What You Need to Know About Ticks, Lyme Disease and Lyme Vaccination in Dogs -NEW AND UPDATED!

We are seeing many more ticks in our practice, which can carry Lyme and other diseases. A 2010 tick survey by the Tompkins County Health Dept revealed that 50% of the deer ticks collected carried the Lyme organism.

This concerns us for 2 reasons: 1) Humans and dogs can both get Lyme disease, but humans are FAR more likely to get Lyme disease from a deer-tick bite than a dog, and more likely to get serious long lasting symptoms. 2) Ticks on your dog means there are ticks in your area that can possibly get on you and your family. Therefore if you find ticks on your dog you should be checking yourself for ticks twice a day.

Tick prevention is the very best way to prevent Lyme disease in people and pets!

In our opinion all dogs and cats that have exposure to ticks (every dog walked or let run anywhere except town streets) should be on tick prevention. The best prevention are products that  repel ticks and or cause ticks that have bitten to back out or die quickly.

Lyme Disease is uncommon in dogs. If 100 dogs are bitten by 100 Lyme carrying deer ticks (the tick must be attached to the dog for at least 48 hrs) generally only 10% or less will ever show symptoms. ALL of them will test positive for exposure to Lyme.
Typical symptoms include fever, lethargy, and painful swelling of one or more joints.

Lyme infection can also cause an uncommon form of severe, potentially fatal protein-losing kidney disease. Some breeds like Golden Retrievers and Labradors may be genetically predisposed to getting this form. Some experts believe the Lyme vaccine may make it easier for the kidney disease to develop in dogs. Other experts believe multiple tick bites per season puts any dog at risk for this form, and that vaccination may help to prevent it. There is no evidence to strongly support either position.

Up to this point Cornerstone has not recommended Lyme vaccination. However there have now been thousands of dogs safely vaccinated against Lyme disease in the Northeast. We have decided to offer this vaccine to our canine patients. The protocol for vaccination is as follows:

1. An in-office blood test to determine the Lyme status of your dog.

2. If your dog tests positive we require a urine sample to test for protein before vaccinating your dog.  We are already recommending this test for all dogs at each annual physical.

3. The initial vaccine series is two vaccines given 2-3 weeks apart.

4. After the initial series the Lyme vaccine is boostered annually.

REMEMBER, the best prevention for Lyme infection is tick control/prevention! It is far more important than vaccination! We recommend the use of Advantix topical (monthly), Seresto collars (lasts 8 months) or oral Bravecto tablets (once every three months.)

Please see this article for more information on Lyme Disease and Vaccination.