The idea for this week's cover story came from my vet, Dr. Leonard Pineau, who told me that his office was seeing an astonishing increase in Lyme disease. What made it even more interesting is that his practice is an urban one. Even dogs who are confined to concrete back yards are being infected, he told me, presumably by tick-carrying birds.
What he said wasn't of immediate concern to my family, because we own cats and they are not very likely to contract the disease (although they do carry the deer tick that carries the spirochete bacteria). But dog owners beware. And be aware that diagnosing pets with Lyme disease is often as difficult as diagnosing people, for the same reason: Symptoms can be quite vague.
I interested free-lance writer Beth Smith in the story, and she found a good veterinarian to focus it on -- Dr. Wendy Feaga, who is particularly skilled at diagnosing the disease in animals because she suffers from it herself. "Experts say that man is a good model for the dog," she told Beth. "In other words, what we know about Lyme in man we can apply to dogs. So even though there really was very little written about the disease in animals until about two years ago, I had done some research on my own."