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Tracking Lyme Disease in Dogs May Help Protect Humans
Date:8/10/2011

nversely, canine [prevalence of 1 percent or less] is associated with little to no local risk for human infection," Mead's group concluded.

Blood tests can detect a dog's exposure to the bacteria, even when no symptoms appear. "Most of the time the dogs appear to be asymptomatic, but they do develop clinical disease as well," Wormser said. As a result, they may develop problems walking and possibly heart or kidney complications.

Like humans, dogs with the disease can be treated with antibiotics. "There is also a vaccine for dogs," Wormser said. Symptoms may abate without treatment, but Lyme disease can leave recurrent lameness.

Commenting on the study, Phillip J. Baker, executive director of the American Lyme Disease Foundation, said, "You have to wonder if a dog is a good sentinel animal."

Their travel history and the use of tick repellent can affect estimates of Lyme disease prevalence in a specific area, he explained.

To prevent being bitten by the deer tick, which spreads Lyme disease, Baker advises checking your pet (and yourself) after walking through woods, fields or tall grass. Many dog owners also use tick repellent on their pets, he said.

Areas where cattle and goats are raised may have a reduced risk of Lyme disease, according to another study in the same journal issue.

Researchers from Charite Universitatsmedizin Berlin in Germany found pastures containing livestock bore fewer ticks in general and fewer ticks carrying Lyme disease. Hikers passing through these pastures were 40 to 54 times less likely to contract Lyme disease than those walking through meadows or fallow land, they said.

It's possible that grazing animals reduce the tick's habitat or perhaps the ticks shed the Lyme disease bacteria when they feed on animals, the researchers said.

"Extensive landscape management that uses domestic ruminants not only serves to maintain cultural and natural heritage in Germany but also seems to confer a
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