Lyme disease: New study confirms dogs are sentinels to assess human risk

New research from theCompanion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC)gives people and their health care providers a way to assess their risk for Lyme disease, thanks to man’s best friend. The studyconfirms dogs are sentinels to assess human risk for tick-borne Lyme disease.

The study is published in the journal, Geospatial Health.


Lyme disease (LD) is the most common vector-borne disease in the United States. Early confirmatory diagnosis remains a challenge, while the disease can be debilitating if left untreated. Further, the decision to test is complicated by under-reporting, low positive predictive values of testing in non-endemic areas and travel, which together exacerbate the difficulty in identification of newly endemic areas or areas of emerging concern. Spatio-temporal analyses at the national scale are critical to establishing a baseline human LD risk assessment tool that would allow for the detection of changes in these areas. A well-established surrogate for human LD incidence is canine LD seroprevalence, making it a strong candidate covariate for use in such analyses. In this paper, Bayesian statistical methods were used to fit a spatio-temporal spline regression model to estimate the relationship between human LD incidence and canine seroprevalence, treating the latter as an explanatory covariate. A strong non-linear monotonically increasing association was found. That is, this analysis suggests that mean incidence in humans increases with canine seroprevalence until the seroprevalence in dogs reaches approximately 30%. This finding reinforces the use of canines as sentinels for human LD risk, especially with respect to identifying geographic areas of concern for potential human exposure.

Joining me to discuss the study and it’s uses is Dr. Craig Prior. Dr. Prior is a board member and past-president of the Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC). From Australia, he’s been a practicing veterinarian in Nashville, Tennessee for over 25 years and currently consults with vets nationwide.

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