Pros and Cons of Lyme Vaccine for Dogs [Wag More, Worry Less]

Zack Keithy, our author, is a certified veterinarian technician (UC Blue Ash) for over 6 years (contact him here). The articles written here are based on his expertise and experience, combined with a review by our expert vet reviewers including Dr M. Tarantino. Learn more about us here.

As a proud pup parent myself, I know how much we care about keeping our four-legged buddies safe and sound. 

But, you know, when it comes to vaccines, it’s like navigating a canine-sized maze, am I right?

Think about it this way: you’re out on a nature hike, your tail-wagging buddy by your side, exploring everything from grassy knolls to muddy puddles. 

You’re both having a blast until you hear those dreaded words, ticks and tick-borne illnesses.

Luckily, there’s a solution to keep it at bay, but the trouble is, the shot also comes with its own set of drawbacks.

So what are the pros and cons of Lyme vaccine for dogs?

Let’s weigh the options. 

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Dear Dog Owner

What is Lyme Disease?

What is Lyme Disease

If you live in an area teeming with ticks, you’re likely no stranger to the dread of Lyme disease. This nasty ailment makes its way to dogs through the bite of an infected tick. 

It’s caused by the bacterium known as Borrelia burgdorferi. Yeah, it’s a mouthful and, sadly, it can unleash a variety of symptoms in our four-legged companions.

The disease is typically carried by the deer tick. This is also known as the black-legged tick. 

Once the bacteria gets into the blood of your furry pal, it can travel throughout the body and wreak havoc on different organs.

What are the symptoms of Lyme disease in dogs?

Lyme disease often flies under the radar since a relatively small number of dogs, only about 10%, display noticeable symptoms. 

What’s worse is that these signs tend to surface during the chronic phase of the illness.

This means that your furry companion might be dealing with Lyme disease for a span of two to five months before any telltale signs arise.

Keep a watchful eye if your pet suddenly seems feverish and loses interest in food and playtime. They might also get lethargic and hesitant to move due to the discomfort in their bodies. 

Pay attention if your pet starts walking gingerly or adopts a limp while moving around. This could also be because of the pain in their joints.

Don’t forget to inspect their joints and lymph nodes – these swell up because of the disease.

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How is Lyme disease being treated? 

Once your pet’s vet confirms your furry pal is dealing with Lyme disease, they’ll likely hand over a prescription for antibiotics. 

The go-to choice is often doxycycline, though other antibiotics could be on the menu too. 

This treatment typically takes around 4 weeks, or maybe even more depending on your pet’s specific scenario. 

If your fur buddy is dealing with intense pain or some serious joint inflammation, their vet might also add in some anti-inflammatory medication to offer them a bit more comfort. 

How serious is Lyme disease in dogs?

Lyme disease isn’t one to be taken lightly, especially if it’s left untreated in your furry companion. 

This ailment can wreak havoc on your pet’s heart, kidneys, and nervous system. 

Now, I don’t want to alarm you, but it’s worth noting that if left unchecked for too long, Lyme disease can unfortunately be fatal.

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What is the Lyme Vaccine for Dogs?

This vaccine is typically administered through injections. It triggers our pets’ immune systems to make antibodies against the Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria responsible for the tick-borne disease.

What is the Lyme vaccine schedule like?

It is administered in a series. Your fur pal will get an initial shot and then receive a booster after two to three weeks.

Puppies usually get two boosters for extra protection. The boosters are typically given a week apart.

Annual revaccination is necessary for those who live in regions where ticks are a problem. So, if you live where ticks abound, you will need to schedule a trip to the vet for shots every year.

What are the side effects of Lyme Vaccine?

The vaccine is generally safe, but some dogs could still experience mild side effects. 

Your pet may run a slight fever and experience some swelling or tenderness at the site where they got the shot.

Loss of appetite and fatigue are also common effects reported by fur parents. Don’t worry though. These should go away within a day or two. 

However, those unfortunate pets who are allergic to the vaccine may experience more serious reactions like vomiting and diarrhea. They may also suffer from hives, some facial swelling, or trouble breathing. 

You may also observe your pet to experience severe itching, particularly in the face.

These cases are rare, but there are pet owners who reported their pets suffering from extreme lethargy and collapse because of anaphylactic shock. 

How effective is the Lyme disease vaccine for dogs?

Okay, this is a popular topic for debate because the Lyme disease vaccine is not 100% effective. Plus, it does not provide protection for a long period.

Reports say that the efficacy of the shot is somewhere between 50% to 100%, while clinics report seeing lower numbers of vaccinated dogs with the disease. 

Pros of Lyme Vaccine for Dogs

Pros of Lyme Vaccine for Dogs

Most vets would suggest getting your pet vaccinated especially if there are a lot of ticks in your area. Why? Here are the top benefits.

Provides protection against Lyme disease in dogs

Of course, the primary benefit of getting your pet vaccinated is that the shot affords your fur pal some protection against Lyme disease. 

Reduces the risk of tick-borne infections

Although there are some mentions of the Lyme disease vaccine also providing some protection against other tick-borne infections, it is not an umbrella cure. 

There is no solid proof that the shot can protect your pets against other tick-related problems like anaplasmosis, ehrlichiosis, and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. 

Can prevent the need for costly veterinary treatments

Lyme disease can lead to hefty vet expenses, with treatment costs ranging from $200 to $1,000 or even more. 

By giving your dog the vaccine, you’re taking a proactive step to minimize the risk of facing these wallet-draining bills down the road.

Cons of Lyme Vaccine for Dogs

There’s a reason why some fur parents pause before giving their pets the Lyme disease vaccine. Let’s uncover the not-so-sunny side of this shot:

Possible adverse reactions or side effects

Just like any vaccine, the Lyme disease vaccine can come with mild side effects. While a little fever, swelling at the injection spot, and some fatigue may sound mild, they can still make your pet feel miserable. 

Luckily, these reactions usually go away within 24 to 48 hours. 

Rare allergic reactions can also pop up. Think vomiting, diarrhea, hives, swollen faces, intense itching, trouble breathing, and even collapsing due to a shock. 

Low efficacy

While studies hint that it might do a good job, it’s no guarantee. It doesn’t give a 100% shield against Lyme disease, and it might not work for all dogs out there.

Requires regular booster shots

Your fur buddy needs an annual revaccination to keep their Lyme disease immunity in check. 

Plus it’s not a one-time deal since your pet will also need a booster shot or two after getting the first injection.

Can be costly

The cost of Lyme disease vaccine can vary depending on where you live and your vet’s rates. It’s an extra expense that can add up for pet owners.

May not be recommended for all dogs

Some pups might not be the best candidates for the Lyme vaccine. Those with autoimmune issues or a pesky allergy to vaccines should take a pass on this.

False sense of security

While the Lyme vaccine provides some protection against Lyme disease, it’s not an all-in-one tick solution. 

Remember, the shot isn’t a guarantee. By relying solely on the vaccine, you could accidentally open the door for those pesky ticks to sneak in and wreak havoc.

How to Prevent Lyme Disease in Dogs?

If you’re serious about keeping Lyme disease far, far away from your furry buddy, here’s the lowdown, plain and simple:

  • The first step is to make sure that you keep the ticks away from your furry pal. Drop by your vet’s clinic or pet store to get some pills, drops, or one of those nifty collars that repel those pesky pests. 
  • Don’t skip those tick checks. Make it a daily routine, especially after your dog’s outdoor escapades. Give a good look in places like their ears, neck, armpits, and even those small spaces between their toes. 
  • If you spot a tick hitching a ride, use tweezers to remove it gently – avoid twisting or squeezing!
  • Steer clear of spots where ticks love to hang out. If possible, keep your dog away from grassy areas, woods, and places with heaps of leaves. 
  • No slacking off on tick prevention, no matter the season. These critters bug your dog all year round, not just when the sun’s shining. 

So, whether it’s rain or shine, stay vigilant and keep up the tick-fighting efforts to keep your furry companion safe and sound.

Why You Should Avoid the Lyme Vaccine for Dogs

Personally, I think that the vaccine not being foolproof is one major reason why you should consider not getting your pet vaccinated. 

In some cases, its effectiveness could be limited to short-term coverage. 

Then there’s also the case of dogs with autoimmune diseases or allergies. Giving them this vaccine could potentially lead to complications or reactions. 

Their immune systems might not respond well to the vaccine, causing discomfort or even more serious health issues.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Does your dog need a Lyme vaccine?

Whether or not your dog needs a Lyme vaccine depends on their individual risk factors and lifestyle. If you live in or often travel to areas where Lyme disease is common, your pet could benefit from some protection against the illness. However, if your pet has a history of autoimmune disease or allergies to vaccines, talk to your vet for alternatives. 

Which dogs are more at risk for Lyme disease?

Does your dog need a Lyme vaccine?
Whether or not your dog needs a Lyme vaccine depends on their individual risk factors and lifestyle. If you live in or often travel to areas where Lyme disease is common, your pet could benefit from some protection against the illness. However, if your pet has a history of autoimmune disease or allergies to vaccines, talk to your vet for alternatives. 

How much does the Lyme vaccine for dogs cost?

The cost of the Lyme disease vaccine for dogs can vary depending on the veterinarian and the region. On average, it could cost you between $20 and $40 per shot. 

In Conclusion: Pros and Cons of Lyme Vaccine for Dogs

In the end, deciding whether to vaccinate your canine companion against Lyme disease is a nuanced choice. 

I would recommend adopting a preventive approach in the sense of avoiding and regular checking, rather than taking the jab. 

The choice is yours though, so make sure to consult your vet – they’re your pup’s guiding light to tail-wagging adventures without unnecessary worries.

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Zack Keithy
Zack Keithy

Hey, I'm Zack, the Chief Editor here. I was formerly a Certified Veterinary Technician (CVT) for a good 6 years before moving on to greener pastures. Right now, I am still heavily involved in dog parenting duties, and it is my desire to share all our knowledge with fellow dog owners out there! Connect with me on LinkedIn, or read more about Canine Care Central!

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