Family in Fall

CAPC study: Lyme disease spreading to regions once thought low-risk

Condition in dogs could signal increasing threat to people, researchers say.

Jan 19, 2019

By staff


                                                                                                          The Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC) recently released a study                                                                                                                 that shows that Lyme disease is spreading to regions not previously                                                                                                                         thought to be at risk for tick-borne disease. States such as Illinois, Iowa,                                                                                                                   North Dakota, Ohio, Michigan, West Virginia and Tennessee have all seen an                                                                                                             increase in the prevalence of Lyme disease, according to a media release                                                                                                                 discussing the study, which CAPC conducted from January 2012 to                                                                                                                             December 2016. Results from the study were recently published in                                                                                                                           Environmetrics.


“                                                                                                         The results of this milestone study show increasing risk for Lyme disease in                                                                                                             endemic areas and pinpoint regions in the U.S. where Lyme is spreading—                                                                                                               areas not historically considered endemic,” says Michael Yabsley, PhD, a                                                                                                                   professor in the Department of Population Health, College of Veterinary Medicine and Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources at the University of Georgia. “This expanding risk of Lyme disease demands heightened vigilance in protecting both our pets and our families.”

The study was motivated by the increase in Lyme disease cases in the

U.S. and, in particular, in states not traditionally considered Lyme-

endemic, the release states. Results suggest that:

  • Canine prevalence rates for Lyme disease are rising.

  • Lyme prevalence rates are increasing most in areas where the pathogen

         has encroached recently.

  • Lyme prevalence in dogs is rising in states traditionally not considered

         to be of high Lyme risk, suggesting that human risk may also be

         increasing in these areas, including regions in Illinois, Iowa, North

         Dakota, Ohio, Michigan and Tennessee.

  • Significant increases in canine Lyme prevalence have been seen in

        some areas that are not yet reporting significant human incidence.

        Researchers speculate that canine prevalence is more sensitive 

         to changes in Lyme risk and could serve as an early warning system

         for changes in human risk.                                                                                          




The study was created to investigate regional trends in the prevalence of antibodies to Borrelia burgdorferi, the disease-causing bacterium of Lyme disease, according to the release. To conduct the research, the CAPC team analyzed more than 16 million Lyme tests from domestic dogs in the U.S. over 60 months. The serologic data was provided by IDEXX Laboratories.

“CAPC research shows the risk for Lyme disease is not static. The way it’s changing varies spatially across the country,” says Christopher McMahan, associate professor in the department of mathematical sciences at Clemson University, in the release.

Crucial in the fight against Lyme, Yabsley says, is year-round tick protection. Different species of ticks are active all 12 months of the year, and ticks that transmit Lyme are active at different times in the year in different regions, the release states. For instance, as you move further south, adult ticks are more active in the winter.

“I’ve been practicing for over 34 years in Nashville where many people don’t think Lyme disease is a concern. But I’ve seen canine Lyme increasing in Tennessee for several years and regularly test and vaccinate for the disease,” says Craig Prior, BVSC, CVJ, a veterinarian and former owner of VCA Murphy Road Animal Hospital in Nashville, Tennessee. “Many people tend to believe that if they don’t go on hikes or spend time in wooded areas, they aren’t at risk for Lyme. Ticks are everywhere—including suburban and gated communities where deer, raccoons, opossum, birds and other hosts frequent back yards. That’s why CAPC recommends year-round tick prevention for dogs—and cats—and regular screening to protect dogs ­from this debilitating disease that can be extremely hard to treat.”

On, CAPC now provides monthly forecasts for Lyme disease and other tick-borne diseases. It also provides access to monthly canine test results in prevalence maps, a CAPC resource available free online at With more than 21 million canine B. burgdorferi antibody test results collected between 2012 and 2017 in dogs, these maps allow veterinarians, physicians, pet owners and travelers to assess the risk of exposure across the United States and Canada.


-This article was first published on


New research from CAPC found that the prevalence of Lyme disease

is trending up in areas previously thought to be at a lower risk for

tick-borne diseases. (Image courtesy of CAPC)

6 Ways Pets Can

Improve Your



Have you ever noticed that you feel better when you're around your pet?

It's true. Spending quality time with a dog, cat or other animal can have a positive impact on your mood and your health. Pets can be calming stress-fighters.

"We found that pet owners, on average, were better off than non-owners, especially when they have a higher-quality relationship with their pets," says pet researcher Allen R. McConnell, PhD. He's a professor of psychology at Miami University. "What [makes] a meaningful relationship varies from person to person.”

For some active people, that includes playing ball or Frisbee in the park. For others who can’t get outside, just petting your dog can help you feel connected.

Pets can help you in other ways, too.

1. A Healthier Heart

Your dog may make you less likely to get heart disease. Why? Dog owners walk more and have lower blood pressure than people who don't have dogs.

Pets can also be good for you if you already have heart problems.



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Heart attack survivors and people with serious abnormal heart rhythms who own dogs live longer than people with the same heart problems who don't have pets, studies show.

2. Stress Soothers

Petting your cat or dog feels good. It can lower your blood pressure, helps your body release a relaxation hormone, and cuts down on levels of a stress hormone.

It also soothes your pet, says Alan Beck, ScD, director of the Center for the Human-Animal Bond at Purdue University.

3. Social Magnets

Pets, especially dogs, can help you connect with other people.

"If I saw you walking down the street, I couldn't comfortably start talking to you if I didn't know you, but I could if you had a dog," Beck says. "It's an acceptable interaction that otherwise wouldn't be possible."

People who use wheelchairs say that other people make eye contact with them more often and ask if they can be of help when they're with their dogs, Beck says.

4. Better Mood, More Meaning

People with pets are generally happier, more trusting, and less lonely than those who don't have pets. They also visit the doctor less often for minor problems.

One reason for that may be that your pet gives you a sense of belonging and meaning, McConnell says. "You feel like you have greater control of your life."

5. Benefits for Baby’s Immune System

Babies raised in families that have pets may be less likely to get allergies and asthma, some studies show.

It has to start early, ideally before a baby is 6 months old, says Beck.

Babies with dogs or cats at home have fewer colds and ear infections during their first year than babies living in pet-free homes, one study found.

6. Social Support for Autistic Children

Kids tend to relate better to their classmates who have autism when pets are in the classroom, Beck has found in his research.

"Animals change the classroom environment and help to integrate those who are a little less typical," Beck says. "Once the children get involved with animals, they view each other more positively and work together better."

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