Q: My vet keeps pushing me to vaccinate my dog against Lyme Disease. Is Lyme Disease really as bad as they make it out to be? I use Frontline, isn't that enough?
A: The simple answer is that, yes, Lyme disease is as bad or worse than what you've heard. There are two real problems with Lyme disease. One is that it's very, very common. I'd say that 60% of the adult dogs that I see have or have had Lyme disease.
The other problem is that it's a very insidious disease. Dogs can have Lyme disease and show no symptoms for a long time. And when they do finally show symptoms, there's no one or two symptoms that are typical of all cases of Lyme disease. Sure, some dogs come in limping, because Lyme disease can affect the joints. But not all dogs with Lyme disease limp.
Some just act a little sick, sometimes not even enough for the owner to notice. And then, before you know it, they're really really sick. Lyme disease can also affect the kidney, even in young dogs. When the kidneys are affected, the dogs get toxic, might lose their appetite (that's one of reason people bring their dogs in), become lethargic, and too often, by the time we see the dog and make a diagnosis, it's too late. The kidney damage can be irreversible. I've had to watch too many dogs die of a disease that's largely preventable. And prevention is your best bet. The vaccines are safe, and about 90% effective.
You asked about Frontline, which used to be a great product. It's been out on the market for about ten years now, and we've heard reports from clients that it's just not doing the job against ticks. That's why recommend Vectra, or Revolution (together with Preventic Tick Collar). The combination of the vaccine and using the appropriate flea and tick prevention can greatly decrease the possibility of your dog ever getting this very dangerous disease. As bad as Lyme disease can be, to a certain degree, it's only the upper part of the iceberg.
Ticks also carry other diseases that can be just as bad as Lyme disease. These include Ehrlichia Canis, Anaplasmosis, and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. Sadly, there are still no vaccines available against these diseases, so tick prevention is a must!
Dr Phillip Raclyn, DVM CVA MCVIT is the Director of Yorktown Animal Hospital.
If you have a question for Dr. Raclyn email him at: AsktheVet@VETSnyc.com
His website is www.VETSnyc.com
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