The Lyme disease vaccine for dogs remains in use despite the human Lyme disease vaccine being taken off the market. Whether this indicates our willingness to take higher risks with our dogs’ lives than our own, or whether safety concerns over the human Lyme disease vaccine were unfounded remains under some debate. Meanwhile, dogs in Lyme endemic-areas are frequently vaccinated against the bacterial infection caused by tick bites, whereas their owners are not.
Problems do exist with the Lyme disease vaccine for dogs however, such as possible adverse reactions, autoimmune issues, and even a lack of clarity over whether an animal is infected or is simply responding to a vaccination.
Advances in Testing for Lyme Titers in Dogs
Recent advances in testing protocols look promising in overcoming problems of antibody identification and, as the concerns surrounding kidney failure connected with Lyme disease vaccination remain unsupported by evidence, refraining from vaccination for your dog for this reason at least appears unwarranted. In some cases however, vaccination may be more likely to be harmful to your dog’s health than helpful, and finding a knowledgeable and experienced veterinarian is key to making the right decision over the Lyme disease vaccine for dogs.
Lyme Prevention Better than Cure
Whilst vaccines can be helpful in reducing the risk of a dog contracting Lyme disease, the onus remains on prevention using methods such as collars, ointments, and tick-awareness. Flea and tick collars may however pose a risk to the health and safety of puppies and kittens, as well as possible health risks for humans due to residue from the chemicals in the collars. Oral treatments are now being promoted as a healthier alternative to flea collars for pets but these are not available for tick control. Where a tick bite is discovered in the first two days and where the tick is removed without leaving the head embedded in the dog’s skin, infection with Lyme disease is extremely unlikely.
Minimizing Tick Exposure for Dogs
Good practices to reduce the risk of tick bites include keeping grass short around the home, and clearing any debris such as leaf-piles or log-piles where ticks may seek shelter. Walking dogs in tick-endemic areas can be a challenge and vaccination may be appropriate where it is likely that a dog will encounter ticks frequently. Strategies such as feeding a dog garlic in the hope that it will prevent tick bites is unlikely to be effective and may actually be dangerous as garlic is largely toxic to dogs themselves. Similarly, onions, geranium oil, pennyroyal oil, eucalyptus, and lavender can all be toxic to both cats and dogs and are unsuitable for use as tick-repellents in pets.
Types of Lyme Disease Vaccine for Dogs
Three main types of Lyme disease vaccine exist for use in dogs and each works slightly differently. The Fort Dodge’s Vaccine uses the familiar technique of introducing a small amount of dead Lyme disease bacteria into the system in order to provoke an immune response and the creation of antibodies against the Borrelia bacteria. Thus, if a dog is bitten by an infected tick, the required antibodies to Lyme disease infection are present and able to multiply faster in order to mount an attack against the infection before it can gain a foothold in the body.
Merial’s Vaccine is one which aims to create antibodies to the protein that is used by a tick as it feeds and which the bacteria take advantage of to ‘hide’ from the immune system as they spread through the bloodstream. In this way the body would hopefully detect any bacteria much more easily and be better able to recruit phagocytes and other immune system components to the area to eliminate infection from a tick bite. The Intervet-Schering-Plough’s Vaccine is similar to Merial’s Vaccine in that it also targets the protein in the ticks’ saliva, but it has the added action of fighting off the bacteria simultaneously. All three vaccines can help to prevent the Lyme disease bacteria from entering the body in any great number and reduce the risk of disseminated infection.
Vaccinated Dogs May ‘Cleanse’ Ticks of Lyme
It is also important to note that in some cases dogs vaccinated against Lyme disease and then bitten by an infected tick have actually been shown to ‘cleanse’ the tick of the infection, thus making it less likely that a tick which bites a vaccinated dog and goes on to bite a human will transmit the Borrelia bacteria themselves (LaFleur, et al, 2009). The vaccine used in such research is a newer form which aims to produce antibodies to more than just OspA as with previous vaccine protocols. This vaccine was associated with the presence of antibodies in the bloodstreams of those dogs vaccinated a year after the vaccination, thus affording a considerable period of protection from Lyme disease infection (LaFleur, et al, 2010).
Continue Reading –> The Dangers of Lyme Disease Vaccines for Dogs
LaFleur RL, Dant JC, Wasmoen TL, Callister SM, Jobe DA, Lovrich SD, Warner TF, Abdelmagid O, Schell RF. Bacterin that induces anti-OspA and anti-OspC borreliacidal antibodies provides a high level of protection against canine Lyme disease. Clin Vaccine Immunol. 2009 Feb;16(2):253-9. Epub 2008 Dec 3.
LaFleur RL, Callister SM, Dant JC, Jobe DA, Lovrich SD, Warner TF, Wasmoen TL, Schell RF.
One-year duration of immunity induced by vaccination with a canine Lyme disease bacterin. Clin Vaccine Immunol. 2010 May;17(5):870-4. Epub 2010 Mar 17.