Most clinics recommend a standard core set of vaccines that includes DHLPP and rabies vaccine. Additional vaccines a client’s dog receives is determined by a conversation between the veterinarian and the dog’s owner to consider the dog’s lifestyle and possible disease exposure.
In northwest Ohio where I have worked the most, the standard vaccines are DHLPP and rabies. Then if the dog may be exposed to ticks, we recommend the Lyme disease vaccine, and if the dog frequents dog parks, boarding kennels, training classes, etc, we also recommend the Bordatella vaccine to prevent kennel cough. Sometimes it is difficult to convince clients about the value of these additional vaccines, especially for Lyme disease, because when clients ask how often we see the disease, our response is rarely.
Last summer, I had the opportunity to travel to southern central Pennsylvania for an externship and there I saw the effects of Lyme disease. Lyme disease first began in Connecticut and has spread from there across the eastern United States and is now entering the Midwest. While I was in Pennsylvania for two weeks, I saw many dogs with Lyme disease and many that were just being diagnosed. I also met many people who had the disease or had it in the past and were suffering from the long-term problems it causes.
Seeing the disease wasn’t the most amazing part though. It was how differently clients in that area thought about it. In that part of Pennsylvania, Lyme disease has become so common over the last few years, we weren’t asking people whether they wanted the vaccine, rather they were telling us they did almost before the appointment started. In this part of the country, the vaccine had gotten to the point it wasn’t a question with most clients as was monthly tick repellant and preventive. I also noticed that when we went riding, hiking, or even just took the dogs for a walk along the horse pastures, boots and jeans were non-negotiable. No one walked around in shorts or sandals if they were going to be in taller grass.
What I learned in that two weeks was the importance of preventive care for both people and dogs to avoid Lyme disease. For dogs, it means the yearly vaccine and tick repellant/preventive. For people, it means being very careful when walking in taller grass or in the woods where ticks hide. While this disease may not be as common yet in Ohio as it is in Pennsylvania, there is no doubt judging by how it has spread across the United States already, it is coming and veterinarians have the responsibility to inform their clients of how to protect their dogs and themselves from this zoonotic disease.