Should You Vaccinate Your Retriever Against Lyme?

retriever_lyme_fLyme disease is a painful affliction warranting preventative measures that much all veterinarians agree on. Lyme vaccination is another story. Case in point: Two of America's most prestigious veterinary institutions, the University of Pennsylvania and Cornell, are at odds on the issue.

"It's definitely a controversial subject," says Dr. Gregg Campbell, a retriever expert and veterinarian at the Animal Care Center in Danville, Pa.

Penn argues Lyme is easily treated with antibiotics making vaccination unnecessary. In rare cases (less than 1 percent) the Lyme vaccine causes an autoimmune response resulting in kidney disease; retrievers are among the more susceptible breeds. So why risk it?

Because, says Cornell, the potential damage posed by Lyme including severe arthritic-like symptoms and rarely renal failure outweighs the minimal odds of vaccine side effects. Worse, it's easy for the disease to progress, argue vaccine proponents, as 85 percent of infected dogs display no clinical symptoms.


Given the disagreement, how are retriever owners to decide?


Lyme is rather easily treated with antibiotics, typically Doxycycline. However, hardy retrievers tend to mask discomfort much better than your average pooch. In my experience (and I've had several dogs contract Lyme), the earliest indication is a loss of scenting ability. If you lack confidence in your ability to spot Lyme in the early stages, the vaccine warrants contemplation.

"Five years ago I didn't vaccinate for Lyme," says Campbell. "But now I recommend it because we're seeing so many cases (in Pennsylvania). For hunting dogs, I'd vaccinate."

Owners in especially Lyme-prone areas (eastern states from Virginia to Maine, the upper Midwest and Great Lakes regions, and the northwestern U.S.) should consider vaccination.

retriever_lyme_1The Lyme vaccine requires an initial injection, a booster weeks later, and annual boosters thereafter at about $30 a pop. It's a minimal investment, but the vaccine does carry a failure rate of about nine percent according to the pharmaceutical companies. Still, provided proof of infection, some vaccine-makers will reimburse owners of infected dogs for the cost of the vaccine and antibiotics.

Unlike regular vaccines which build immunity through anti-body production the Lyme vaccine essentially attacks the tick itself. It circulates a protein within the canine system that kills Lyme amongst invading ticks.

Whether you choose to vaccinate or not for the record, I do veterinarians are in agreement that a monthly flea and tick treatment should be applied. This helps prevent Lyme, of course, and also sundry other tick-transmitted diseases.

"Topical treatments are definitely more important than vaccination," advises Campbell. "Some of the newer products kill ticks in a matter of hours, whereas it's believed that a tick has to be on a dog 48 hours to cause Lyme."

But can't exposure to water simply wash off the treatments?

"They claim to be waterproof, but if your dog is swimming a lot it's absolutely diluting the treatment," Campbell explains. "Personally, I'd treat your retriever every three weeks if he'll be swimming, especially from September to November when ticks are really looking for warm bodies."

Unfortunately, those are, of course, waterfowling months. Whether you choose to vaccinate or not, we owe it to our duck dogs to take Lyme prevention seriously.

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Picking a Puppy

Picking a Puppy

Wildfowl contributor Mark Romanack shares advice about choosing your next retriever.

Puppy Training Getting Started

Puppy Training Getting Started

Puppy Training Getting Started

Women

Women's Waterfowl Lineup

SITKA Gear waterfowl product manager Jim Saubier shows off the company's full line-up of women's waterfowl hunting gear for 2019. From warm and moisture-wicking base layers to water and windproof outer layers, this is a complete system for women who love to chase fall and wintertime ducks and geese across the four flyways!

Swedish Duck Hunt

Swedish Duck Hunt

Kevin Steele takes part in a family driven duck hunt in Sweden.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

Author John M. Taylor has broken down the top waterfowl shotguns for the 2018 season. Shotguns

Best Waterfowl Shotguns of 2018

John Taylor - September 25, 2018

Author John M. Taylor has broken down the top waterfowl shotguns for the 2018 season.

Jim Orth needed'a simple blind for hunting Lake St. Clair. A staffing recruiter and outfitter from How-To

Building a Duck Boat Blind on a Budget

Mike Marsh - May 10, 2016

Jim Orth needed'a simple blind for hunting Lake St. Clair. A staffing recruiter and outfitter...

Check out our picks for the best new waterfowl guns from the 2019 SHOT Show! Shotguns

Best New Waterfowl Shotguns for 2019

Lynn Burkhead - January 23, 2019

Check out our picks for the best new waterfowl guns from the 2019 SHOT Show!

Let's face it, that old mud motor from two years ago isn't cuttin' it any longer.

Of course, it Boats

8 Best Mud Motors for 2016

David Hart - May 26, 2016

Let's face it, that old mud motor from two years ago isn't cuttin' it any longer. Of course,...

See More Trending Articles

More Retriever

Properly introducing your dog to gunfire is integral for training your new partner in the field. Author Bill Gibson explains how you'll want to go about it. Retriever

Properly Introducing Your Dog to Gunfire

Bill Gibson - March 23, 2018

Properly introducing your dog to gunfire is integral for training your new partner in the...

Starting over with a new hunting pup can be a challenge. Follow Tom Dokken's tips for making a wise decision when choosing your next gun dog. Retriever

How to Start Over When You Lose a Gun Dog

Tom Dokken - June 21, 2018

Starting over with a new hunting pup can be a challenge. Follow Tom Dokken's tips for making a...

Don't let your duck dog's skills slide just because the water's frozen. Follow these tips to keep your pup in shape! Retriever

Winter Work for Duck Dogs

Tony J. Peterson

Don't let your duck dog's skills slide just because the water's frozen. Follow these tips to...

Training never ends - try these quick drills. Retriever

Daily Drills for Duck Dog Consistency

Tom Dokken

Training never ends - try these quick drills.

See More Retriever

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.