Lyme disease, a common tick-borne disease in humans, can be contracted by our canine companions as well. The disease, which is caused by a spirochete bacterium, Borrelia burgdorferi, can often be difficult to diagnose.
“Hard-shelled ticks of the genus Ixodes transmit Borrelia burgdorferi,” said Dr. Carly Duff, veterinary resident at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. “The tick attaches to its host, and then as the tick is feeding, spirochete bacteria migrate onto the host.”
Clinical signs in canine patients may include fever, enlarged lymph nodes, a lack of appetite, and lethargy. Others may develop acute lameness as a result of joint inflammation, which lasts for a few days before returning days later, not necessarily in the same leg. This is known as “shifting-leg lameness.” More serious complications can include kidney damage and heart or central nervous system abnormalities in rare cases.
Fortunately, your dog’s disease does not put you or your family at risk. “Dogs do not appear to be a source for infection in humans,” Duff said, “because they do not excrete infectious organisms in their bodily fluids to any appreciable extent.”