For previous posts in this series, click on each title below.
- Part 1 – Why I Questioned
- Part 2 – Safe Practices
- Part 3 – Titer Tests
- Part 4 – Rabies
- Part 5A – Non-Core; Leptospirosis & Bordetella
Disclaimer: I want to make one thing clear: I am not against vaccinating your pets, but I am concerned about over-vaccination. I will be sharing our experiences, as well as information I have learned through research and from our own veterinarian. My intent is only to share information that might be important for pet families to know. You should always consult your own trusted vet when it comes to the care and safety of your own pets’ health.
In this part I am covering the non-core vaccines for Lyme disease and Canine influenza. Core vaccines are those recommended for all dogs, non-core vaccines are special vaccines that are recommended based on lifestyle and exposure to certain diseases. Most non-core vaccines only last for one year.
Lyme disease is well known in our part of the country – it originated in the area of Lyme, Connecticut, where it got its name. In my immediate area, it’s not unusual to know several people that have contracted it. It’s a tough disease in humans. There is no vaccine for humans, but there is a vaccine for dogs….even though the disease is not quite as bad for most dogs.
It is, however, easy and common for dogs to be exposed to it, even if they don’t spend a lot of time outside. The disease is spread by the deer tick, also known as the black-legged tick. If a deer tick bites, the disease can be transmitted in 24-48 hours. There are not a lot of hard statistics available, but I read that in New England, it’s possible that 50-75% of dogs have tested positive for Lyme; but of those, only 5-10% might become very ill. Many will never show any effects from it. It is treatable in dogs with antibiotics, but it can lead to more serious kidney disease in some cases.
Symptoms of Lyme in dogs can include joint pain and swelling, as well as fever, lethargy, and lameness. Sometimes symptoms can be mild and non-specific (that goes for humans too…it is often difficult to diagnose). This disease is NOT transmittable between humans and dogs.
Non-core vaccines tend to get more adverse reactions. When Cricket had her first vaccine reactions, the Leptospirosis was suspected first, and then after that Lyme. However, we have never seen reactions in any of our other dogs. This vaccine requires two initial doses about 3 weeks apart, and then yearly boosters. Two things are worth noting: that it may not be 100% effective, and that deer ticks carry other nasty diseases as well.
To me that means if you live in one of these high risk areas, you might want to focus more on tick control. The vaccine is not going to protect your dog from everything they can get from a tick bite. There are many options for prevention, both chemical and natural, and that’s a subject for another whole post which I plan to re-visit! Also, if you do decide your dog should have the vaccine, they should be tested first. Our vet will test for Lyme at the same time as heartworm. We also separate Lyme from any other vaccines needed at the time.
Other than Cricket, we have always gotten this vaccine for our dogs, up to this year. We passed on Sheba because of her past cancerous tumor (I want her immune system to focus on any new cancers that could arise). Luke has serious issues with going to the vet’s office, so we were lucky to get his core vaccines done this year. We decided this one wasn’t worth the battle. As always, consideration of lifestyle and your location are the big factors here. If we spent a lot more time in the woods hiking, etc. we might make a different decision.
I don’t have any personal experience with this vaccine, as it has never been recommended by our vet since there have not been any outbreaks in our area. But because there have been some outbreaks this year in the Chicago area, and currently in Atlanta, I wanted to cover it briefly.
Canine influenza is a dog flu that can progress from mild cold like symptoms (cough, runny nose, fever) to a more severe form including bacterial infections and pneumonia. Most dogs will have a mild form with symptoms that are similar to kennel cough. It is highly contagious between dogs. In mild cases it can resolve on its own with no treatment needed in 10-30 days.
This flu originated in 2004 as H3N8 and there was a vaccine developed for it. The current strain is H3N2, and the vaccine has not proven to be effective for it. They do say, however, that it could help reduce the symptoms of the current strain.
My dogs mostly stay home, so if I lived in an outbreak area, it probably wouldn’t affect me. But if your dogs go to daycare, dog parks, or training then you might want to avoid those places if you can, and consult your veterinarian as to whether the vaccine would be worthwhile or not. I think of it the same way as human flu vaccines…they may or may not work for the current strains so it’s a personal decision of whether or not to get it.
All vaccines should only be given to healthy dogs.
For further information:
- Lymeinfo.com – Lyme disease in dogs
- Lyme Disease – The Feared Canine Disease That’s Mostly Benign (Healthy Pets by Mercola)
- Canine Influenza Virus Outbreak in the Chicago Area (Cornell University)
- Canine Flu Rising Fast in Metro Atlanta (Fox 5 Atlanta)
Next in our series we will cover vaccinations for cats, and I will do one final post with a summary of key points.