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Can Lyme Disease in Dogs Spread to People ?

Can Lyme Disease in Dogs Spread to People?

Warning-over-lyme-disease-threat-as-plague-of-ticks-expected-to-swarm-into-Britain-this-summerAccording to the Centre for Disease Control (CDC), the incidence of Lyme disease in humans is much higher than in previous years.  The veterinarians at Peterborough West Animal Hospital want to make sure you understand Lyme disease and how it is spread not only to your dog, but to humans as well.

 

What is Lyme disease?

First described in 1975 the disease was first identified in Lyme, CT which gave it its name.  The disease is caused by a bacteria (spirochete) called Borellia burgdorferi which is transmitted by a tick bite.  The type of tick involved in the spread of the disease is called Ixodes spp (deer tick) which feeds on animals at all stages of its life (larvae, nymph, adult).

How does Lyme disease spread?
Immature ticks become infected when they feed on infected rodents.  The organism is then transmitted to a second host when the nymph or adult tick feeds.  Ixodes scapularis and Ixodes pacificus feed on deer.  Expanding ranges of deer herds have resulted in an increased distribution of infected ticks.

Subsequently, when the nymph or adult tick attaches to a new host and feeds, the infective organism is deposited at the site of attachment over a period of 36-48 hours.  The organism thus infects the new host be it a dog or a human.

Even though the vector tick is called the deer tick, its feeding habits are not restricted to deer.  They also feed on dogs and so are frequently in close proximity to people who have dogs.  There is no evidence that Lyme disease can spread directly from dogs to humans.  However, the same type of tick that could infect a dog can also feed on people.  There is a potential for humans to be infected due to the fact that we tend to spend time in the same places as our dogs do.  If our dogs are picking up ticks, we certainly could be as well.

When are people likely to be affected by Lyme disease?
In a 2011 CDC study, it was determined that there is a definite association between the incidence of canine infections and human infections.  Here are some of the findings from that study:

  • “Human Lyme disease incidence was effectively zero when in areas where dogs tested positive less than 1.3% of the time.
  • “In areas where dogs tested positive for more than 5% of time, median annual human Lyme disease incidence is about 100-fold higher (24.1 cases/100,000 population) and positively correlated with canine positive tests.”

In other words, in places where Lyme is more common in dogs it’s also more common in people.

Dogs in endemic areas should be tested annually.  We are seeing more and more ticks in the area we live in, therefore the veterinarians at Peterborough West Animal Hospital are recommending the 4Dx test be done annually.  It not only tests for Lyme disease, but also tests for 2 other tick borne diseases as well as heartworm.  .A positive Lyme test demonstrates that vector ticks may be present and have the ability to transmit disease to humans.

Aggressive tick prevention and control should be practiced everywhere but particularly in areas where these diseases have been demonstrated to exist.  There is a vaccination for the prevention of Lyme disease and many experts recommend vaccination especially in Lyme endemic areas.  The vets at Peterborough West Animal Hospital will ask you some questions to determine if your pet should have the Lyme vaccine.  However if you are very concerned you may request the vaccine.

Symptoms of Lyme disease

According to the Mayo Clinic, clinical signs of Lyme disease in humans can differ drastically and tend to affect more than one body system: Click here for a list of symptoms.

How can I protect myself and my dog from Lyme disease?

  • In environments that support ticks, tick prevention is a must.  Ask the veterinarians at Peterborough Animal Hospital about both prevention and Lyme vaccination for your dog and remember to test each year.
  • Check yourself and your pets closely if there’s a chance that any of you may have been exposed to ticks.
  • For people, if a tick bites you see your physician right away. Early therapy does much to prevent clinical disease.

If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call Peterborough West Animal Hospital – we are your best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your pets.

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