Does The Lyme Disease Vaccine Really Work? We Asked A Vet

Better safe than sorry 🐶

When you take your pup to the vet for his annual checkup, your veterinarian will likely suggest giving him a vaccine for Lyme disease. If you’ve never heard of the disease before, or aren’t sure if the Lyme vaccine is worth giving to your dog, a vet shared with The Dodo why giving your dog the Lyme disease vaccine could save his life.

“[Lyme disease] is a tick-borne illness that can affect dogs and humans, but it only comes from the bite of an infected tick,” Dr. Erica Irish, DVM, told The Dodo.

These ticks are infected with a bacteria called Borrelia burgdorferi, which can be transmitted within 24 to 48 hours once a tick attaches itself to another animal or person.

“Symptoms include fever, lameness and joint pain, and decreased appetite,” Dr. Irish said. “If it affects the kidneys, it can cause vomiting and an increase in thirst and urination.”

Dog sick at the vet
Shutterstock/Kajohnwat Srikulthanakij

So, how exactly does the Lyme disease vaccine work?

“Like other vaccines, the Lyme vaccination helps the immune system produce antibodies,” Dr. Irish explained. “These antibodies can bind to the disease-causing bacteria from a tick, even while the bacteria are still inside the digestive tract of a tick during feeding!”

She notes that current literature on the Lyme vaccine provides mixed information about how effective it is. “Some studies show that it is 50 percent effective, while others show that it is close to 100 percent effective,” she noted. But these numbers still prove that the vaccine is, in fact, effective in fighting off the disease.

“Vaccinations are safe, so it is certainly worth giving if your dog lives in an area where Lyme disease is endemic,” Dr. Irish said.

Tick found on dog

And when you think about the alternative situation in which your dog gets Lyme disease, which doesn’t usually present symptoms for several months after infection, it makes your decision much easier.

“If left untreated, Lyme disease can cause permanent damage to the nervous system, heart and kidneys,” Dr. Irish said. “Patients with the kidney form of the disease (Lyme nephritis) are extremely difficult to treat, and the prognosis is poor for those pups.”

Golden retriever gets vaccine
Shutterstock/Ivonne Wierink

Give your dog the Lyme disease vaccine and also take preventative measures to make sure he doesn’t attract ticks in the first place. Flea and tick medications and topical treatments are a great way to avoid tick bites altogether.