Lyme disease has been on the rise, and according to the Baker Institute, it is now the most common arthropod-borne disease affecting humans in the United States, and it is one of the most common in dogs as well. It is cased by a bacterium carried by deer ticks. Symptoms in dogs include sudden lameness and/or signs of severe pain in the joints. A dog with Lyme disease may have fever and be lethargic. The dog might recover and then have the symptoms recur in a few weeks.
There is a canine vaccination for Lyme disease, and given that Lyme disease is so serious, you might think it would be a no-brainer to vaccinate your dog for it. However, there are some concerns to be aware of.
According to the the Baker Institute, dogs are much less likely to get Lyme disease than humans. It also is treatable with antibiotics. Further, it found that the benefit of the vaccination in decreasing incidents of Lyme were rather small and that there were also risks involved with the vaccine. Thus, it could not recommend the vaccination. It has also been noted by Michael Stone of the Cummings School that the effectiveness of the vaccine on the whole is questionable. However, Stone noted that its side effects, while possible, do not appear to be great. One of my favorite resources, Dr. Karen Becker, does not recommend vaccination. Dr. Becker notes several concerns:
1. The vaccines are created to treat non-viral infections with a short effective duration of around a year.
2. The vaccines are known to be significantly reactive to the immune system, which can trigger secondary reactions, including autoimmune disease.
3. Many dog owners mistakenly believe the vaccine will prevent ticks, which it does not.
4. Using a a chemical tick repellent on your pet with a vaccine doubles the dose of toxins your pet is exposed to.
Really the best way to avoid Lyme disease is to prevent ticks from attaching in the first place and to do a regular check of your dog in order to quickly remove ticks. Learn more at Pet MD and from Dr. Becker on ways to prevent Lyme without a vaccine.
Ultimately, the decision whether to vaccinate is up to you. I decided not to vaccinate my dogs for Lyme. I was concerned with the risks of the vaccine, especially in light of the very low risk my dogs, or dogs in general, face. We do not go to areas where ticks are prevalent, and I use a topical tick preventative. If I routinely took my dogs to tick infested areas, I might reconsider, but even then I might decide against the vaccination and opt to continue using a topical tick preventative and performing regular checks of my dog for ticks.
Photo Credit: Joseph North