InsideToronto.com published an article entitled "Unsuspecting resident contracts Lyme disease from pet dog". However, Lyme disease cannot be transmitted from dogs to people.
Lyme disease is a tickborne disease caused by the bacterium Borrellia burgdorferi. This bacterium is transmitted from wildlife reservoirs to people and pets by ticks that have fed on an infected animal, and then latch onto a person or pet.
The article reports that a woman and her son from Scarborough, Ontario, were diagnosed with Lyme disease after there dog was infected. The owner frequently walked her dog in the Rouge Valley and Morningside Park. After finding a tick on her dog, the owner took the dog to the vet, and it was diagnosed with Lyme disease. She and her son were later diagnosed. The fact that people and pets in the same house got the same disease does not mean that the dog was the source of infection. Lyme disease cannot be transmitted directly between people and animals; ticks must be involved. Additionally, ticks must be attached for approximately 24 hours to efficiently transfer the bacterium. So, if multiple people and a pet in the house got Lyme disease, they were all bitten by ticks, presumably while walking in the woods. (It’s also possible that a tick could have been brought into the house by a dog, and then it jumped onto a person). Identification of Lyme disease in a dog does not mean that there is a risk to people from the infected dog, but it does indicate that people may have been exposed in the same manner as the dog, and they should pay attention.
The dog owner in this case is upset that her veterinarian did not warn her about Lyme disease. She wants the College of Veterinarians of Ontario (the provincial licensing body for veterinarians) to "require members to tell people when they may have been exposed to Lyme disease through a pet, as well as what the symptoms are." That’s reasonable, to a point. Veterinarians should engage their clients with discussions about zoonotic diseases. If they identify a pet with a zoonotic infection, they should talk about the implications. Similarly, if they identify a pet with an infection to which the owner may have also been exposed (such as Lyme disease), they should mention the risk. However, requiring vets to talk about signs of disease in people starts to cross the line between veterinary and human medicine. Vets should introduce the issue and let physicians take over from there.
People in the Toronto area should not panic based on this report. Lyme disease is quite rare in Ontario, especially in the Toronto area, as the ticks that transmit Lyme disease are not commonly found there.Toronto Public Health reports that an average of nine cases of Lyme disease a year have been diagnosed in people between 1998 and 2007, and that most of these cases were acquired in the US.