Borreliosis, also known as Lyme disease, can affect dogs, cats, horses, cattle, birds, wild animals, and people. White-tailed deer and white-footed mice appear to be natural carriers of the causative organism, Borrelia burgdorferi, a corkscrew-shaped bacterium. The organism is usually transmitted by the pinhead-sized, dark brown nymphs of deer ticks. Other types of ticks may also transmit the disease.
After the larva hatches from the tick egg, the young tick attaches to small rodents, such as the white-footed mouse. As it feeds on the mouse’s blood, the larva becomes infected with the Borrelia organism. The larva matures into a nymph, which feeds on the blood of animals and people. The Borrelia organism is not injected into the host animal until the tick has been attached for 10 to 24 hours. Although adult ticks can also spread the disease, the nymph stage poses the greatest threat during the summer months because of its very small size.
Signs of Lyme disease are vague and resemble those of various other conditions. Initial signs include a rash, fever, joint swelling and pain, and swollen lymph nodes. Within days, weeks, or even months, more serious signs develop, such as heart, brain, and joint disorders. Painful joint swelling is the most common advanced sign.
A person is unlikely to contract the disease from a pet unless he were to remove an unattached tick from the pet and allow the tick to feed on him. The Borrelia organism has been found in the urine of infected animals, but the disease has never been proven to be spread via urine.
Important Points in Treatment
1. The response to treatment depends on your pet’s general health and resistance to disease.
2. Treatment may require weeks.
Prevention of Borreliosis
Protect yourself: For walks in the woods, fields, or meadows during the tick season, protect yourself from tick infestation by wearing clothing that prevents ticks from gaining access to your skin. Wear a hat to protect your head.
Close inspection: Always closely inspect your pet and yourself after walking in the woods, fields, or meadows. If you detect any ticks, do not crush the tick’s body during removal. Rather, use tweezers or forceps to grasp the tick’s head as close to your pet’s skin as possible and gently remove the tick to avoid separation of the tick’s head from its body.
Insecticide use: Use insecticides and repellents to control tick infestation on your pet. Ask the doctor to recommend a product.