Lyme Disease

Causative Agent: This disease is caused by the spirochete Borrelia burgdorferi. Spirochetes are very small microorganisms that are free-living in the environment. Lyme disease can occur in dogs, cats, horses, wild animals, and humans.

Clinical Signs: This organism causes a fever, decreased appetite, and arthritis. The arthritis is often associated with the joints of the front limbs, and commonly causes swelling, heat, and pain in these areas. Problems with the kidneys, heart, and nervous system have also been reported.

Disease Transmission: Lyme disease is spread by one genus of tick, Ixodes. Borrelia burgdorferi lives in the tick and is transmitted to mammals when the tick takes its blood meal. Infections are most common in the summer and fall when tick activity is highest.

Diagnosis: The organism can be detected by performing serology testing on a blood sample collected by a veterinarian.

Treatment: Infected dogs can be treated for 21-28 days with antibiotics (tetracycline, amoxicillin, or ampicillin at standard doses). Supportive care involving pain relievers, rest, and fluids may also be required, depending on the severity of the disease.

Prevention: There are many vaccines available for the prevention of Lyme disease. See Section C for specific recommendations. A local veterinarian may be the most useful source of information on prevention, as this disease tends to vary in its geographical distribution.

Because the organism is not transmitted immediately when the tick attaches, daily tick removal is very beneficial. Routine treatments with baths, dips, and topical anti-tick products are also very helpful.

Routine vaccination is one of the best ways to prevent Lyme disease.