Among the many dangerous diseases ticks carry and transmit to both humans and dogs is Lyme disease. According to a new study by the Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC), an independent, nonprofit organization dedicated to increasing awareness of the threat parasites present to pets and family members, Lyme disease is on the rise in areas endemic to ticks and now spreading to new regions due to the proliferation of the white-tailed deer population and migratory birds. As Lyme disease infects both humans and dogs, both species are at an increased risk for the disease.
Lyme disease is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi and is transmitted to humans and dogs through the bite of infected blacklegged ticks. Typical symptoms in humans include fever, headache, fatigue, and a characteristic skin rash called erythema migrans (the bull’s eye). If left untreated, infection can spread to joints, the heart, and the nervous system. In dogs, infection tends to cause recurrent lameness due to inflammation of the joints, and a general feeling of being uncomfortable and in pain. There may also be depression and a lack of appetite. More serious complications include damage to the kidneys, and rarely, heart or nervous system disease. Many dogs test positive for Lyme disease but do not show symptoms because the test only identifies exposure to the organism that can cause Lyme disease, not the illness itself.
The best course of protection for your canine friend is to ensure they are on a tick prevention all year round as ticks are active all year round, especially in warmer climates such as the Charlotte area. There is a Lyme vaccine for dogs but it is not necessarily recommended for all dogs. Ask your veterinarian about the risk of Lyme disease and whether the Lyme vaccine is recommended for your dog.