Vaccinating your Dog Against Lyme Disease

If a dog lives in a non-endemic area for Lyme disease it is most likely not beneficial to vaccinateVaccinating your Dog Against Lyme Disease them for Lyme disease.  Currently known endemic areas are the northeastern states, the upper Midwest, and coastal regions of northern California, Oregon, and Washington.

There are currently two types of vaccines licensed for use in dogs:

1. Whole-cell, killed (inactivated) bacterin.  This vaccine induces immunity against a wide array of spirochetal (tick) antigens.  There was a study that looked at the incidence of Lyme disease in dogs that had received this type of vaccine versus dogs that were not vaccinated.  The incidence of Lyme disease was 1% in 1,969 vaccinated dogs and 4.7% in 4,498 unvaccinated dogs.  Thirty-eight (1.9%) of the 1,969 vaccinated dogs had minor reactions which resolved immediately or within 72 hours after vaccination.  No allergic or autoimmune diseases were observed in the vaccinated dogs in this study.

2. Recombinant outer surface protein (Osp A) vaccine.  This vaccine supposedly inactivates the infectious organism in the attached tick before it enters the dog’s body.  In a study involving 20 dogs vaccinated with the recombinant, non-adjuvanted B. Burgdorferi vaccine all dogs were protected against infection after severe challenge that infected 100% of control dogs.  The human Lyme vaccine product using OspA was associated with immune-mediated arthritis, but to date no reports of this have surfaced in veterinary medicine.

Unlike many infectious diseases, the immunity that a dog develops following Lyme infection appears to be minimal.  This means your dog can develop a Lyme infection multiple times.  Also, antibiotic treatment of infected dogs does not fully clear the infection.  Although there needs to be more published studies to determine the efficacy of the vaccine, there is reasonable evidence to suggest the vaccine can prevent infection.  If you decide to have your dog vaccinated for Lyme disease, the first vaccine can be given as early as 9 weeks of age.  A second dose should be given 2 to 4 weeks later, and then annual boosters to follow.  If you are considering vaccinating your dog for Lyme disease it is best to discuss this with your veterinarian.

Click here to learn more about the symptoms of Lyme disease in the dog.

To learn about testing dogs for Lyme disease, click here.

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Dr Peter Nurre

Peter Nurre, DVM, Diplomate ACVIM (internal medicine) is a board- certified veterinary internal medicine specialist. His professional interests include internal medicine and cardiology.

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