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

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!

Browning A5 Shotgun -

Browning A5 Shotgun - 'Gun Stories'

Gun Stories host Joe Mantegna talks about the origin and history of the Browning A5 shotgun.

Puppy Training Getting Started

Puppy Training Getting Started

Puppy Training Getting Started

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.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

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...

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.

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...

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. Calls

Cowboy Fernandez Commemorative Yentzen Classic Duck Call

Lynn Burkhead - January 28, 2019

As Groves, Texas duck call maker Sure-Shot Game Calls celebrates their 60th anniversary during...

See More Trending Articles

More Retriever

Times have changed, and so has the size of our retrievers.  Retriever

Size Versus Drive in Hunting Dogs

Tom Dokken

Times have changed, and so has the size of our retrievers. 

Nourish your pup's noggin for elite performance. Retriever

Gun Dog Nutrition & Intelligence

Tony J. Peterson

Nourish your pup's noggin for elite performance.

Keep your retriever sharp in the offseason. Retriever

Waterfowl Workouts: 3 Summer Duck Dog Drills

Tony J. Peterson

Keep your retriever sharp in the offseason.

Don't let personal bias get in the way of making improvements during the season and beyond. Retriever

Keep Your Duck Dog Sharp Throughout the Year

Tom Dokken

Don't let personal bias get in the way of making improvements during the season and beyond.

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.

Get Digital Access.

All Wildfowl subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now