Lyme Disease in Your Pets

February 21st, 2014

Lyme disease is an ailment cause by a bacterium known as Borrelia burgdorfei, and is transmitted through the bite of an infected tick. Once inside the body, the bacterium spreads quickly through the blood stream and localizes within joints.

Unfortunately, it is very difficult to diagnose Lyme disease in pets. While humans typically develop a bull’s-eye shaped rash around where they were bitten, this does not happen in dogs or cats. Pets with Lyme disease will develop a variety of symptoms which mimic other ailments, such as a high fever, swollen joints, and randomized lameness, and these symptoms may present as much as a year after they have been bitten.

Lyme disease can be diagnosed through blood testing and controlled with antibiotics. The severity of Lyme disease is such that pets will need a long course of treatment to become fully healthy, particularly if the infection took a long time to diagnose. Your vet may need to try multiple antibiotics to find the appropriate one for your pet. Although it is difficult to prevent your pets from being exposed to ticks, it is recommended you keep them away from tall grass, woods, and sandy areas, which are common tick habitats.

Up until recently, it has been puzzling to scientists as to why Lyme disease is more prevalent in some areas than others, when ticks can be found everywhere. However, the Yale School of Medicine recently conducted a study which suggests that differences in the makeup of the microbes in the guts of the ticks impact the ability to carry the disease. Researchers found that in order for a tick to colonize Lyme disease spirochetes in their gut, they must have normal microbiota capable of maintaining a healthy and glycoprotein-rich mucus lining. Any environment which creates disruption to these microbiota makes the guts inhospitable for the colonization of Lyme disease.