Does your dog need the Lyme vaccine?

Will the Lyme vaccine protect your dog from tick-borne illnesses? Maybe. But that doesn’t mean he should get it.

The first vaccine to help prevent Lyme disease in humans was licensed by the Food and Drug Administration in 1998, although even the FDA stresses that it is not completely effective and shouldn’t be used in place of proper preventive measures. A similar controversy surrounds the canine vaccine, although Dr. Mark Newkirk, who operates a veterinary practice in Margate, New Jersey, stresses that “since the advent of the Lyme vaccine, the incidence of Lyme disease is down.”

As with any other vaccine, there is the danger of side effects. However, Dr. Newkirk points out that he sees more reactions from the rabies vaccine than for Lyme disease. “It’s difficult to overvaccinate with Lyme, since immunity doesn’t last as it does with rabies or distemper,” he adds. “We can also use Lyme nosode to ‘vaccinate’ with, although there’s no 20-million dollar study to prove it works.”

So, should you have Rover vaccinated or not? The best approach is to find out how much of a risk Lyme disease is in your region. If it’s minimal, you’re probably better off not having him vaccinated; if the risk is high, however – as it is in the northeastern U.S., where the majority of cases occur – it may be something you need to consider.