Felis ISSN 2398-2950

Borrelia burgdorferi

Synonym(s): B. burgdorferi

Contributor(s): Melissa Kennedy




  • Family: Spirochaetaceae.
  • Genus: Borrelia.

Active Forms

This article is available in full to registered subscribers

Sign up now to purchase a 30 day trial, or Login

Clinical Effects



  • Two year lifecycle.
  • Four distinct developmental stages and three hosts are required. Transtadial transmission in tick occurs.
  • Tick larvae emerge in spring   →   infected by feeding on infected mice.
  • Larvae drop off and enter resting stage until following spring   →   moult to nymphal stage.
  • Nymphs feed for 3-4 days on new host   →   host become infected with spirochetes.
  • Nymphs drop off and moult to adult stage.
  • Adults feed for 5-7 days on large mammals.
  • Females overwinter and lay eggs the following spring.


  • Tick bite - Ixodes spp are the arthropod vectors; species depend on the geographical location, eg in Europe, the tick involved is Ixodes ricinus.
  • Rodents are reservoir hosts.
  • Canine and feline infections are not considered zoonotic.
  • Tick must be attached for several hours before infection of host occurs.

Pathological effects

  • Immune complexes and immunosuppression are thought to be involved in the pathogenesis.
  • Endotoxin is probably involved in the pathogenesis .
  • Dog: acute polyarthritis, classically migratory, chronic, recurrent, intermittent, non-erosive arthritis.
  • Cattle: abortion.
  • Horse: ocular, neural involvement and death in foals.
  • Man: skin rash (erythema migrans), sometimes arthritis, neural, cardiac sequelae.


Control via chemotherapies

  • Penicillin Benzylpenicillin.
  • Tetracycline Tetracycline.
  • Antibiotic treatment is not universally effective, treatment regimes depend on the nature and severity of clinical signs.
  • Tetracycline treatment reduces the relapse rate.

Control via environment

  • Chemical control of tick populations in endemic areas has been relatively successful.
  • Daily removal of ticks from dogs and cats can be beneficial as ticks must feed for 2-3 days before disease transmission occurs.


  • Killed bacterium, OspA extract vaccines available in USA; primarily used in endemic areas in USA.


This article is available in full to registered subscribers

Sign up now to purchase a 30 day trial, or Login

Further Reading


Refereed papers