A couple of weeks ago "Barnyard Punch" asked some excellent questions about non-core vaccines in dogs. Canine noncore vaccines are those that will benefit some dogs but not others, and the decision about who should get them and who shouldn’t is based on such things as age, lifestyle, geographical location and other health concerns. Here are Barnyard Punch’s questions.

Do I need lepto? How effective is it?

Lepto is shorthand for the bacteria Leptospira interrogans. Dogs typically become infected with lepto when they come in contact with urine containing the bacteria or water that is contaminated with such urine. The source of infection is often wildlife and/or rats, and the bacteria gain entrance to the body through mucous membranes or breaks in the skin. Lepto infections can range from mild to severe. In the worst case scenario they lead to kidney failure, liver failure, lung disease, and/or bleeding disorders. Aggressive treatment saves many dogs, but the infection can still be deadly and may be transmitted to people.

A big problem with lepto is that we know of over 200 varieties of the bacteria, called serovars, in nature, and we currently have access to vaccines that contain, at most, four of them. So while vaccination can prevent disease from these four serovars (there may be some cross protection with others), owners should never consider their dogs completely protected against lepto. Older vaccines may have been responsible for more than their fare share of vaccine reactions, but that does not appear to be the case with the newer, safer products that are available.

When I practiced in a lepto-endemic area, I recommended vaccination for dogs at high risk (e.g., those that had regular access to ponds, wild lands and the like) but not for those that lived in a more confined environment. Local veterinarians and veterinary referral institutions are good sources of information about the disease’s incidence in your area, but in general, warm areas that receive a good amount of rain are lepto hotspots.

Is kennel cough every 12 months OK, or is every six months necessary?

By "kennel cough" I assume you mean Bordetella bronchiseptica, one of the microbes that can cause this condition in dogs. My answer is, "It depends."

Protective immunity from Bordetella vaccines does not last very long. It typically starts to wane somewhere in that 6-12 month range. So, if you give the vaccine every twelve months, the protection will not be as good at the end of the year in comparison to that achieved at the beginning of the year. For dogs at average risk of infection, I consider once yearly vaccination to be sufficient. However, when I have a patient that has a lot of contact with other dogs (e.g., show dogs, heavy boarders, etc.), I generally recommend vaccinating every six months.

How about corona?

This one’s easy. In all but the rarest of circumstances, vaccinating puppies, and certainly adult dogs, against coronavirus is not called for. In the latest canine vaccination guidelines put together by the American Animal Hospital Association, canine coronavirus vaccines aren’t even considered to be noncore; they are "not recommended" at all.

Dr. Jennifer Coates

Image: Poppography / via Shutterstock