In 1977, a group of children in Lyme, Connecticut developed arthritis. After research was conducted, it was found that the disease was caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi, which is transmitted through tick bites. Since then, Lyme disease has been diagnosed in people and animals all across the United States.
Lyme disease is a zoonosis (a disease transmitted from animals to people) of great importance because it accounts for more than 95% of all reported vector-borne illness in the United States. The disease is prevalent in Wisconsin and some areas in Illinois. Since the disease vector is the deer tick, woods or overgrown brush where the deer population is relatively large are risk zones, as are adjacent residential areas.
People and animals engaging in outdoor activities such as playing in the back yard, landscaping, brush clearing, hiking, camping, fishing and hunting are at risk. So are foresters, park employees and those who work in close proximity to wildlife.
Lyme disease is not uncommon in dogs at risk. Signs may develop two to six months post infection and include fever, shifting leg lameness, regional lymph node swelling and malaise. Disseminated infection causes joint damage, heart complications, and kidney problems (often fatal).
Canine borreliosis is difficult to diagnose because lameness is
common in dogs and chronic arthritis is usually not associated with
Lyme disease. History of tick exposure and Lyme risk lifestyle might
point to a tentative diagnosis and specific blood tests.
Sick dogs are treated for a minimum of 30 days with antibiotics.
Unfortunately, relapse can occur after the treatment is
discontinued. The persistence may stimulate chronic immune and
Fortunately for our dogs (and us), we have very good preventative tools. Dogs with a high probability of contracting the disease, based on their geographic location, breed, and utility, should be vaccinated early in life. Vaccination is not universally recommended for all dogs. Strict tick control should be done using one of the high efficiency veterinary products that are available. Environmental insecticides are neither recommended nor effective. Your veterinarian can help assess your dog's risk and make specific recommendations.[Back]