In response to questions about Lyme disease in dogs and the Lyme vaccine, I would like to share the advice that Dr. Ronald Schultz, Chair of Pathobiological Sciences at the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine gave me for my 2 dogs, who both receive(d) (one died in July from a mast cell tumor which developed at a rabies vaccination site) 100+ tick bites a summer.

    I was concerned after having contracted Lyme twice myself; however, none of the dogs we have had over 30 years were ever vaccinated against Lyme or ever contracted the disease. After getting it myself, I was reconsidering. Dr. Schultz advised me that there was far more risk associated with the Lyme vaccine than there was with antibiotics to treat the disease if one or both dogs contracted Lyme.

    He further explained that if they tested positive for Lyme, but displayed no symptoms, then not to treat them with antibiotics because it indicated that they had been exposed to the disease, but hadn't contracted the disease. However, he said, that if they tested positive for Lyme and had symptoms (lameness, fever, lethargy, etc..), then start treatment. Dr. Schultz elaborated by telling me that in vaccinology, immunology, the point is not to prevent infection, it is to prevent disease. In fact, low-grade infections are introduced to elicit immune responses, which is how vaccination works, by introducing an attenuated (weakened) antigen into the animal's system.

    Further, he said that a positive Lyme test in an ASYMPTOMATIC dog merely reflects the fact that the dog has been exposed; positive Lyme test in a dog with SYMPTOMS indicates that the animal has contracted the disease and needs treatment.

    Based on his advice, I have chosen to not vaccinate my dog(s) against Lyme. Below are links to a few articles on the subject which may help you in deciding whether or not to vaccinate your dog against Lyme.

    Lyme is a ?killed? vaccine and is associated with clinically significant adverse reactions. According to the 2003 AAHA Guidelines (Page 16), "…killed vaccines are much more likely to cause hypersensitivity reactions (e.g., immune-mediated disease)." Further, the AAHA task force reports on Page 18 that, "Bacterial vaccines, especially killed whole organism products ?..are much more likely to cause adverse reactions than subunit or live bacterial vaccines or MLV vaccines, especially if given topically. Several killed bacterial products are used as immunomodulators/adjuvants. Thus, their presence in a combination vaccine product may enhance or suppress the immune response or may cause an undesired response (e.g., IgE hypersensitivity or a class of antibody that is not protective)."

    The Lyme vaccine is also an "adjuvanted" vaccine, as are the Leptospira and Rabies vaccines. "The World Health Organization (WHO) in 1999 classified veterinary vaccine adjuvants as Class III/IV carcinogens with Class IV being the highest risk," IARC Monographs on the Evaluation of Carinogenic Risks to Humans: Volune 74, World Health Organization, International Agency for Research on Cancer, Feb. 23-Mar. 2, 1999, p. 24, 305, 310.

    Dr. Alice Wolf, Professor of Small Animal Internal Medicine at Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine, stated in an address Vaccines of the Present and Future WSAVA 2001 - Vaccines of the Present and Future at the 2001 World Small Animal Veterinary Association World Congress that Lyme vaccines : "are only partially effective and may cause serious immune-mediated consequences in some dogs that are as serious or more serious than the disease itself…..The most reactive vaccines for dogs include leptospirosis bacterin and Borrelia [Lyme]vaccine .".

    Canine Lyme, What's New? Vet Tech: Canine Lyme: What's New?

    No Lyme Vaccine for Charlie Nancy Freedman Smith, Maine Today Error

    "It is not a scientifically based recommendation to suggest that all dogs in Maine should be vaccinated with Lyme Vaccine. There may be select areas in the state, "hot spots" where infection is very high and vaccination would be indicated, but dogs in most parts of the state would probably not receive benefit and may actually be at risk of adverse reactions if a large scale vaccination program was initiated. Wisconsin has a much higher risk of Lyme than Maine, however at our Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital (VMTH) we have used almost no Lyme vaccine since it was first USDA approved in the early 1990's. What we have found is infection (not disease), in much of Wisconsin, is low (<10% infection). As you know, infection does not mean disease. About 3 to 4% of infected dogs develop disease. In contrast, in Western and Northwestern parts of Wisconsin infection occurs in 60 to 90% of all dogs. In those areas, vaccination is of benefit in reducing clinical disease. …..... Also, vaccinated dogs can develop disease as efficacy of the product is about 60 to 70% in preventing disease, thus antibiotics must be used in vaccinated dogs developing disease, just like it must be used in non-vaccinated diseased dogs. Therefore, in general areas with a low infection rate <10>50%) then the vaccine will be very useful. Thus, I believe it is irresponsible to suggest that all dogs in Maine should be vaccinated . Veterinarians should know, based on diagnoses in their clinic and other clinics in the area (town), how common the disease would be and they should base their judgment to vaccinate on risk, not on a statement that all dogs in Maine need Lyme vaccine!

    R.D. Schultz

    Ronald D. Schultz, Professor and Chair
    Department of Pathobiological Sciences
    School of Veterinary Medicine
    University of Wisconsin-Madison
    2015 Linden Drive West
    Madison, WI 53706"

    LYME DISEASE: Fact from Fiction by Dr. Allen Schoen
    Dr. Schoen?Lyme Disease: Fact from Fiction

    "**Research at Cornell University veterinary school brings up some suspicion that there may be potential long term side effects of the vaccine, though nothing is certain. These side effects may vary from rheumatoid arthritis and all the major symptoms of lyme disease to acute kidney failure." …... "Many veterinary schools and major veterinary centers do not recommend the vaccine for the same concern regarding potential side effects. "

    "I have seen all the symptoms of Lyme disease in dogs four to eight weeks after the vaccine and when I sent the western blot test to Cornell, it shows no evidence of the disease, only evidence of the dog having been vaccinated, yet the dog shows all the classic symptoms of the disease."** - Dr. Allen Schoen

    LYME DISEASE by Dr. R. Staubinger
    SiriusDog.com - Lyme Disease

    "The Borrelia burgdorferi Bacterin from Fort Dodge Laboratories is currently the only licensed Lyme disease vaccine for dogs. …... In a limited field study it was concluded that the incidence of disease (4.7 percent in infected, non-vaccinated dogs) was reduced to about one percent. However, the vaccine does not protect from actual infection. ….... We cannot recommend vaccination of dogs in endemic areas with the whole-cell bacterin until questions are resolved about clinical Lyme disease developing in dogs that have been properly vaccinated. "


    This is a good article that speaks in general regarding the risks associated with vaccines.

    In addition a friend attended the Dr. Ron Schultz (he?s the preeminent immunologist who has done much of the duration of immunity research) seminar in March and this is a paraphrase of what he had to say about the Lyme vaccine:

    LYME VACCINE - Recommends against, even in New England where 75% of dogs show exposure. Only 1 year DOI. At least 10% false positives. Impossible to really confirm lyme disease. Too many dogs get clinical lyme from the vaccine and it is more likely to cause a worse type of arthritis than the dog would get from lyme disease itself. The vaccine does not prevent infection and really doesn?t prevent the disease either. In Schultz?s opinion: ?Lyme disease is a media produced paranoia.? Humanssuffer the devastating effects of lyme much more frequently than dogs. Most dogs will fight on their own. A predisposed dog will get a worse case of lyme if vaccinated than if not vaccinated. In a lab setting, studies show ?some? protection. But in actual field studies, the vaccine seems pretty useless. Lyme is easily treated with doxy once clinical signs appear. Lameness/arthritis is generally the first to show up. Only treat if clinical signs of lyme develop. Tests are not reliable since few are adequately trained in reading lab results.

    Duration of Immunity: The Rabies Vaccine Challenge - Show #185 Animal Talk Radio Show 7/30/08 http://www.blogtalkradio.com/animaltalknaturally/2008/07/30/Duration-of-Immunity-The-Rabies-Vaccine-Challenge-Show-186

    Duration of Immunity to Canine Vaccines: What We Know and Don't Know, Dr. Ronald Schultz http://www.cedarbayvet.com/duration_of_immunity.htm

    What Everyone Needs to Know about Canine Vaccines, Dr. Ronald Schultz

    Vaccination: An Overview Dr. Melissa Kennedy, DVM360 http://veterinarycalendar.dvm360.com/avhc/article/articleDetail.jsp?id=568351

    World Small Animal Veterinary Association 2007 Vaccine Guidelines http://www.wsava.org/SAC.htm Scroll down to Vaccine Guidelines 2007 (PDF)

    The 2003 American Animal Hospital Association's Canine Vaccine Guidelines are accessible online at http://www.leerburg.com/special_report.htm .

    The 2006 American Animal Hospital Association's Canine Vaccine Guidelines are downloadable in PDF format at http://www.aahanet.org/PublicDocumen…s06Revised.pdf .

    Veterinarian, Dr. Robert Rogers,has an excellent presentation on veterinary vaccines at http://www.newvaccinationprotocols.com/

    October 1, 2002 DVM Newsletter article entitled, AVMA, AAHA to Release Vaccine Positions, http://www.dvmnewsmagazine.com/dvm/article/articleDetail.jsp?id=35171

    July 1, 2003 DVM Newsletter article entitled, What Do We Tell Our Clients?, Developing thorough plan to educate staff on changing vaccine protocols essential for maintaining solid relationships with clients and ensuring quality care http://www.dvmnewsmagazine.com/dvm/article/articleDetail.jsp?id=61696

    July 1, 2003, DVM Newsletter article, Developing Common Sense Strategies for Fiscal Responsibility: Using an interactive template to plan service protocol changes http://www.dvmnewsmagazine.com/dvm/article/articleDetail.jsp?id=61694

    Animal Wellness Magazine Article Vol. 8 Issue 6, How Often Does he REALLY Need A Rabies Shot

    The Rabies Challenge Animal Wise Radio Interview
    Listen to Animal Wise (scroll down to The Rabies Challenge 12/9/07)

    The Vaccine Challenge Animal Talk Naturally Online Radio Show ? The Vaccine Challenge - Show #91

    Rabies Shot Killed my Poodle May 28, 2008 Channel 5 News WCVB http://www.thebostonchannel.com:80/news/16410586/detail.html?rss=bos&taf=bos

    US Declared Canine-Rabies Free – CDC Announces at Inaugural World Rabies Day Symposium CDC Press Release - September 7, 2007

    Rabies Prevention – United States, 1991 Recommendations of the Immunization Practices Advisory Committee (ACIP), Center for Disease Control's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly March 22, 1991 / 40(RR03);1-19 http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/00041987.htm "A fully vaccinated dog or cat is unlikely to become infected with rabies, although rare cases have been reported (48). In a nationwide study of rabies among dogs and cats in 1988, only one dog and two cats that were vaccinated contracted rabies (49). All three of these animals had received only single doses of vaccine; no documented vaccine failures occurred among dogs or cats that had received two vaccinations. "

  • Excellent!!! Thanks for posting this. I'm always unsure about what to do about the Lyme vaccine each year as during the summer, at least weekly I find deer ticks on my 3 basenjis. This post and related articles clarified a lot. Thanks!

  • You're very welcome!

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