Objective—To evaluate dogs as a sentinel species for emergence of Lyme disease in a region undergoing invasion by Ixodes scapularis.
Sample Population—353 serum samples and 78 ticks obtained from dogs brought to 18 veterinary clinics located in the lower peninsula of Michigan from July 15, 2005, through August 15, 2005.
Procedures—Serum samples were evaluated for specific antibodies against Borrelia burgdorferi by use of 3 serologic assays. Ticks from dogs were subjected to PCR assays for detection of pathogens.
Results—Of 353 serum samples from dogs in 18 counties in 2005, only 2 (0.6%) contained western blot analysis–confirmed antibodies against B burgdorferi. Ten of 13 dogs with I scapularis were from clinics within or immediately adjacent to the known tick invasion zone. Six of 18 I scapularis and 12 of 60 noncompetent vector ticks were infected with B burgdorferi. No ticks were infected with Anaplasma phagocytophilum, and 3 were infected with Babesia spp.
Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Serosurvey in dogs was found to be ineffective in tracking early invasion dynamics of I scapularis in this area. Tick chemoprophylaxis likely reduces serosurvey sensitivity in dogs. Ticks infected with B burgdorferi were more common and widely dispersed than seropositive dogs. In areas of low tick density, use of dogs as a source of ticks is preferable to serosurvey for surveillance of emerging Lyme disease. Impact for Human Medicine—By retaining ticks from dogs for identification and pathogen testing, veterinarians can play an important role in early detection in areas with increasing risk of Lyme disease.