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Recent Spike In Lyme Cases Has Pet Owners Turning To Vaccines

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) - What if you could vaccinate your pets against Lyme disease?

But, if there's a vaccine for them, why is there not one for humans?

"Last year, we'd see maybe one really severe case of Lyme disease a week in the biggest, busiest season," Pittsburgh Veterinary Specialty & Emergency Center's Dr. Emily Klosterman said. "This year, I would say it's probably closer to two to three severe cases, which is definitely an increase that worries us."

Cases of Lyme disease in dogs can be mild to severe.

"Painful, all four limbs, not eating, owner said really not himself the past few days, fever of 105. Very, very sick dog. And one of the first things we wanted to test was Lyme, because it's now endemic in this area," North Boros Veterinary Hospital's Dr. Lauren Blood said.

To prevent Lyme disease, there is a vaccine for pets - specifically dogs. It includes a series of two shots as a puppy, with yearly boosters.

"It's actually antibodies in the dog's bloodstream that actually go into the tick, and then prevent the bacteria from ever going into the dog," Dr. Klosterman said.

You can't get Lyme disease from a pet directly, but the tick that carries the infection-causing bacteria are now plentiful in our area. The same ticks that can bite your dog can also bite you.

So, is there a vaccine for people?

Well, there was in the 1990's. It worked well, but a lack of enthusiasm and complaints of joint and muscle aches after the shot led to its downfall.

"Due to a decrease in the demand for the vaccine, and increase in potential lawsuits the company was seeing, unfortunately, this effective vaccine was removed from the market in the early part of the last decade," Dr. Andrew Nowalk said.

The recent surge of cases and ticks could push for reconsideration. In fact, it was this human vaccine that became what's given to pets.

Keep in mind, it's an option on top of routine tick prevention for your dogs -- the collars, treats, topicals, and combing.

"A lot of people are thinking, it can take the place of prevention, which it definitely cannot," Dr. Blood said.

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