All Pets Veterinary Clinic
Over the last several years there has been an increase in the amount of awareness on
Lyme disease in humans. The domestic species, including dogs, cats, horses, and cows
can also become infected with Lyme disease. Currently, Illinois is not one of the "hot
spots" for Lyme disease, however, several cases have been reported in this state. The
remainder of this article will discuss the spread, signs, diagnosis, treatment, and
prevention of Lyme disease in animals.
Spread. Lyme disease is caused by Borrelia burgdorferi, a small bacterial-like
organism called a spirochete. This organism can be carried by deer ticks. When an
infected tick attaches itself to a host to feed, the spirochete can be passed, thus
causing disease. Lyme disease can also be passed from dog to dog via infected urine.
Signs. The signs seen in humans with Lyme disease are often times much more
drastic than the signs that are seen in an infected dog. Signs may include any of the
following: lameness of a short or long term duration, weakness, loss of appetite, fever,
and sore or swollen joints. In some cases, the affected dog may suffer from a lameness
that switches from leg to leg. In addition, heart, kidney, and neurological signs may
Diagnosis. Due to the nature of the disease and often times vague or nonexistent
signs, diagnosis may be difficult. Currently, the best way to confirm the presence of
Lyme disease is with a simple blood test. The test will determine if the animal has
antibodies present in the blood for Lyme disease. A newer, in house diagnostic test
has become available allowing for rapid screening for Lyme disease without submission
to an outside lab.
Treatment. Antibiotic therapy is necessary for the treatment of Lyme disease.
Tetracyclines or ampicillin are the best antibiotics to use for Lyme disease in dogs.
Affected dogs will generally respond very well within the first few days of treatment.
Prevention. The best way to protect animals from Lyme disease is to keep them
tick free. Regularly checking for and removing ticks is warranted when an animal is in
a heavily wooded environment and/or spends a lot of time outside. A relatively new
product called Frontline will kill and repel ticks for up to one month at a time.
All you need to do is apply the medication to the skin between the shoulder blades.
The makers of Frontline claim that monthly use of the product will prevent the
transmission of Lyme disease. Revolution, another topical medication, can also kill
the ticks that transmit Lyme disease. However, at this date, Pfizer does not have a
label claim for the prevention of Lyme disease. There is also a vaccination for Lyme
disease available. Vaccination is done twice initially and then annually after that.
The information provided is for educational purposes only and is not
intended to take the place of your regular veterinarian. Please do not hesitate
to contact your regular veterinarian if you have questions regarding your pet.
Karen Blakeley, DVM, MPH
14 December 2002