It is not a scientifically based recommendation to suggest that all dogs in low-risk exposure states be vaccinated with Lyme Vaccine. There may be select areas in the state, “hot spots” where infection is very high and vaccination would be indicated, but dogs in most parts of the state would probably not receive benefit and may actually be at risk of adverse reactions if a large scale vaccination program was initiated. Wisconsin has a much higher risk of Lyme than a state like Maine, for example, however at our Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital (VMTH) we have used almost no Lyme vaccine since it was first USDA approved in the early 1990’s.
What we have found is infection (not disease), in much of Wisconsin, is low (<10% infection). As you know, infection does not mean disease. About 3 to 4% of infected dogs develop disease. In contrast, in Western and Northwestern parts of Wisconsin infection occurs in 60 to 90% of all dogs. In those areas, vaccination is of benefit in reducing clinical disease. However, whether vaccination is or is not indicated, all dogs should be treated with the highly effective tick and flea medications (e.g. Advantage). Also, vaccinated dogs can develop disease as efficacy of the product is about 60 to 70% in preventing disease, thus antibiotics must be used in vaccinated dogs developing disease, just like it must be used in non-vaccinated diseased dogs.
Therefore, in general areas with a low infection rate <10% infection the vaccine should not be used as the vaccine will be of no value and may enhance disease (e.g. arthritis) directly or in some dogs that become infected. In areas where infection rates are high (>50%) then the vaccine will be very useful. Thus, I believe it is irresponsible to suggest that all dogs in low-risk exposure states should be vaccinated. Veterinarians should know, based on diagnoses in their clinic and other clinics in the area (town), how common the disease would be and they should base their judgment to vaccinate on risk, not on a statement that all dogs in a particular low-risk area need Lyme vaccine!
Ronald D. Schultz, Professor and Chair
Department of Pathobiological Sciences
School of Veterinary Medicine
University of Wisconsin-Madison
2015 Linden Drive West
Madison, WI 53706