The more dogs with Lyme disease, the higher the incidence of this tick-borne illness in humans, according to the results of a new study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Using data from unique “prevalence maps” provided by the Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC, www.PetsAndParasites.org), scientists found that people in areas with a higher-than-average number of dogs with Lyme disease are at greater risk of contracting the disease.
“The study shows that by tracking the occurrence of Lyme disease in dogs, veterinarians can help predict possible outbreaks of the disease in humans,” said Susan Little, DVM, PhD, a director with the CAPC. “Results show that when dogs commonly test positive for antibodies to the bacteria that causes Lyme disease in a given area, the risk of disease to people is greater.”
In the study, CDC analyzed data from previously published disease prevalence maps, which showed the prevalence of antibodies to the agent of Lyme disease in dogs, and cross-referenced it with U.S. national surveillance data on the occurrence of Lyme disease in humans. CAPC provides real-time, online maps track the incidence of Lyme disease and a variety of other parasite-borne infections in both cats and dogs. Visitors to the website may search for canine or feline infection rate results by state, county and type of parasite.
“What the findings really confirm is that our pets serve as sentinels for us, showing areas where we are at greater risk for tick-borne disease,” said Little. “It is a powerful demonstration of the strength and importance of routine veterinary care and the human-animal bond.”
According to Little, the study’s findings underscore the importance of educating pet owners about the risks of parasite-borne disease to pets and their families, as well as the need for year-round prevention of all companion animal parasites. The Lyme disease research and prevalence maps are essential tools in helping educate human and veterinary health care professionals and pet owners about this growing problem.
Seeing a veterinarian is another way to keep pets and people safe from parasitic diseases, and CAPC experts recommend veterinary exams at least once a year. Veterinarians regularly track the disease prevalence in a given area and, like the CAPC, serve as an excellent resource for pet owners.
About the Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC)
The Companion Animal Parasite Council (www.PetsAndParasites.org) is an independent nonprofit comprised of parasitologists, veterinarians, medical, public health and other professionals that provides information for the optimal control of internal and external parasites that threaten the health of pets and people. Formed in 2002, the CAPC works to help veterinary professionals and pet owners develop the best practices in parasite management that protect pets from parasitic infections and reduce the risk of zoonotic parasite transmission.