Screening for Borrelia burgdorferi seropositivity is commonly performed in dogs in conjunction with annual heartworm testing. Widespread canine testing provides seroprevalence data which are useful in identifying emerging and established Lyme disease risk areas, such as regions of Eastern, Atlantic and Central Canada. However, point prevalence data from uncharacterized populations have limitations. One example being that absence of clinical canine data precludes determination of true clinical disease prevalence and significance. Such clinical knowledge gaps can lead to confusion and potential mismanagement of dogs.
Given the current dearth of evidence to guide important clinical decisions regarding B. burgdorferi exposure and infection (along with myriad other infectious and non-infectious canine health concerns), a concerted effort beyond cross-sectional or case-control studies from referral facilities (with limited generalizability to primary practice) is needed. These types of veterinary longitudinal study efforts, such as the Morris Animal Foundation’s Golden Retriever Lifetime Study, are reliant on the development of educational partnerships with general practice veterinary clinics and recruitment of engaged study participants for their ongoing success.
Specific objectives of the study were to: 1) develop educational partnerships between veterinary clinics and veterinary schools in Canada; 2) enroll and engage dog owners in order to perform a long-term Lyme disease and canine health study; 3) evaluate the seroconversion rate of dogs to B. burgdorferi, Ehrlichia and Anaplasma spp. over a two-year period; 4) assess the incidence of clinical signs of Lyme disease compared to seroconversion; 5) identify factors associated with seroconversion, such as vaccination, tick prevention, dog demographics and environment; and 6) evaluate client perceptions, awareness and education on vector-borne disease and prevention.
General practice veterinary clinics in Ontario, Canada were invited to participate. Healthy dogs, 7 months of age and younger, were eligible for inclusion. At baseline visit, blood was tested for heartworm, B. burgdorferi, Ehrlichia and Anaplasma spp. (SNAP 4Dx® Plus® Test). An on-line questionnaire was completed after enrolment. Descriptive statistics were used to assess questionnaire data and baseline test results.
Pet-owners live in emerging and established Lyme disease risk areas of Ontario, Canada (Figure). Over 63% (62/98) of owners completed the questionnaire. Respondents (n=62) reported the majority of dogs were obtained from local breeders (65%), with 30% being first-time puppy owners. Most owners lived in the suburbs of cities (50%) and almost all were female (97%).
All participants reported being aware of Lyme disease; however, none reported that a family or household member had been diagnosed with Lyme disease. The majority of respondents stated that they knew the cause of Lyme disease (92%) and correctly identified a tick as the vector of Lyme disease. However, only half of respondents actively tried to prevent tick attachment on themselves (56%), with 29% sometimes doing so, and 23% not trying to prevent tick attachment. Similarly, only 21% of respondents undertook non-chemical efforts (e.g. trimming of brush or shrubs) to reduce ticks on their property. Despite a high awareness of Lyme disease, few of the respondents recalled their human health care provider ever discussing Lyme disease (7%). Most (97%) did not recall ever receiving information about Lyme disease from any human health care source.
The majority of respondents recalled tick prevention being discussed by their veterinarian (95%) and were administering a tick prevention product to their dog (85%). Puppies were reported to be vaccinated for Lyme disease by 40% of respondents, while 15% were not certain if vaccination had occurred.
Baseline vector-borne disease testing (SNAP 4Dx® Plus® Test) for all 4 pathogens has been negative for all enrolled puppies to date (n =120).
This evaluation of baseline test results and confirmation of high pet-owner knowledge of Lyme disease will form the basis for ongoing and future research efforts utilizing this unique study population.
Associate Professor, Dept of Companion Animal
Atlantic Veterinary College University of Prince Edward Island Charlottetown, PE Canada
MICHELLE EVASON, DVM, BSc, DACVIM (SAIM), is an associate professor in small animal internal medicine at the Atlantic Veterinary College, University of Prince Edward Island. She also works as an independent medical and nutrition consultant through her business, Michelle Evason Veterinary Internal Medicine and Nutrition Consultations. She has worked in general practice, in specialty clinical practice at large private referral centers, in academia as clinical faculty and in the animal health industry. Her clinical and research interests focus on infectious disease, nutrition and client and veterinary perceptions regarding health and disease.
Thursday, June 14
5:30 PM – 5:45 PM
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