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.

Recommended for You

Here's how to cash in on the spreading numbers of white-fronts. Hunting Tactics

Take Advantage of the Specklebelly Surge

John Gordon

Here's how to cash in on the spreading numbers of white-fronts.

To date, Ducks Unlimited has played a role in conserving 14 million acres. Industry

Ducks Unlimited: A Duck Man's Best Friend

David Hart

To date, Ducks Unlimited has played a role in conserving 14 million acres.

A dainty English setter suited for the uplands has the drive for waterfowl. Stories

The Accidental Duck Dog

Jack Ballard

A dainty English setter suited for the uplands has the drive for waterfowl.

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Swedish Duck Hunt

Swedish Duck Hunt

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

Cowboy Fernandez Commemorative Yentzen Classic Duck Call

Cowboy Fernandez Commemorative Yentzen Classic Duck Call

As Groves, Texas duck call maker Sure-Shot Game Calls celebrates their 60th anniversary during 2019, company CEO Charlie Holder shows off the limited edition Yentzen Classic aimed at commemorating the life and times of company founder Jim 'Cowboy' Fernandez. With a special autographed box and a laser engraved call body, the Cowboy Classic is a perfect way to honor the legacy of the 1959 world duck calling champ and inventor of the double-reed duck call.

Wentz Bros Outdoors - Throwback Waterfowl

Wentz Bros Outdoors - Throwback Waterfowl

This video is a classic! Take a front row seat with Carson as he hunted back in college. The clips are all either filmed with a GoPro or cell phone!

See more Popular Videos

Trending Stories

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...

SITKA Gear waterfowl product manager Jim Saubier shows off the Bozeman, Montana 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! Clothing & Waders

New SITKA Women's Waterfowl Lineup for 2019

Lynn Burkhead - January 28, 2019

SITKA Gear waterfowl product manager Jim Saubier shows off the Bozeman, Montana company's full...

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!

See More Stories

More Retriever

With genetics, if you don't hedge your bets with a well-bred puppy, you're asking for trouble. Retriever

Focus on Pedigree When Researching Puppies

Tony J. Peterson

With genetics, if you don't hedge your bets with a well-bred puppy, you're asking for trouble....

Summer dog training, while difficult to get motivated for, can be key in getting ready prepared for the season ahead. Retriever

Don't Sleep on Summer Dog Training

Tom Dokken - April 25, 2018

Summer dog training, while difficult to get motivated for, can be key in getting ready...

Don't tell yourself any tall tales when it comes to your retriever's abilities. Retriever

Duck Dog Lies

Tony J. Peterson

Don't tell yourself any tall tales when it comes to your retriever's abilities.

See More Retriever

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Temporary Price Reduction

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

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

×