Risk for Lyme disease in dogs continues to escalate in 2016by by Susan Little, DVM, PhD and Karen Fling, DVM
The most common vector-borne disease in humans in the United States, Lyme disease continues to be a threat for your canine patients as well. This year, the Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC) is expecting higher than normal levels of Borrelia burgdorferi transmission in many areas of the country.
Heightened activity is predicted in northern California, New York State, western Pennsylvania and West Virginia. In addition, areas where Lyme disease has more recently become established, including Illinois, Iowa, Indiana and Kentucky, are forecast to have above-average transmission. Increased tick control, vaccination and Lyme disease testing may be making an impact in New England, and could reduce transmission to pet dogs, but continued vigilance is encouraged in what is traditionally considered the “bull’s-eye” region for Lyme borreliosis.
Year-round protection, regular screening
Although Lyme disease in North America is typically associated with infection with the spirochete B. burgdorferi, recent research shows that a genetically distinct pathogen, Borrelia mayonii, is also linked to some cases of the disease in people. Currently, the role of B. mayonii as a disease agent of dogs is unknown.
Ixodes scapularis, the eastern black-legged tick, and Ixodes pacificus,the western black-legged tick) are the main vectors of B. burgdorferi in North America. The geographic range of I. scapularis has dramatically expanded in recent years, and adults of this tick are active in the fall and winter months. Accordingly, CAPC recommends both year-round tick control and regular screening for dogs. You can use the CAPC Parasite Prevalence Maps to support this recommendation by underscoring the risks in your area and in regions of the country your clients may travel with their pets.
For dogs living in or traveling to areas where Lyme disease is endemic or emerging, vaccination against Lyme borreliosis is also recommended. However, ticks can harbor multiple pathogens, so vaccination does not replace the need for regular tick control. A clinical diagnosis of Lyme borreliosis usually depends on the presence of compatible clinical signs and positive serology for B. burgdorferi. Learn more about Lyme disease.
The science behind the forecasts
How are the CAPC Lyme Disease Forecasts constructed? Numerous factors are analyzed, including the number of positive B. burgdorferi tests and the influence of weather patterns, vegetation indices, the changing distribution of wildlife that may harbor the ticks, and human population density. Leading parasitologists work in collaboration with a team of statisticians to identify regions of the country that may experience higher prevalence of positive tests in the months ahead. While these forecasts predict the potential risk of a dog testing positive, they do not necessarily reflect clinical disease. Learn more.
Drive office visits with local parasite data
In a recent study, 90 percent of pet owners surveyed said they want their veterinarians to provide them with local parasite prevalence data.1 With this information, 89 percent of pet owners state that they are likely to make an appointment with their veterinarian.1 Communicating parasite prevalence to clients is a public service they really want, and the CAPC updates make it straightforward to achieve.
With the CAPC Parasite Forecast Maps, you can help alert pet owners about potential risks in the year ahead and motivate them to safeguard their pets. You can also use the Parasite Prevalence Maps to educate owners on the number of dogs testing positive for B. burgdorferi in your county and state as well as in other areas of the country.
The CAPC mobile app makes it easy to provide owners with current information in the exam room. Download the free CAPC app from iTunes in the Medical category.
Because tick activity can change, CAPC can provide you with email alerts for your area. Sign up now.
As always, you are the best resource for pet owners on current parasite activity that could impact their dogs. Recommendations from veterinarians can help protect your patients and reinforce the bond with your clients.
1 A nationwide survey of 2,000 pet owners conducted by CAPC and Bayer Animal Health. Connecting with today’s clients: the importance of local, timely parasite information, 2015.