Lyme Disease

Lyme disease is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi and is transmitted to humans by the bite of infected blacklegged ticks or deer tick (Ixodes scapularis). Other tick species found in the United States have not been shown to transmit Borrelia burgdorferi. The ticks that transmit Lyme disease can occasionally transmit other tick-borne diseases as well. Typical signs include fever, headache, fatigue, and a characteristic skin rash called erythema migrans. If left untreated, infection can spread to joints, the heart, and the nervous system. Lyme disease is diagnosed based on symptoms, physical findings (e.g., rash), and the possibility of exposure to infected ticks. Laboratory testing is helpful in the later stages of disease. Most cases of Lyme disease can be treated successfully with a few weeks of antibiotics. Steps to prevent Lyme disease include using insect repellent, removing ticks promptly, landscaping, and integrated pest management. Most cases of human illness occur in the late spring and summer when the tiny nymphs are most active and human outdoor activity is greatest. Although adult ticks often feed on deer, these animals do not become infected. Deer are nevertheless important in transporting ticks and maintaining tick populations.

Source: CDC/ Dr. Gary Alpert - Urban Pests - Integrated Pest Management (IPM)

Blacklegged ticks live for two years and have three feeding stages: larvae, nymph, and adult. When a young tick feeds on an infected animal, the tick takes the bacterium into its body along with the blood meal. The bacterium then lives in the gut of the tick. If the tick feeds again, it can transmit the bacterium to its new host. Usually the new host is another small rodent, but sometimes the new host is a human. The transmission of the bacteria requires 1 to 2 days of tick attachment, during which time organisms multiply, spread to the salivary glands, and infect the host through tick saliva. Later the bacteria colonize many tissues, including the joints and liver. Although dogs and cats can get Lyme disease, there is no evidence that they spread the disease directly to their owners. However, pets can bring infected ticks into your home or yard. Consider protecting your pet, and possibly yourself, through the use of tick control products for animals.

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In dogs exposed to Lyme disease, 95% do not have symptoms.2 In cases of acute systemic illness, dogs may develop fever, shifting leg lameness, joint and lymph node swelling, and lethargy. Lameness in a particular leg may last for a few days and then shift to another limb and then disappear. Polyarthritis is the most common consequence of the Borrelia burgdorferi infection. 1 A vaccine for Lyme disease in dogs is available. It does not protect against other tickborne diseases such as Rocky Mountain spotted fever, ehrlichiosis, anaplasmosis, or babesiosis Therefore, preventive measures against tick bites are still necessary. 2 Because an enhanced benefit is possible in animals immunized before exposure, some recommend administration of the vaccines before exposure occurs. In this scenario, puppies initially would be vaccinated at 9 or 12 weeks of age with a 2nd dose administered 2-4 weeks later, followed by annual boosters, preferably in the spring before tick exposure. Duration of immunity against Bb is short, and annual boosters would be needed.3

he term "Lyme nephritis" was introduced to describe a kidney disease with specific kidney damage including immune-mediated glomerulonephritis, tubular necrosis and interstitial nephritis in dogs in which antibodies against B. burgdorferi were detected.4,5


  1. C. Greene. Infectious Diseases Of The Dog And Cat.
  2. Lyme Disease
  3. ACVIM Small Animal Consensus Statement on Lyme Disease in Dogs: Diagnosis, Treatment, and Prevention
  4. Antibodies to Borrelia burgdorferi OspA, OspC, OspF, and C6 Antigens as Markers for Early and Late Infection in Dogs Bettina Wagner,corresponding authora,b Heather Freer,a,b Alicia Rollins,a,b David Garcia-Tapia,c Hollis N. Erb,a Christopher Earnhart,d Richard Marconi,d and Patrick Meeusc. Clin Vaccine Immunol. 2012 Apr; 19(4): 527–535. doi: 10.1128/CVI.05653-11
  5. Comparison of effectiveness of cefovecin, doxycycline, and amoxicillin for the treatment of experimentally induced early Lyme borreliosis in dogs Bettina Wagner, John Johnson, David Garcia-Tapia, Nicole Honsberger, Vickie King, Catherine Strietzel, John M. Hardham, Thomas J. Heinz, Richard T. Marconi, and Patrick F. M. Meeuscorresponding author. BMC Vet Res. 2015; 11: 163.



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