If you live in Ohio, Lyme Disease has been a shadow looming over us for a long time. It used to be “just a New England thing”, but now it has crept into our neck of the woods in its never ending march westward. We’ve known it was coming for months – years even. Now it is finally here.
Our job now becomes one of estimating the threat and providing an appropriate response to keep our dogs safe and protected from this disease. This is part of what we as veterinarians do all the time. Due to the costs, and a desire to keep the number of vaccinations as low as possible in every patient, for many months, the opinion of AVC was one of preferring faithful application of tick preventatives over Lyme vaccination. Recently our official stance has changed regarding the Lyme vaccine. Although it is technically not considered a core vaccine, due to finding not one, but two Lyme positive dogs in the past month – we feel that this vaccine needs to be made available to our clients. It is because of these positive dogs that we have starting carrying a small amount of Merial Lyme Vaccine. We are now making the option available to all our dog parents so that they can keep their dogs protected.
Here’s what you need to know:
- What is Lyme Disease?
Lyme Disease is a bacterial infection caused by Borrelia burgdorferi, a bacteria that is transmitted via tick bites. It can affect humans, dogs, horses and cattle. Cats typically do not contract Lyme Disease.
- How do I know if my dog has Lyme Disease?
The best, most accurate way to detect Lyme Disease is a blood test. At AVC, we use a test called a 4DX that tests for Heartworm Disease, Lyme Disease, Anaplasmosis, and Ehrlichia. The test uses a small sample of blood, and gives us results in about 10 minutes. We perform this test on our patients yearly to make sure they haven’t been exposed to these diseases over the course of the previous year. Other symptoms of Lyme Disease that you may notice at home are joint pain/lameness, joint swelling, fever, loss of appetite, and reduced energy.
- Is Lyme Disease fatal?
Not usually. However, in a small number of infected dogs, the bacteria can damage the kidneys which can lead to glomerulonephritis, which is nearly always fatal.
- Is Lyme Disease treatable?
The good news is yes, Lyme Disease is treatable with an extended trial of antibiotics. Not all dogs who test positive for Lyme will develop clinical signs, however, AVC always recommends treating with antibiotics to help prevent the onset of clinical signs, and especially to protect the kidneys from damage. Although antibiotics should always be used judiciously the doctors feel that the potential protection against acute kidney disease and uncomfortable Lyme symptoms warrants the used of extended antibiotics for any Lyme positive dog. Even though Lyme Disease is technically a treatable infection, the best option is always to prevent it in the first place!
- Is Lyme Disease preventable?
Thankfully, yes! Lyme Disease can be prevented by vaccination against the bacteria that the ticks carry, by staying consistent with your dog’s tick prevention medications, or you can be extra safe and do both! (Which is what we recommend, especially for dogs with a high exposure risk)
- Is it effective?
Yes! The Merial Recombitek Lyme Vaccine was able to protect 100% of the dogs in their study after a severe natural exposure.
- Is the vaccine safe? What about vaccine reactions?
The specific type of Lyme Vaccine that we chose to carry at AVC is the safest, least reactive vaccine that you can purchase. The Recombitek Lyme is a type of vaccine that does not contain the entire bacteria, but only parts of the proteins that allow it to create immunity, but doesn’t include the extra “junk” proteins that are not needed for immunity, and often those proteins are what cause allergic reactions. Because this is a much cleaner vaccine, it causes far fewer allergic reactions. It is also a non-adjuvanted vaccine, which is by far the safest type of vaccine on the market.
- How do I get my dog vaccinated?
For any dog who has never received the Lyme Vaccine, or hasn’t received one within the last 5 years, they will require one temporary vaccine, and a booster 2-3 weeks later. If your dog has had their yearly physical within the last 12 months, and is otherwise up to date on all their regular vaccinations, our veterinary technicians can administer the Lyme vaccine, and they will not require another physical exam.
- Is it expensive?
Sadly, the Lyme Vaccine is a bit higher than your dog’s regular vaccines. We won’t lie, the price has been factored into our decision to carry the vaccination in the past, but we feel that at this time we can no longer rely solely on flea and tick preventatives to protect our dogs, and we feel the vaccine is an important part of our defense against this disease. We have tried to price the Lyme Vaccine at the lowest price point we can, and currently it costs $35 per vaccine.
- Should I vaccinate my dog?
It depends on you and your dog. Do you spend a lot of time outdoors? Do you walk or hike with your dog? Do you live near areas with a high density of trees, or near any fields? Does your dog go outside to potty? If you answered yes, you might want to consider getting your dog protected. Ticks are literally everywhere, and this year we have seen an abnormally high amount of ticks. It is truly a personal decision whether you think your dog should be vaccinated or not, however, we can say that we highly recommend it.
- Ok, sign me up! How can I schedule my pup?
This part is simple! You can give us a call at 330-833-3127, or schedule an appointment online. We look forward to seeing you!