For most people, when they think of diseases carried and transmitted by ticks, they think Lyme disease. And yes, Lyme is a terrible disease that one species of tick can carry and give to dogs and people. When the vaccine against Lyme disease came out a couple decades ago, many veterinarians recommended it to every dog patient. I am not one of those veterinarians.
Don’t get me wrong – it’s a great vaccine! If I was practicing in the Northeast (say, near Lyme, Connecticut, where the disease got its name) I’d be recommending it. But here in St. Louis, Lyme disease is not all that common. We have several species of ticks (lucky us) and they carry a variety of diseases. The more common diseases are Ehrlichia (and this comes in several varieties!), Anaplasma, and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. Unfortunately, no vaccine exists for any of these.
So how do you protect your dog against these other diseases? We are fortunate to have a wide variety of products that prevent ticks from biting your dog long enough to transmit disease. These range from collars (such as Preventic and Seresto), topical liquids (Vectra, Frontline, etc) and the newest class of drugs that are taken orally (Bravecto, Nexgard, etc). One important detail to note is not every product that kills fleas is effective against ticks! It’s important to read the label carefully. Some of these products include Advantage, Comfortis, and Trifexis. Don’t get me wrong, these are great products for fleas, but they are not designed to address ticks.
With the risk of so many diseases carried by ticks in our area, it’s important to keep your dog protected. If you are using the appropriate product, the vaccine for Lyme disease isn’t really needed.
That said, if you live or travel to areas where Lyme disease is common, then consider getting the Lyme vaccine for your pet. Wisconsin/Minnesota in the Midwest, and the Northeastern part of the country are the hot spots. Some areas have very high tick infestation rates, and Lyme disease is the most common tick-borne disease in that area.
If you do not live or visit those areas, regularly using appropriate and effective tick prevention products should keep your pet safe.