Science Corner: Lyme Disease

posted: by: RAH Tags: "Clinic Specials" "News" 

Now that it's summer, that means getting out and playing with your dog! Exploring the great outdoors with your friend can be fun, but it's important to be prepared against illnesses and injuries. We hope this little science lesson helps you understand Lyme Disease a little better so you know how it can be treated or prevented. Stay cool out there!

Lyme Disease (Borrelia burgdorferi)

Lyme disease is a bacterial disease that affects humans and animals. Transmitted by ticks, Lyme Disease is widespread in Northeast America.

The main transmitter of Lyme Disease in our area is the deer tick, which can carry the bacteria that causes Lyme Disease. Ticks feed by sucking the blood of other animals, and if they feed off of an infected host (most often mice), they become carriers for Lyme Disease. 

If it feeds on a human or dog afterwards, the tick's new "victim" can contract the disease. However, because of the way ticks digest blood, if a tick is removed from a human or dog within 48 hours after latching on, the new host will not become infected.

Lyme Disease in Dogs

Lyme Disease in humans and dogs is very different; illness may never even occur in dogs, even though they have become carriers. However, if a dog does develop illness, it can take weeks to months after being bitten for any symptoms to show.

Common symptoms include lameness, fever, reluctance to eat, lack of energy, and enlarged lymph nodes. Swollen or painful joints may also occur. 

Testing for Lyme Disease is easy, fast, and done in-house at a veterinarian's office.

If a dog is diagnosed with Lyme Disease, it will often respond rapidly to an inexpensive course of antibiotics dispensed by a veterinarian.

It's important not to overlook possible Lyme Disease infections, especially in dogs that have chronic joint disease. If left untreated,  Lyme Disease can lead to kidney damage.

Fortunately, a vaccine against Lyme Disease is widely available. Boosters are required yearly for it to remain effective.

For more information, please visit Cornell University's web site at