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Lyme Borreliosis

Beagle Puppy

Canine Lyme Disease (Lyme Borreliosis)

Lyme disease is caused by bacteria called Borrelia burgdorferi and transmitted through the bite of at least four known species of ticks. Dogs usually get infected after being bitten by a very tiny tick commonly called the deer tick, or black-legged tick. Dogs are at especially high risk due to their time spent outdoors.  Lyme disease in dogs has been reported in every state in the United States. However, it is more common in the northeast, upper Midwest, and parts of California. According to recent studies, the incidence of Lyme disease and other tick-borne diseases is increasing worldwide. Infection by Borrelia burgdorferi typically occurs within 24 – 48 hours of the bacteria transferring from tick to host. Though, it sometimes takes several weeks or months for the infection to cause clinical signs. Lyme disease in dogs can be acute, subacute, and chronic.  Affected dogs may first show signs of any of these three forms of the diseases, depending on the severity of the infection.

The signs of Lyme disease in dogs can be characterized by a wide range of symptoms at various stages. The first signs of the Lyme borreliosis in dogs are relatively unspecific and include lethargy, loss of appetite and fever.

The first specific signs, in addition to unspecific symptoms at the acute (early) stage of the disease, including swollen lymph nodes, acute arthritis-like painful or swollen joints, a “shifting” lameness from one leg to another and skin rash (weeks following the tick bite).

 

Symptoms of sub-acute Lyme disease stage include persistent lameness, ongoing inflammatory changes in the joints, and more severe arthritis (weeks to months from an initial bite).

 

Untreated Lyme disease can lead to chronic Lyme disease characterized by damage to the kidneys, nervous system, and heart. Lyme disease in dogs that affects the kidneys is generally fatal. Paralysis and seizure are signs that the nervous system is affected.

The form of the disease that affects the heart is very rare.

 

The immune system of a dog exposed to Borrelia burgdorferi starts producing antibodies in response to the outer surface proteins on the spirochete. With Lyme disease, different types of antibodies are produced at various stages of the infection. Our serological test is very precise and detects eight different antibodies produced in infected or vaccinated dogs during different stages of the disease.

 

Immunoglobulin M (IgM) antibodies are developed first and can be detected very early in the majority of infected dogs (during one-two weeks of infection). It is followed by the development of Immunoglobulin G (IgG) antibodies that become predominant after a month of the infection.

Our canine Lyme disease monitoring profile detects eight antibodies produced in infected and vaccinated dogs during different stages of the disease including the surface lipoprotein VlsE. Infected dogs show an early strong IgG response to VlsE during the first four weeks of infection.

At the present time, when various vaccines are available for dogs, detection of the most important surface protein of Borrelia, the OspA, is essential, since it is produced mainly after vaccination. Thus, vaccination and infection titers can be discriminated by parallel or individual investigation of VlsE and OspA antibodies.

Equine Lyme Disease (Lyme Borreliosis)

Horse Lyme disease is a serious problem in veterinary medicine due to the wide-spread infection in North America. B. burgdorferi is transmitted by the bite of ticks. Several hours are necessary to effectively transfer the organism to a horse. Infection by Borrelia burgdorferi typically occurs within 24 – 48 hours after a one tick attachment, when bacteria transfer from tick to horse. This common infection for horses is hard to identify because many horses do not show signs of the disease for months. After infection, B. burgdorferi first spreads locally by connective tissue and then systemically through the blood. Types of Lyme disease include Acute Lyme disease with typically mild symptoms caused by a recent tick bite and Chronic Lyme disease with long time infection for 6 – 8 weeks, or even longer.

Symptoms of Acute Lyme disease in horses are pretty mild and usually related to weakness and fever. Chronic Lyme disease is a multisystem syndrome associated with skin, myocardial, musculoskeletal, and central and peripheral nervous system manifestations. These syndromes include neuroborreliosis (that shows noticeable behavioral changes and ataxia), uveitis (is an acute, non granulomatous inflammation of the uveal tract of the eye), and cutaneous pseudolymphoma (at the site of tick attachment).  The accompanying clinical signs of these syndromes are variable and include arthritis, hypersensitive skin, sporadic lameness, weight loss, weakness, excessive sleepiness, encephalitis, atrophy of spinous muscles, dysphagia, laryngeal dysfunction resulting in respiratory distress, facial paresis, spinal cord ataxia and paresis, behavioral changes, hyperesthesia, fasciculation, neck and back stiffness with pain, joint effusion, and cardiac arrhythmias.

The immune system of a horse exposed to B. burgdorferi starts producing antibodies in response to the outer surface proteins on the spirochete. Our serological test is a highly sensitive screening test for the detection of equine anti-Borrelia antibodies. Borrelia specific IgG antibodies can be detected approximately 4 to 6 weeks after infection and can persist for months or years.