Part of an annual wellness visit for dogs is a blood test that screens for heartworm disease (spread by mosquitoes) and three tick-borne diseases, including Lyme disease. Of the three illnesses spread by ticks that this test screens for, only Lyme Disease has a preventative vaccination. As most of our canine patients are city dogs, we are frequently asked if the Lyme vaccine is necessary. The short answer: maybe. Exposure to the bacteria that causes this disease and subsequent infection must come directly from a tick bite, so your dog’s risk is related to your lifestyle as an owner. Here are some factors to consider:
How much time does my dog spend outside? Ticks are less common in the city, but can still be found on urban wildlife, such as birds or rodents. Nearby Patterson Park has enough grass and trees to support a tick population. If you have an athletic or outdoor loving pet, you should consider the vaccine.
What sort of coat does my dog have? Deer ticks are very small and hard to see. Most owners of dogs testing positive for Lyme Disease do not recall a tick bite. It’s also important to note that dogs don’t develop the typical bulls eye rash seen in people. If your dog has a thick or long coat, or darkly pigmented skin, making tick detection difficult, you should consider the vaccine.
Where do I plan to travel with my pet? If you camp or hike with your dog, or frequently visit friends and family in Lyme endemic areas, you should consider the vaccine.
How often do I find ticks on my pet? If you remove ticks from your dog frequently, you should consider the vaccine.
Even if you do opt to vaccinate your dog for Lyme Disease, you will still need to use a topical flea and tick prevention. The Lyme vaccine doe not protect against other diseases spread by ticks, such as Rocky Mountain spotted fever or ehrlichiosis.