skip to Main Content

The Lyme Disease Vaccine Is Not Tick Prevention: Here’s Why…

If you have a dog, the vaccine for Lyme Disease is one that we may recommend for your pet, based on your lifestyle and what kind of dog you have. Spread by the deer tick, Lyme Disease is caused by the Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria and results in symptoms like joint pain and lameness, fever and lethargy. In some cases, the infection can result in kidney damage and failure.

Lyme Disease is the most common tick-borne disease in North America and Europe.  In the United States, Lyme is one of the fastest growing infectious diseases. Dogs are sentinels for disease in humans, and recent increases in Lyme Disease in dogs indicates a need for greater vigilance in protecting humans from this disease as well.

Baltimore City has enough greenspace, trees and parks to support a tick population, so even if you are a city resident who rarely ventures to the county, you should consider the vaccine for your dog. Deer ticks are extremely small, even when engorged, and most owners whose pets test positive for Lyme Disease never recall seeing the tick. If your dog is an outdoorsy, athletic breed, if you take him camping or hiking, or if he has a thick or dark coat, we recommend vaccinating your dog.

However, even if you opt to get this vaccination, you still need to use tick prevention in some form to protect your dog.

Read on to learn why.

History of Lyme Disease
Lyme Disease has been around for at least 100 years, but neurological problems after tick bites weren’t recognized until the 1920’s. The manifestation of disease now known as Lyme Disease wasn’t officially recognized until the 1970’s and the bacteria that causes the disease was discovered in 1982.

Lyme Disease has been found in all states in the US, but 99% of reported cases originate from a small area of the country, including the mid-Atlantic states. Lyme Disease cannot be spread from person to person or from dog to dog or from dog to person, but your dog can bring ticks into your home, exposing you in that manner if you are bitten.

About The Deer Tick And Life Cycle
Lyme disease is spread by the deer tick, also called the black-legged tick. This tick feeds on deer as the primary host, but also utilizes small rodents and birds in the early life stages, and humans and other large mammals, such as dogs, as adults. Even when engorged with blood, the adult tick is extremely small and difficult to see. The tick can become infected at any point in the life cycle and can spread the bacteria with each additional host.

Not sure what a deer tick looks like? Check out this handy guide: A Guide To Ticks In Maryland

How the Lyme Vaccine Works
When a dog receives the Lyme disease vaccine, his immune system responds by creating antibodies to the bacteria that causes the disease and circulates those antibodies in the dog’s blood. When a tick takes a blood meal, it also ingests those antibodies, which kill the bacteria in the tick’s gut. In an unvaccinated dog, the bacteria can be transmitted through the tick’s saliva, but it takes time for it to move from the gut to the bloodstream to the salivary glands. A tick needs to be attached and feeding for several hours to several days, depending on the species, for this to happen. Most cases of Lyme disease are caused by nymphal forms, because they are small enough to remain attached without being noticed and removed before this process is finished. The vaccine’s effects on the tick are temporary and the tick can always be reinfected from another host.

Why You Still Need To Use Tick Prevention
The best practice to avoid tick-borne disease is to keep them off your animal altogether. The Lyme vaccine is a wonderful option for extra protection in case your tick prevention fails, but it does require a tick to bite your pet and suck his blood. Ticks can transmit disease other than Lyme disease that we do not have vaccines for, such as anaplasmosis. And while you cannot catch Lyme directly from your pet, those ticks can still drop off and reattach to a new host-you, your family members or other pets.

Options For Dogs
Topical prevention is applied monthly. BSAH carries Activyl, which is effective against fleas, flea larvae and ticks. Fleas and ticks do not need to bite your animal to be killed by this prevention. Activyl consists of a thick liquid product that is applied directly to the skin, and must be applied every 30 days to be effective.

For dogs who don’t tolerate Activyl, we also offer oral Bravecto. This tablet is given orally every three months. Bravecto is effective against fleas, deer ticks, American dog ticks, brown dog ticks and Lone Star ticks .

Options For Cats
Although it is extremely uncommon, cats can get Lyme disease. Indoor/outdoor cats should be on flea and tick prevention to avoid infestations in your home and on your other animals.

Bravecto For Cats is applied topically and is effective for three months against fleas, deer ticks and the American dog tick.

Please note that you should never apply or give your cat a flea/tick product unless the packaging SPECIFICALLY STATES THAT IT IS FOR CATS. Some products meant for dogs are TOXIC to cats.

Finally, if you do find a tick attached to your animal, remove it by grasping the head as close to the skin as possible with tweezers, then pull the tick straight out. It is not necessary to smother the tick or apply anything to it, as doing so can irritate the tick and increase the chances of passing tick-borne disease.

Need help choosing a product for your pet? Call the office and one of our staff members will be happy to walk you through the options.

Back To Top