Lyme Disease Vaccination for Dogs

We have all heard of Lyme disease, but many of us don’t realize this disease can also affect our dogs. The Lyme disease vaccine is another situational immunization. Some dogs benefit from it and others don’t. The determination is based on a dog’s exposure to the type of tick that carries Lyme disease in endemic parts of the country.

The first question you need to ask yourself is does my dog live in an area where these disease-carrying ticks are prevalent.  The regions of greatest concern are the northeastern U.S., northern mid-Atlantic region, upper Midwest, and the northern California coast.


Next, we have to ascertain whether an infection is likely. Lyme disease is caused by Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria that are transmitted from one animal to another through the bites of deer ticks. The ticks usually pick up the bacteria from infected wildlife (e.g., deer and rodents) and need to be attached to a dog for at least 48 hours before Lyme disease can be transmitted. The ticks that carry Lyme disease are very small and can be difficult to find and remove, however.


Symptoms of Lyme Disease for Dogs

Complicating the decision of whether or not to vaccinate is the fact that many dogs who are exposed to Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria do not develop symptoms of Lyme disease. On the other hand, those that do can become very sick. Symptoms may include:

  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Fever
  • Painful joints and muscles
  • Lameness that can wax and wane and shift between legs
  • Kidney disease in chronic cases

It is important to note that the “bulls-eye” rash that commonly affects people with Lyme disease is not frequently seen in dogs.

tick bite on dog - compressed

Diagnosis & Treatment

Once a dog contracts Lyme disease, it is usually impossible to completely eliminate the bacteria from his body. A long course of antibiotics (e.g., doxycycline) can make many dogs symptom free, but these individuals often still have low-level infections and are at risk for future kidney disease.

The first line of defense against Lyme (and all the other tick-borne diseases) is a rigorous tick control program that makes use of effective monthly spot-on products and/or collars. Owners should also check dogs daily for parasites when they are in tick-infested areas and remove any that are found. The Lyme vaccine does not provide complete protection against the disease but is still worth considering when the risk of infection is high. Dogs 12 weeks of age or older should initially receive two vaccines 2-4 weeks apart and an annual booster thereafter.


Unfortunately, there isn’t a spray or easy way to defer your pup from attracting deer ticks. If you live in any of the deer tick populated areas mentioned above, make sure to check yourself and your dog after any long walks or hikes. Deer ticks can be tiny, so you want to make sure you are thorough. If you can detect them early, you can lower the risk of contracting the disease.

If you find a bulls-eye mark or a tick on your dog, or if your pet suddenly becomes lame, bring them to Falls Road Veterinary Hospital as soon as possible. Call us today and schedule an appointment. Or you can fill out this form and we will get back to you as soon as we can.

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