- Overview & Vaccination
- Additional Resources
Lyme disease (or Lyme borreliosis) is caused by the Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria,1 and is transmitted via the bite of an infected black-legged tick.2 The disease takes its name from the town of Lyme, Connecticut; where an epidemic of arthritis occurred in the mid-1970’s.3
The Lyme vaccine is administered according to the following schedule:
|10 to 16 Weeks||Initial Lyme Vaccination|
|Two (2) to Three (3) Weeks Later||Lyme Vaccine Booster|
|Every Year Thereafter||Lyme Vaccine Booster|
The primary vector for Lyme disease is the blacklegged tick.45 In the United States, three closely-related species of ticks of the genus Ixodes are associated with the disease: Ixodes scapularis in the northeastern, midwestern, and southern states; and I. pacificus and I. neotamae in the western states.4 While both I. scapularis and I. pacificus are known to feed on dogs and humans,4 the primary host for I. neotamae is the dusky-footed woodrat (Neotoma fuscipes).67
Blacklegged Tick Life Cycle
Blacklegged ticks, commonly called “deer ticks”, have a two-year life cycle. Eggs are oviposited in the spring, and larvae emerge approximately one month later. Larvae feed once in the summer, usually on birds and small mammals, at which stage they are most likely to become infected with the Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria.
Larvae then over-winter, and in the following spring molt into nymphs, which then feed in late spring or early summer.
In the fall, nymphs molt into adults, which usually feed on larger mammals (often the white-tailed deer), on whose bodies they mate. Females die after laying their eggs, whereby the two-year cycle begins again.
Infected nymphs feeding on mice or larger mammals such as deer, dogs, or humans; and adult ticks, whose higher rate of infectivity may be due to their longevity and repeated exposure to infected mammals and birds, are considered the most likely source of infection for dogs and humans. An infected tick usually must be attached for at least 48 hours before transmission of disease-causing bacteria (spirochetes) can occur.489
(Adapted from Greene CE, Straubinger RK, Levy SA. Borreliosis. In: Greene CE, ed. Infectious Diseases of the Dog and Cat 4th ed. St. Louis, MO: Elsevier; 2012: 450-452.4
Lyme disease can cause transitory fever, anorexia (lack of appetite), and arthritis (painful and swollen joints) and generalized weakness or lethargy.10111213 In severe cases, kidney damage has been known to occur.141516 In most cases, symptoms take between two and six months following infection to manifest.41718192021222324
Testing for Lyme, as part of our in-house Laboratory service, indicates the presence of antibody to the Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria. While a positive Lyme test result may not indicate clinical illness,18 due to the high percentage of dogs testing positive for the Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria who remain asymptomatic, Lyme and other tickborne diseases present with similar symptoms, most commonly fever, anorexia, central nervous system signs, and lameness, and arthritis. For this reason, testing is recommended in dogs exhibiting symptoms frequently associated with such diseases, to rule out the possibility of a different, secondary, or mutual infection (co-infection).
Because of these factors, the test we utilize, in addition to testing for Lyme borreliosis, also tests for tickborne diseases anaplasmosis (Anaplasma phagocytophilum) and ehrlichiosis (Ehrlichia canis), while at the same time testing for Heartworm Disease (Dirofilaria immitis).25 Notably, this test has not been known to cross-react with antibody response to a Lyme vaccine,26 itself part of a comprehensive Lyme-prevention protocol (See: Prevention).
Additionally, while a Lyme positive test result may not appear until four (4) to six (6) weeks following a bite by an infected tick;27 because symptoms may take up to two (2) to six (6) months (eight (8) to 24 weeks) to develop, if you are concerned about your dog’s health following a potential tick bite or a tick infestation please call to schedule an Appointment so your veterinarian may determine which protocol is most appropriate for your dog.
In humans, Lyme disease is the most commonly reported vector-borne disease in the United States.28 In particular, studies done by the Connecticut Department of Public Health have shown that of any state, Connecticut (from where Lyme disease gets its name)2 has the highest number of reported Lyme disease cases in humans relative to its population.29
Ticks are thought to be the chief source of vector-borne diseases among animals in North America,30 yet while dogs testing positive for the Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria have been reported in all 50 states,31 only five percent (5%) of dogs infected with the bacteria (seropositivity) develop symptoms (clinical illness).11 Therefore, differentiation between seropositivity and clinical illness (Lyme disease) is necessary in interpreting these data accurately. It has been suggested that the disparity between percentage of incidence of seropositivity and the development of clinical illness may be due to exposure to an infectious but nonpathogenic strain of Borrelia burgdorferi, or infection with low numbers of B. burgdorferi organisms in a host with an efficient immune system.32
Lyme disease, like other tickborne diseases, such as anaplasmosis33 and ehrlichiosis,34 is treated with tetracycline antibiotics, typically doxycycline.35 Therapeutic protocols generally last one month, at which point a dog’s condition is re-evaluated.
Maintaining annual Lyme vaccinations along with a year-round tick preventative, such as an oral, topical, or impregnated collar acaricide (a pesticide that targets members of the taxon Acari, of which mites and ticks are included36) is highly recommended,3738 as, while highly effective in blocking transmission of the Lyme disease-causing bacteria,39 Lyme vaccines do not prevent other canine-acquired tickborne diseases;40 which inclde anaplasmosis, ehrlichiosis, and Rocky Mountain spotted fever (Rickettsia rickettsii), among others.41 (See: Disease Transmission in Flea & Tick Prevention for a comprehensive list of tickborne diseases).
Being in an area where the Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria is endemic (potential for contact with infected ticks is high), such a prevention protocol is highly recommended, not only for preventing Lyme disease, but other tickborne diseases as well.
See Flea & Tick Prevention for more information regarding year-round tick preventatives.
- Check your pet(s) for ticks daily, especially after they have spent time outdoors.
- If you find a tick on your pet, remove it right away. Ask us to show you the safest way to remove a tick without breaking off the head and leaving its mouthparts attached to your pet, as they can still transmit Lyme disease or cause a secondary infection.44
- Ask us to conduct a tick check during your Annual Wellness Visit.
- Ask us about the aforementioned tickborne diseases and their presence in our area.
- Talk with your veterinarian about using a tick preventative on your pet.
The Companion Animal Parasite Council, an independent council of veterinarians and other animal health care professionals creating guidelines for controlling internal and external parasites threatening the health of pets and people,45 presents information regarding Ticks on Dogs and Ticks on Cats, while IDEXX Laboratories, a global market leader in diagnostics and information technology solutions for animal health,46 also presents information regarding Dogs and Ticks.
- Greene CE, Straubinger RK, Levy SA. Borreliosis. In: Greene CE, ed. Infectious Diseases of the Dog and Cat 4th ed. St. Louis, MO: Elsevier; 2012: 441.
- DHP: A Brief History of Lyme Disease in Connecticut State of Connecticut: Department of Public Health. http://ct.gov/dph/cwp/view.asp?a=3136&q=388506. Updated August 13, 2013.
- Jaenson TGT. The epidemiology of Lyme borreliosis. Parasitol Today. 1991; 7: 39-45.
- Greene CE, Straubinger RK, Levy SA. Borreliosis. In: Greene CE, ed. Infectious Diseases of the Dog and Cat 4th ed. St. Louis, MO: Elsevier; 2012: 450-452.
- Lyme disease transmission. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/lyme/transmission/index.html. Updated March 4, 2015.
- Brown RN, Keirans JE, Lane RS. Ixodes (Ixodes) jellisoni and I. (I.) neotomae (Acari: Ixodidae): descriptions of the immature stages from California. J Med Entomol. May 1996; 33(3): 319-27.
- Brown RN, Lane RS. Lyme disease in California: a novel enzootic transmission cycle of Borrelia burgdorgeri. Science. 1992; 256: 1439-1442. doi:10.1126/science.1604318.
- Jacobson R. et al. The ability of fipronil to prevent transmission of Borrelia burgdorferi, the causative agent of Lyme disease to dogs. Int J Appl Res Vet M. 2004; 2(1): 39-45. http://jarvm.com/articles/Vol2Iss1/JACOBSON.htm.
- DeSilva AM, Telford SR, Brunet LR, et al. Borrelia burgdorferi OspA is an arthropod-specific transmission-blocking Lyme disease vaccine. J of Exp Med. 1996; 183: 271-275. http://ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC219239.
- Levy S.A., Dombach DM, Barthold SW, et al. Canine Lyme borreliosis. Comp Cont Edu Pract. 1993; 15(a): 833-846.
- Levy SA, Magnarelli LA. Relationship between development of antibodies to Borrelia burgdorferi in dogs and the subsequent development of limb/joint borreliosis. JAVMA-J Am Vet Med Assoc. 1992; 200: 344-347.
- Lissman BA, Bosler EM, Camay H, et al. Spirochete associated arthritis (Lyme disease) in a dog. JAVMA-J Am Vet Med Assoc. 1984; 185: 219-220.
- May C, Bennett D, Carter SD. Lyme disease in the dog. Vet Rec. 1990; 126: 293.
- Grauer GF, Burgess EC, Cooley AJ, et al. Renal lesions associated with Borrelia burgdorferi infection in a dog. JAVMA-J Am Vet Med Assoc. 1988; 193: 237-239.
- Minkus G, Breuer W, Wanke R, et al. Familial nephropathy in Bernese mountain dogs. Vet Pathol. 1994; 31: 421-428.
- Dambach DM, Smith CA, Lewis RM, et al. Morphologic, immunohistochemical, and ultrastructural characterization of a distinctive renal lesion in dogs putatively associated with Borrelia burgdorferi infection: 49 cases (1987-1992). Vet Pathol. 1997; 34: 85-170.
- Appel MJG, Allen S, Jacobson RH, et al. Experimental Lyme disease in dogs produces arthritis and persistent infection. J Infect Dis. 1993; 167: 651-664.
- Straubinger RK, Straubinger AF, Summers BA, et al. Clinical manifestations, pathogenesis, and effect of antibiotic treatment on Lyme borreliosis in dogs. Wien Klin Wochenschr. 1998; 110: 874-881.
- Straubinger RK, Straubinger AF, Härter L, et al. Borrelia burgdorferi migrates into joint capsules and causes an up-regulation of interleukin-8 in synovial membranes of dogs experimentally infected with ticks. Infect Immun. April 1997; 65: 1273-1285.
- Straubinger RK, Summers BA, Chang YF, Appel MJG. Persistence of Borrelia burgdorferi in experimentally infected dogs after antibiotic treatment. J Clin Microbiol. 1997; 35: 111-116.
- Straubinger RK, Straubinger AF, Summers BA, Jacobson RH. Status of Borrelia burgdorferi infection after antibiotic treatment and the effects of corticosteroids: an experimental study. J Infect Dis. 2000; 181: 1069-1081.
- Straubinger RK. PCR-based quantification of Borrelia burgdorferi organisms in canine tissues over a 500-day postinfection period. J Clin Microbiol. 2000; 38: 2191-2199.
- Liang FT, Jacobson RH, Straubinger RK, et al. Characterization of a Borrelia burgdorferi VlsE invariable region useful in canine Lyme disease serodiagnosis by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. J Clin Microbiol. 2000; 38: 4160-4166.
- Härter L, Straubinger RK, Summers BA, et al. Upregulation of inducible nitric oxide synthase mRNA in dogs experimentally infected with Borrelia burgdorferi. Vet Immunol Immunopathol. February 22, 1999; 67(3): 271-284.
- SNAP 4Dx Plus Test screens for more vector-borne diseases. IDEXX Laboratories. https://www.idexx.com/small-animal-health/products-and-services/snap-4dx-plus-test.html.
- O’Connor TP, Esty KJ, Hanscom JL, Shields P, Philipp MT. Dogs vaccinated with common Lyme disease vaccines do not respond to IR6, the conserved immunodominant region of the VlsE surface protein of Borrelia burgdorferi. Clin Diag Lab Immunol. 2004; 11(3): 458-462. doi:10.1128/CDLI.11.3.458-462.2004.
- Lyme Disease Multiplex Testing for Dogs. Cornell University: November 2011. .
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Lyme Disease — United States, 2003–2005. Morb Mortal Wkly Rep June 15, 2007; 56(23): 573-576. http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5623a1.htm.
- DHP: Lyme Disease. State of Connecticut: Department of Public Health. . Updated August 27, 2014.
- Rosenthal M. Vector-borne disease important area of research; ticks most common vector. Vet Forum. December 2008; 25(12): 8-9.
- Map of ticks and diseases — dogs and ticks. IDEXX Laboratories. http://dogsandticks.com/diseases_in_your_area.php.
- Anderson JF, Barthold SW, Magnarelli LA. Infectious but nonpathogenic isolate of Borrelia burgdorferi. J Clin Microbiol. 1990; 28: 2693-2699. http://jcm.asm.org/content/28/12/2693.full.pdf.
- Greene CE, ed. Infectious Diseases of the Dog and Cat 4th ed. St. Louis, MO: Elsevier; 2012: 243.
- Maurin M, Bakken JS, Dumler JS. Antibiotic susceptibilities of Anaplasma (Ehrlichia) phagocytophilum strains from various geographic areas in the United States. Antimicrob Agents Chemother. 2003; 47: 413-415.
- Greene CE, Straubinger RK, Levy SA. Borreliosis. In: Greene CE, ed. Infectious Diseases of the Dog and Cat 4th ed. St. Louis, MO: Elsevier; 2012: 461.
- Walter DE, Krantz G, Lindquist E. Acari. Tree of Life Project. http://tolweb.org/Acari/2554/1996.12.13. Published December 13, 1996.
- Lyme Disease | CAPC Vet. Companion Animal Parasite Council. https://capcvet.org/guidelines/lyme-disease. Updated March 2013.
- Berrada ZL, Telford SR. Burden of tick-borne infections on American companion animals. Top Companion Anim M. November 2009; 24(4): 175-181. doi:10.1053/j.tcam.2009.06.005.
- Conlon JA, Mather TN, Tanner P, Gallo G. Efficacy of a nonadjuvanted, outer surface protein I, recombinant vaccine in dogs after challenge by ticks naturally infected with Borrelia burgdorferi. Vet Ther. 2000; 1(2): 96-107.
- Merial Ltd. Borrelia Burgdorferi Bacterial Extract. 2009.
- Greene CE, ed. Infectious Diseases of the Dog and Cat 4th ed. St. Louis, MO: Elsevier; 2012: 1097t.
- Preventing Ticks on Your Pets | Lyme Disease | CDC. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/lyme/prev/on_pets.html. Updated March 4, 2015.
- Adapted from Ticks | Pets & Parasites: The Pet Owner’s Parasite Resource. Companion Animal Parasite Council. http://petsandparasites.org/dog-owners/ticks.
- Koehler PG, Oi FM. Ticks. University of Florida. http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/ig088. Published February 2003.
- About CAPC | Pets & Parasites: The Pet Owner’s Parasite Resource. Companion Animal Parasite Council. http://petsandparasites.org/about-capc.
- About IDEXX: Our Work and the People We Serve. IDEXX Laboratories. https://www.idexx.com/corporate/about-idexx.html.