Lyme Disease (Borrelia burgdorferi) Vaccine for Dogs

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Lyme disease is one of a number of frustratingly common tick-borne diseases that are regarded by both veterinarians and human physicians as stubborn, insidious, and just plain problematic. In dogs, the disease causes tiredness, fever, joint pain, and loss of appetite. And though antibiotics often relieve the symptoms, once a dog has been infected, relapses can occur. Fortunately, a vaccine is available and recommended for dogs who live and play in high-risk areas.

Summary

An infection caused by the Borrelia burgdorferi bacterium, Lyme disease is transmitted through the bite of an infected tick and can affect many species, including dogs and humans.

Ticks of the Ixodes species (called deer ticks) are known to transmit Lyme disease when they attach to a host and feed. Because the tick must be attached for at least 50 hours to transmit Lyme disease, frequent inspection for ticks (and quick removal) can reduce the risk of disease transmission.

Lyme disease is more common in certain areas of the United States, including the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, and upper Midwest.

Vaccine Indications

The Lyme vaccine is considered a non-core vaccination. It’s generally recommended only for dogs with a known high risk of exposure to ticks carrying the Borrelia burgdorferi organism (i.e., dogs living in or visiting regions where the risk of exposure to the Ixodes tick is high or where the disease is known to be present).

Delivery This vaccine is administered by injection.

While your veterinarian is always in the best position to advise you on individual vaccination decisions and schedules, the American Animal Hospital Association recommends the following vaccine schedule for dogs at risk for exposure to Lyme disease:

  • For pups, the initial vaccine can be given between 9 and 12 weeks of age (depending on manufacturer’s recommendations) and repeated two to four weeks later.
  • For older puppies (older than 16 weeks of age) or adults receiving the Lyme vaccine for the first time, two doses two to four weeks apart are recommended.
  • Annual revaccination just prior to tick season is recommended for dogs at a sustained risk of exposure to the Lyme disease-causing organism.

Precautions

Administering a vaccine is a medical procedure, and there are times when a vaccine may not be recommended. For example, your veterinarian may advise against vaccinating an animal that is currently sick, pregnant, or may not have adequate immune system functioning to respond to a vaccination. For pets with a previous history of vaccine reactions, the potential risk of a future vaccine reaction should be weighed against the potential benefits of vaccination. These and other issues are evaluated when deciding what is best for your dog.

Alternatives

Pet owners are advised to check pets daily for ticks, safely remove ticks if detected, and use a safe, effective, method of tick control. Your veterinarian can advise you of appropriate tick control methods and the risk of Lyme disease in your area.

References

American Animal Hospital Association vaccine guidelines

This article has been reviewed by a Veterinarian.

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