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Lyme Vaccine for Dogs: Is It Right for Your Pup?

Written By
Reviewed by
Dr. Sara Redding Ochoa, DVM
4 min read
4 min read

Updated - Apr 24th, 2023

Key Points

  • The Lyme vaccine for dogs protects against the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi, which causes Lyme disease in dogs.
  • Not all dogs require the Lyme vaccine, but it’s recommended for dogs living in or visiting areas that have a significant tick prevalence.
  • The vaccine may cause mild side effects, but severe reactions are rare.
  • The Lyme vaccine is not a one-size-fits-all solution, and it’s important to consult your veterinarian to determine if your dog should receive the vaccine.

Lyme disease 101

Lyme disease, or Lyme borreliosis, is a tick-borne illness transmitted by blacklegged ticks (Ixodes scapularis), also known as deer ticks. This disease can affect both humans and animals, including dogs.

Not all tick bites cause Lyme disease – but when they do, serious health issues can arise. Lyme disease can cause lameness, fever, and loss of appetite, and if left untreated, it can cause more severe conditions such as Lyme nephritis.

What is the Lyme vaccine for dogs?

The Lyme vaccine for dogs is designed to protect against Borrelia burgdorferi, the bacteria that causes Lyme disease. Lyme disease vaccination works by triggering an immune response that reduces the risk of canine Lyme disease. The vaccine stimulates the dog’s immune system with bacterins that produce antibodies against Lyme borreliosis. This way, if the dog is later exposed to the bacteria, their immune system will be better equipped to fight it off.

Lyme vaccine according to region and climate

The Lyme vaccine is not required for all dogs, but it’s recommended for dogs living in or visiting areas with a high prevalence of Lyme disease. In endemic areas of the Northeast and upper Midwest, where Lyme-infected tick populations are high, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends paying special attention to tick prevention due to public health concerns. 

In these high-risk areas, dogs and humans are more likely to get black-legged tick bites and exposure to Borrelia burgdorferi. Black-legged ticks can also be found in other areas around North America, especially where the weather is warm. Remember, ticks aren’t just a problem in the summer months. They can be active year-round, depending on where you live!

Side effects of the Lyme vaccine for dogs

Like all vaccines, the Lyme vaccine can cause mild side effects such as soreness at the injection site, fever, and lethargy. Severe reactions are rare, but they can occur. 

Symptoms of a severe reaction to the lyme vaccine may include: 

  • Facial swelling
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Collapse

It’s important to monitor your dog after they receive a vaccine or any veterinary medicine. Contact your veterinarian immediately if you notice any concerning symptoms.

Tick prevention and treatments

While vaccines are important, the best way to prevent tick-borne illnesses is by taking measures to avoid tick bites. These measures can include keeping your vaccinated dog away from wooded or grassy areas where ticks are prevalent, using tick repellents, and performing daily tick checks. There are also various treatments available to control ticks, including oral medications, topical solutions, and some vet-approved collars. 

It’s important to consult with your veterinarian to determine the best course of action for your pet’s tick prevention and treatment needs. With proper prevention and treatment measures, you can help protect your pet and reduce the risk of tick-borne illnesses.

Lyme vaccine for dogs: Do’s and Don’ts:

DO:

  • Check the CDC website to determine if you live in a region where Lyme disease is prevalent.
  • Consult your veterinarian to determine if the Lyme disease vaccine is right for your dog.
  • Monitor your dog for any side effects after they receive the Lyme vaccine.

DON’T:

  • Assume that all dogs require the Lyme vaccine.
  • Assume that the Lyme vaccine prevents other tick-borne illnesses. 
  • Rely on the vaccine alone to prevent Lyme disease – tick control and prevention are important measures to protect your dog from tick-borne diseases.

Lyme vaccine FAQs

How often should my dog receive the Lyme vaccine?

The duration of immunity for the Lyme vaccine is still under investigation. It’s generally recommended that dogs receive the vaccine annually or as recommended by a veterinarian.

Can the Lyme vaccine prevent other tick-borne diseases?

No. The Lyme vaccine is designed to protect against B burgdorferi, the bacteria that causes Lyme disease. There are several other tick-borne pathogens that can affect dogs, including Anaplasma and Ehrlichiosis. Symptoms of these illnesses are similar to Lyme disease, so talk to your veterinarian about tick bite differentiation.

Can my dog have the Lyme vaccine?

In general, healthy dogs over eight weeks of age can receive the Lyme vaccine. However, the vaccine may not be suitable for dogs with a compromised immune system or those with a history of adverse events related to vaccinations. 

Talk to your veterinarian about the Lyme vaccine for dogs

If you live in a region where Lyme disease is common or your pet enjoys spending time in wooded or grassy areas, it’s important to talk to your veterinarian about the best course of action to protect your dog against Lyme disease. By staying informed and taking preventive measures, you can help keep your pet safe and healthy for years to come.

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REFERENCES

Zoe Tanner

Zoe Tanner

Zoe is a passionate writer and long-time animal lover. She's a devoted cat mother to four furry felines.
Reviewed by Dr. Sara Redding Ochoa, DVM
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