NJ Lyme Disease Update for Dogs and People
Categories: Blog, Lyme disease
Lyme disease in dogs and people is an illness caused by bacteria that is carried by ticks. This infection can cause a variety of symptoms and if left untreated can be severe. Lyme disease is spread to people by the bite of an infected tick and is not spread from person to person. Symptoms may include a rash that looks like a bulls-eye, tiredness, fever, headache, stiff neck, muscle aches, and joint pain. If left untreated, infected persons may develop arthritis, nervous system problems, and heart problems. If treated early, antibiotic therapy is generally effective. To prevent Lyme disease, it is important to avoid tick bites. Examples of prevention measures includes avoiding wooded areas with dense shrubs and leaf litter, wearing protective clothing, using insect repellents, performing tick checks and by mowing lawns and keeping shrubs trimmed. Below are some FAQs from the NJ Department of Health. For more detailed information, go to: https://www.state.nj.us/health/cd/topics/lyme.shtml
- What is Lyme disease?
Lyme disease is an illness caused by infection with the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi (boar-ELL-ee-uh
burg-dorf-ERR-eye). This bacterium is carried by ticks. This infection can cause a variety of symptoms
and if left untreated can be severe.
- How is Lyme disease spread?
Lyme disease is spread to people by the bite of an infected tick. In New Jersey, the most commonly
infected tick is the deer tick (or black-legged tick, Ixodes scapularis). Immature ticks become infected by
feeding on infected white-footed mice and other small mammals, such as deer and meadow voles. Deer
ticks can also spread other tick-borne diseases. Humans can be infected with more than one tick-borne
disease at the same time.Lyme disease is not spread from person to person. It is not necessary to avoid someone who is ill with
- Who gets Lyme disease?
Anyone who is bitten by a tick carrying the bacteria can become infected. People who spend a lot of time
outdoors in tick-infested areas from April through October are at greatest risk of becoming infected.
Proper removal of a tick from the skin within 48 hours of being bitten can reduce the risk of infection (For
more information on tick removal, see “How can Lyme disease be prevented” below).
- What are the symptoms of Lyme disease?
The early symptoms of Lyme disease may resemble those of various other infectious and non-infectious
diseases. The most common symptoms may include:
• A rash that looks like a bull’s-eye (occurs in 60 – 80% of people who become infected)
• Stiff neck
• Muscle aches
• Joint pain
If untreated, weeks to months later some people may also have:
• Nervous system problems
• Heart problems
The red bull’s-eye rash usually appears 7 to 14 days after the tick bite. Some people see their health care
provider for the first time with advanced symptoms without having had early signs of the disease.
- How is Lyme disease diagnosed?
A two-step process is the recommended method for making a diagnosis of Lyme disease. A Lyme disease
diagnosis should be based on clinical findings, supported by a series of laboratory tests. An enzyme-linked
immunosorbent assay (ELISA), or an indirect fluorescent antibody (IFA), test is usually performed first. If
the result of this test is uncertain or positive, a more specific Western immunoblot (WB) test should be
performed to confirm the results obtained with the first test. Borrelia burgdorferi can also be grown
in culture from clinical specimens; however, this test is often difficult to perform. Polymerase chain
reaction (PCR) tests have been used to amplify the DNA of Borrelia burgdorferi in skin, blood, and
cerebrospinal and synovial fluids, but this type of testing has not been standardized for the routine
diagnosis of Lyme disease.
- What is the treatment for Lyme disease?
If treated early, antibiotic therapy for 3 to 4 weeks is generally effective. More advanced disease
may require antibiotics to be given into the vein (“IV” or “intravenous”) for four weeks or longer.
Amoxicillin and doxycycline are two common antibiotics used for treatment. (NOTE – it is very
important to finish your antibiotics, even if you begin to feel better, unless otherwise directed by
your health care provider.)
- How can Lyme disease be prevented?
You can reduce your risk by taking these actions to avoid tick bites, or to safely remove a tick if you
• Avoid wooded areas with dense shrubs and leaf litter, where ticks like to hide.
• Make your yard less attractive to ticks by mowing lawns and trimming trees.
• Wear solid, light-colored clothing. This will make it easier to find a tick on your clothes.
• Tuck your pants into your socks and wear a long-sleeved shirt. This will help prevent a tick
from attaching to your skin.
• Use insect repellents on yourself and your pets. There are two types of repellents effective for
ticks. Repellents that contain DEET can be used on clothing and exposed skin. The other type
of repellent contains permethrin and should ONLY be used on clothing. Always read and
follow label directions carefully.
• Check yourself for ticks frequently when you are in tick-infested areas. Check again after
returning and again before going to bed. Don’t overlook some of ticks’ favorite hiding places
– on the scalp, behind the ears, under the arms, on the ankles, and in the groin.
What should I do if I find a tick?
• If you find a tick, remove it immediately before it attaches to the skin. Do not squeeze or
crush it with bare hands.
• If a tick has already attached to the skin, use tweezers to grasp it by the head (not just the
body) as close to the skin as possible. Pull steadily until the tick pulls out (expect some
• Never squeeze an attached tick, burn it, or cover it with Vaseline or any other substance.
Doing so could force fluid from the tick into your skin.
• After removing a tick, disinfect the bite area and tweezers with alcohol, and wash your hands
with soap and hot water.
- How should I dispose of a tick?
Place the tick in a sealed container or small plastic bag and put it in the trash. Do not flush ticks
down the toilet because they can easily survive in the water.