Lyme disease, or Lyme borreliosis, is a bacterial disease spread through the bite of infected blacklegged ticks (Ixodes scapularis and Ixodes pacificus). The initial symptoms in people include a growing patch of redness on the skin, lethargy, swollen lymph nodes, and fever, though 20-25% of those affected will not develop a rash. A diagnosis can be confirmed through blood tests to detect antibodies against the bacteria, but these are not always reliable and can have false positive results.
Lyme disease can lead to very serious complications, including partial facial paralysis, joint pain, severe headaches, memory loss, and heart palpitations. Even with medical treatment, those affected with Lyme disease may experience these debilitating symptoms for six months or more.
Lyme disease can also be serious in dogs, and can lead to swollen lymph nodes, fever, lack of appetite, kidney issues, and potential lameness due to inflammation of the joints, according to Coates. The treatment for both humans and dogs often includes the antibiotic doxycycline, although other medications may be used depending on the specifics of the case. As with humans, there is always the possibility that several courses of antibiotics and medication may be needed, and that symptoms may return despite appropriate treatment.
Luckily for both pets and their owners, the tick itself is the conduit for Lyme disease. The disease can’t be passed from person to person or from person to dog.