Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Public Health


Epidemiology & Community Health


Introduction: Lyme disease is caused by the tick-borne spirochete Borrelia burgdorferi. Research has shown that dogs can be used as sentinels for human infection of Lyme disease. The purpose of this 5-year, retrospective study was to determine if there was any evidence that the incidence of canine Lyme disease has increased between 2000 and 2005 in Accomack and Northampton counties. An increased incidence in Lyme disease in dogs may indicate an increased present or future risk of Lyme disease in humans.Methods: Cases of canine Lyme disease were identified via practice invoicing systems and dogs that received doxycycline were entered into the database. Demographic information and the absence or presence of clinical signs such as fever, lameness, articular swelling, lymphadenomegaly, anorexia, general malaise and improvement after antibiotic use were collected. Testing history also was recorded.Results: Cases of canine Lyme disease that met any definition were identified (n=1048). Over the 5-year period the number of positive ELISA test results increased and the frequency of clinical signs decreased. The incidence of disease meeting the practitioner's definition increased until 2004 when the incidence dropped from 105.33 cases per 1,000 dogs to 56.93 cases per 1,000. The incidence of disease based on the study probable definition remained fairly constant with a high in 2002 of 2.94 cases per 1,000 dogs.Discussion: Trends of canine Lyme disease coincided with the introduction and use of the in-house ELISA test. Practitioners could identify more dogs exposed to Borrelia burgdorferi. The areas with the highest frequency of canine cases of Lyme disease also had the highest frequency of human cases reported to the Virginia Department of Health. Further study could identify animals that tested positive and later developed clinical signs. Using dogs as sentinels for human infection allows public health workers to identify endemic areas regardless of human case reports.


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Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission

June 2008

Included in

Epidemiology Commons