Lyme Disease

What Is Lyme Disease?

Lyme disease is an infection caused by bacteria called Borrelia burgdorferi (Bb).

How is it transmitted?

In the US, the bacteria are transmitted to people and animals by the bite of an infected blacklegged tick, Ixodes scapularis, commonly called the deer tick, and Ixodes pacificus (western black legged tick) in the West. Although other types of ticks such as the Dermancentor variabilis (american dog) and some insects have been shown to carry the Lyme bacteria, to date, transmission of Lyme through those vectors has not been proven.

Lyme Disease in Horses:

Horses living in Lyme disease endemic regions may become infected with Borrelia burgdorferi via the bite of infected Ixodes species ticks. The adult ticks, which are present in the fall and early spring, are the stage most likely to feed on horses. This stage of tick is usually large enough to be detected during grooming; the ticks are often found around the head, throatlatch area, belly, and under the tail. Removal of the tick can be accomplished by grasping the mouth parts of tick adjacent to the skin with tweezers and pulling gently back. Prompt removal of the tick minimizes risk of Borrelia burgdorferi transmission. Clinical signs (symptoms) of Lyme disease appear in less than 10 % of horses that are infected with Borrelia burgdorferi. The most common symptoms are lameness and behavioral changes. The lameness is usually associated with larger joints (not the foot), and frequently shifts from limb to limb. The horse may appear to have a generalized stiffness. Fever may or may not be present. Occasionally, laminitis (an inflammation of the tissues inside the hoof wall) has been associated with Lyme disease. Behavioral changes associated with Lyme disease are difficult to categorize. As well as an unwillingness to work (which may be associated with musculoskeletal pain), owners frequently observe increased irritability and a changed attitude in these horses, which quickly return to normal following treatment.

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Lyme Disease in Dogs:

Most dogs with Lyme disease never show signs of illness. When symptoms do occur, they usually involve limping and lameness, which are caused by pain around the dog's joints. These signs may wax and wane, but they often come back and, if left untreated, progressively worsen with time. Symptoms of Lyme Disease (Borreliosis) Most owners never know that their dogs have been infected by Borrelia burgdorferi. In fact, only about 5% of infected dogs become noticeably ill. Dogs that do develop clinical Lyme disease usually show signs between 1 and 5 months after being bitten by an infected tick. Normally, symptoms show up in the spring, summer and fall, when the weather is warmer. The height of tick season in most parts of the United States is March through late September, tending to peak in July. However, deer ticks can survive and be active anywhere and any time that the temperature is above freezing.

Tick prevention among tips for pet owners wanting to hike with their dog

A recent article in the Oregonian offered pet owners safety tips when bringing a dog on a hike. The tips included making sure your dog is in adequate physical condition by having a checkup at the veterinarian, as well as ensuring your dog responds to basic commands and is well socialized. Another tip focused on protecting your dog from ticks. “According to state public health veterinarian Dr. Emilio DeBess, the tick habitat is expanding in Oregon, and more humans and animals are contracting Lyme disease as a result,” the article said. “In 2011, there were 39 positive cases of Lyme disease among dogs in Oregon, compared to 57 cases in 2012; and 106 in 2013, according to the Companion Animal Parasite Council.”

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