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Lyme Disease

Due to the recent expansion of Lyme disease in the tick population into our area we are reevaluating the risk of Lyme disease for our canine patients.  Historically Lyme disease was confined to the northern reaches of the Midwest including Wisconsin and Minnesota.  However, in the last 2-3 years Borrellia, the bacteria that causes Lyme disease, has been found in large numbers of ticks tested in DuPage County.  This means that if your dog is bitten by a tick they could get the disease.  In addition, in our testing this spring, about 1 out of 10 dogs are testing positive for exposure to Lyme disease. Many of these dogs have not left DuPage County.   The number of dogs exposed to Lyme will only increase as the bacterium becomes more wide spread in the tick population.

The primary way to prevent Lyme disease is to keep the ticks from infesting your dog.  Investing in an effective flea and tick preventative is the best way to accomplish this.  The secondary line of defense is vaccination.  Vaccinating against bacterial agents is different from normal viral vaccines.  First, the vaccine protection is shorter lived.  The vaccine is labeled for yearly boosters, but in reality the protection is probably shorter.  Because of this it is recommended to vaccinate in the early spring before tick season. Secondly, bacterial vaccines have multiple antigens in them.  This means that the vaccines carry a slightly increased risk of allergic reactions.  The reaction rate is still extremely low but is slightly higher than viral vaccines.  Because of this, in some dogs it is recommended to vaccinate for Lyme separately.

Take Home Message:

  • Lyme is here to stay
  • Tick preventatives are the best protection
  • Vaccines are safe and will help prevent infection.
  • Best time to vaccinate is early spring.