Lyme disease rates have been increasing, and the spread of Lyme disease is linked to climate change. Warmer winter in areas with a heavy Lyme disease burden–parts of New England and the Upper Great Lakes–favor survival of the ticks that carry B. burgdorferi, the bacteria that causes Lyme disease, making disease spread easier.
Just like humans, dogs get Lyme disease. Canine Lyme is transmitted by the same bacterium, B. burgdorferi, as human Lyme is. It’s also transmitted by deer ticks to dogs, the same transmission that humans experience. It causes symptoms of arthritis in dogs, who may experience sudden lameness and severe pain. Dogs can also become lethargic and develop fevers and lack of appetite. As in humans, dogs suffering from Lyme disease can be treated with antibiotics.
Lyme disease in dogs is obviously important to veterinarians, but this blog focuses on human health. How is canine Lyme disease related to human Lyme disease trends?
Researchers have found that areas of the US that have low rates of canine Lyme also have low rates of human Lyme. They have also determined that areas with higher canine Lyme disease rates have higher human Lyme disease rates.
Researchers who published an article in Emerging Infectious Diseases investigating the link between rates of human and dog Lyme disease concluded: “Our findings suggest that canine seroprevalence >5% can be a sensitive but nonspecific marker of increased risk for human Lyme disease. Because dogs do not transmit infection directly to humans (or humans to dogs), this association reflects similar susceptibilities to tick-borne infection. In some circumstances, high canine seroprevalence appears to anticipate increasing rates of human infection at the county level. Conversely, canine seroprevalence <1% is associated with little to no local risk for human infection. Canine seroprevalence is a useful adjunct to human surveillance for Lyme disease.” [see citation below]
Richard Lerner, DVM, MPH, and co-director of PAZ, who has studied Lyme disease in Peruvian dogs, explains:
Dr. Lerner’s research on Lyme and other infections in Peruvian dogs was published here: