Lyme Vaccine Side Effects

The Lyme vaccine is an inoculation meant to provide protection against Lyme disease, which is transmitted by a tick bite. The necessity to protect pets against Lyme disease with a shot is highly debated because of the side effects associated with this vaccine.

Lyme Disease Explained

Lyme disease is a bacterial infection that’s transmitted by ticks when they bite their hosts. Not all ticks carry the bacterium that causes Lyme disease, Borrelia burgdorferi. It’s typically found on ticks that have had deer as a host and have stored the bacteria in their bodies. This disease can affect many of a pet’s systems: joints, skin, heart and nervous system.

The Lyme Vaccine

The Lyme vaccine isn’t without controversy as its safety, efficacy, and long-term side effects are questioned. There are two types of Lyme vaccines: bacterin and a recombinant vaccine. The bacterin vaccine has antigens that protect against Lyme disease and preservatives that are called “adjuvants”. The recombinant vaccine has an antigen made of an outer surface protein that helps prevent the transmission of Lyme disease.

Promoters of the vaccine state it benefits a pet by prompting his immune system to create antibodies that attack the proteins found on the outside of the bacteria. However, it is not recommended that a pet be given the vaccine to treat Lyme disease, acute or chronic. The manufacturers of the Lyme vaccine encourage pet owners and veterinarians to administer the shot every year. Many veterinarians that do provide this vaccine will typically only repeat a vaccination when a pet is at a higher risk of contracting Lyme disease.  

Lyme Vaccine Side Effects

The side effects of the Lyme vaccine mimic those of the actual disease because of the proteins within it that pets aren’t typically exposed to. Experts have found this vaccine to cause arthritis, problems of the heart and nervous system, skin problems, and sudden kidney failure. Many veterinarians have reported that pets given the Lyme vaccine display all the symptoms of Lyme disease, but blood samples taken from the pets showed no evidence that the pets contracted the disease itself.

Research on the vaccine conducted on animals in a controlled environment found that those that were given a Lyme vaccine were more likely to develop arthritis. This discovery has made veterinarians extra weary of vaccinating pets that are predispose to an autoimmune disorder.

The adjuvants in the bacterin form of the Lyme vaccine are what experts believe causes the adverse side effects in the inoculation. The recombinant form of the vaccine is less likely to cause adverse side effects as it doesn’t contain adjuvants.

Many veterinary experts recommend that pet owners vaccinate a pet with the recombinant form of the Lyme vaccine if they feel it’s necessary for their animal companion to receive this shot. However, what most animal experts recommend instead of a Lyme vaccination are prevention techniques so a pet does not attract ticks. These techniques include using an insect repellent that’s safe for use on pets, spot treatments to repel and kill fleas and ticks, and antibiotic treatments for when a tick bite is noticed.