Lyme disease is an illness that affects both animals and humans - a "zoonotic" disease - and is the most commonly reported vector-borne illness in the United States, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The bacterium that causes Lyme disease, Borrelia burgdorferi, is carried and transmitted primarily by the tiny black-legged tick known as the deer tick. Deer ticks are found in forests or in grassy, wooded, marshy areas near rivers, lakes or oceans. People or animals may be bitten by deer ticks during outdoor activities such as hiking or camping, or even while spending time in their back yards.
The disease can be difficult to detect and can cause serious and recurring health problems. Therefore, it's best to take appropriate measures to prevent tick bites and, for dogs, possibly vaccinate against the disease.
Lyme disease is a reportable disease, meaning that health care providers and laboratories that diagnose cases of Lyme disease are required to report those cases to local or state health departments, which in turn report the cases to the CDC.
Pets infected with Lyme disease may not show any signs for 2-5 months. After that time, typical symptoms include:
- Loss of appetite
- Lameness/painful joints
- Joint swelling
- Decreased activity