To Vaccinate Dogs for Lyme Disease or Not
Let’s face it. The world can be a very scary place. For many pet owners, Lyme disease has become one of the scariest things out there. But is all the fear necessary? Do you really need to vaccinate your dog for the disease? Unfortunately, the answer to those questions isn’t quite as clear as it used to be.
Previously, dogs which did not spend a great deal of time outside in certain high-risk areas and/or those regularly receiving adequate products for tick control were considered safe from such tick-borne diseases as Lyme disease. This no longer appears to be the case.
Black areas are highest risk, darker red also high risk areas.
The disease has spread greatly over the past decade. Previously, dog owners were advised that if their dog was not in New England, there was little reason to be concerned. But things have changed. Lyme disease is now no longer isolated to a few states, but instead has made its way across the country.
On a human, a bite from an infected tick may leave a tell-tale circular rash. This may not be visible on a dog.
While accurate and up-to-date figures are difficult to find, reported cases around the United States have shot way up.
(Compare the 2 maps below right, showing the CDC’s reported incidences in blue, with the year 2013’s occurrences compared to the year 2001’s.)
Instances of Lyme Disease as reported by the CDC
(2001 vs. 2013)
According CDC records, in 2004, Vermont reported 202 cases of the disease. By 2013, that number had grown to 893 cases of confirmed and probable Lyme disease incidents. Also in 2004, Illinois had reported just 84 cases, but by 2013 there were 337 cases of confirmed Lyme disease in the state. The growth of Lyme disease incidents hasn’t been limited to the east. For example, California had reported just 48 cases in 2004, compared to a rate of 112 confirmed and probable Lyme disease incidents in 2013. For more information on state-by-state instances of the disease, visit the Center for Disease Control website at http://www.cdc.gov/lyme/stats/chartstables/reportedcases_statelocality.html
With a little more information under your belt, it’s time to talk to your vet about the vaccine and its risks. Over time, the Lyme disease vaccine has shown extremely low occurrence of negative effects, at less than 2%. Such reactions can include hives, swelling, itchiness, and, rarely, collapse. Once you have learned about the vaccine, you can make an informed and intelligent decision about whether to have your dog vaccinated. Be aware that the Lyme disease vaccine has not shown itself to be effective in every situation. Therefore, regardless of your decision about vaccinating, you should continue to perform a daily check for ticks on your dog. Your vet should also be able to recommend lotions and collars which have proven to be both safe and effective in preventing tick infestations.
Now that you have a bit more information about Lyme disease vaccination for your dog, the world should be a little less scary. All that’s left is for you to take action.
Craig is a lifelong pet owner and dog advocate with a special interest in animal and human longevity. He founded Vet Organics to develop an affordable, all-natural, safe and effective ear infection remedy for his dog, Lucy, whose chronic ear problems could not be solved by the vet.