Lyme disease has become real in this writer’s household

During a recent vet check-up, we had Mabel and Chase, both rescue dogs that spent their lives outside before we adopted them, tested for Lyme disease. Both came back positive.

While neither show symptoms, that fact alone can hide a multitude of current and future problems associated with this disease.

In this two-part column, we will first take a look at where Lyme disease came from and how it is quickly becoming one of the fastest-growing infectious diseases in the U.S.


Twenty years ago, ticks and Lyme disease were not even a topic of much discussion in Central Pennsylvania. Although, according to, both ticks and the disease have been around for thousands of years.

It wasn’t until the early ’70s when a group of children and adults in Lyme, Conn., developed related, debilitating symptoms that the unknown disease raised a flag of concern.

The one thing each patient had in common was that they had been bitten by a tick — a black-legged deer tick to be exact.

Yet, the disease remained undiagnosed and untreated for another decade, but the symptoms were dubbed Lyme.

The cause was still unknown.

By the early ’80s, scientist Willy Burgdorfer finally found the connection between the deer tick and Lyme disease.

He discovered the bacterium called spirochete carried by ticks was causing Lyme.


Today, reports of Lyme have increased dramatically and have spread to all states within the U.S. except Hawaii.

The disease is not transmitted between human and pet. It is transmitted from an infected deer tick to both humans and pets – namely dogs and horses.

The tricky part is that most dogs exposed to Lyme never become ill.

They will host the bacteria and may also host other tick-borne diseases, such as ehrlichiosis and babesiosis, without ever showing any clinical reaction at all.

However, for dogs that do start to show signs, owners should watch for weakness, lethargy, loss of appetite and weight, or fever.

Lameness is generally temporary and subsides once treated with antibiotics. However, in some cases, it can become more severe or even chronic.

There are several antibiotics available to treat Lyme disease in dogs.

The typical course is four weeks and the condition is often resolved without further complications or additional treatment required.

In some cases, as in humans, the symptoms do not cease after treatment and your dog may continue to experience pain or lameness.

Lyme disease is always more difficult to treat as the duration of the infection lengthens, so early diagnosis by your vet and treatment are key.

Next week, we’ll delve into properly testing your dog and ways to help prevent the disease from wreaking havoc in your pet’s life.

Amy J. Hanna-Eckenrode is the author of “Have Dog Will Blog,” editor of the Central PA Pets magazine and director of the Central PA Pet Expo. She can be contacted at or by mail: Paws and Reflect, c/o Amy J. Hanna-Eckenrode, Altoona Mirror, 301 Cayuga Ave., Altoona, PA 16602.