Sunday, May 2, 2010

Should Your Dog Get the Lyme Disease Vaccine?

By Ruthie Bently

I have lived in southern Minnesota for almost twelve years now. We don’t usually see ticks of any kind before May, when the temperature warms enough up for them to become active; this year was the exception to the rule. After a ramble with Skye I found the first tick, not on Skye but on my own arm. It was only the second week of March.

There are eight ticks in the United States that are responsible for ten diseases people catch; Lyme disease is one that our dogs can catch too. The Deer Tick or Black-Legged Tick (Ixodes scapularis) is not the only tick that carries the bacteria that causes Lyme disease. It is also carried by a tick known as the Western Black-Legged Tick (I. pacificus) on the West Coast of the United States. It was originally thought that only the Northern Deer Tick (Ixodes dammini) was a carrier of Lyme disease. The Lone Star Tick (Ambylomma americanum), Ixodes Angustus, and Ixodes spinipalpis have been shown in experiments to be vectors of Lyme disease. This means that due to the development of the disease, there could be more than three ticks we have to worry about in the future. Depending on your location in the United States, from 1% to more than 90% of the ticks can be infected with the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi that causes Lyme disease. The nymph stage of the tick life cycle is the most common for Lyme disease transmission.

Chemical and medical preparations for tick prevention have been around for many years: collars, powders, chewables and topical treatments to protect for a month at a time. There is currently a vaccine available for canine Lyme disease, but there are pros and cons for it. As a responsible pet owner, I always look at something from all sides before I make a decision, because I want the best for the creatures in my care. While the vaccine is reputed to keep your dog from getting Lyme disease, there are dogs that have been vaccinated that have still contracted Lyme disease. Proponents of the vaccine state that it will keep a dog from becoming a carrier and transmitting it to their owner. When I asked my vet about this, he stated you can’t get Lyme disease from your dog; it comes from a tick and cannot be passed from dog to human.

One manufacturer guarantees their vaccine and states that they will pay for 50% of any treatment a dog needs if they do contract Lyme disease. While this sounds good, I have to wonder why they’re only offering to pay for 50% of the treatment. This makes me question vaccinating my dog against the disease in the first place. Other things to consider are that the Lyme vaccine only provides immunity for a short time span, and needs to be administered yearly. It can cause an untreatable, fatal form of Lyme disease. None of the veterinary schools in the United States recommend it. Prolonged use of the vaccine can cause kidney problems in dogs.

Many dogs do not show symptoms of Lyme disease until they have had it for between four and six months, and some dogs never show symptoms. The Canine SNAP 3DX (or C6 SNAP) is a test for antibodies in a dog’s body specific to Lyme disease and should not be affected if you dog has been vaccinated for Lyme disease as the antibodies are only present after infection. Your vet can perform the test and it’s reputed to be very accurate in Lyme detection. If your dog tests positive, the Lyme Quantitative C6 Antibody test is suggested as a follow-up. It can be used as a baseline not only for diagnosis, but for indicating progress in the therapy of the disease.

If contracted by dogs, Lyme disease can be treated either allopathically or holistically. However, because of the seriousness of this disease to your pet’s health, this is not one you can attempt to treat by yourself at home, with an over the counter fix. You need to seek veterinary help.

In my opinion, vaccinating for Lyme disease is a bad idea, and I live in one of the states where Lyme disease is high for dogs. It may lull you into a false sense of security; there are other tick borne diseases that our dogs can contract. The other diseases aren’t going away any time soon and if history is any indicator they may just get worse. Tick prevention should be a consideration in your line of defense. After all, Lyme disease started in Lyme, Connecticut and now is nationwide. Whatever you decide to do, make sure you seek the counsel of your veterinarian before you decide whether to vaccinate for Lyme disease, or not.

Read more articles by Ruthie Bently

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