyone with an interest in the dog when we think that euthanasia might be an option). However, someone at the vet's office said that perhaps we should test him for Lyme. Huh???????? They had had a regular client of theirs come in recently with similar, out-of-the blue aggro, and it turned out that Lyme was the problem - puzzled them, but seemed to be the case. Okay -- hey, we'll try anything -- so we had him tested. He was high positive!
Fine, we started treatment while we continued to figure out what to do with him via the TDC. Almost immedi-ately, however, once the antibiotics began, the Mojo we knew came back!! He was himself again - bouncy, happy, a bit neurotic, but not at *all* aggressive! The staff at the vets was amazed, but all confirmed this change. We didn't believe it; vets didn't believe it... BUT a thorough search of the Internet turned up a number of studies (plus) anecdotal-observati ons indicating that in some dogs (and some humans!!) the primary-symptom of their Lyme Disease can be sudden, irrational and serious aggression.
We've known for a while to check thyroid-levels of dogs that show aggro that just 'doesn't fit'. Now, we've added testing for Lyme as well. And we have - results not yet in - another dog, placed 12-mos-plus, returned because of out-of-the-blue aggro... he also tested high-positive for Lyme! We've started treatment; we'll be monitoring his response. So - plug this in to your protocols; worth checking-out. I spent the day today with Mojo... he truly is just the same dog we placed over a year ago. (We've let his original adopter know - because he vowed that it had to be *something* causing this behavior. But he cannot take Mojo back because his roommate, one of the people attacked, won't even consider it. For the record, there were no skin-breaking contacts in any of these attacks, but plenty of fear and we consider them as serious as if they were full-fledged bites.)
We actually have additional insight into this because one of our volunteers (human) has had Lyme Disease. Took many months for her to be diagnosed; once she was, she learned it's a VERY nasty bug that remains permanently, waiting for a chance to 'crop up' again. When we place Mojo again (TDC unanimously agrees we should), we're going to explain the background, these amazing events, and require the adopters test every 6 mos, whether or not he's symptomatic. We have no idea whether that will work or be sufficient - we're rather flying blind in this - but it seems rational. But based on what we know now, it's a real possibility: Lyme can*, in a few rare-cases, cause aggression-aggression that can be reversed.
Story from my DH List