Vaccination allows us to prevent many previously fatal diseases saving countless lives in both people and animals. It is vital to vaccinate your puppy and keep him up to date on vaccines throughout his life.
There are two core vaccines that all dogs, regardless of their lifestyle should be given; rabies and the distemper/parvovirus/canine adenovirus type 1(CAV-1) combination vaccine. There are several other lifestyle vaccines which are not required for all dogs but may be recommended based on where you live or what activities you do with your dog. These protect against diseases such as leptospirosis, Lyme disease and canine influenza.
Core Vaccines for Dogs
Rabies is transmitted via the bite of an infected animal. It is a one hundred percent fatal disease for any mammal and every single dog should be protected against rabies. Puppies are usually given their first rabies vaccine between 12 to 16 weeks of age and then again at their one-year visit. After this the vaccine is boostered every one to three years depending on which specific vaccine your veterinarian carries.
The other core vaccine is usually a combination product that protects against distemper virus, parvovirus and CAV-1. Distemper virus is transmitted between dogs through the respiratory tract and results in systemic disease affecting the lungs, gastrointestinal tract, eyes and neurologic system. Parvovirus is transmitted through contact with the feces of an infected dog. The virus then attacks the lining of the intestines causing gastrointestinal signs such as vomiting, lethargy, anorexia, fever and bloody diarrhea. CAV-1 is transmitted through contact with infected body fluid such as urine, feces or saliva. It causes fever, liver failure, kidney failure and ocular disease. Both parvovirus and CAV-1 can live in the environment for up to six months and thus are highly contagious.
The combination vaccine to protect against distemper, parvovirus and CAV-1 is usually given between 6-8 weeks of age and then every 3-4 weeks for a total of 3-4 boosters. During this stage in a puppy’s life they have maternal protection from these diseases that diminishes as they get older. It is necessary to give so many of these vaccines in order to protect them while they are transitioning from their mother’s antibodies to their own. At the one-year visit this vaccine is boostered again and then given every one to three years depending on which brand of vaccine your veterinarian carries.
Lifestyle Vaccines for Dogs
Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease transmitted via urine from an infected animal. What usually happens is a rat or opossum will urinate in a puddle, a dog will come along and then drink out of the puddle. Or a dog will have a scrape on his paw and then step on wet grass that was recently urinated on by a raccoon. The bacteria cause systemic infection that usually presents as liver and/or kidney failure. People can also be infected with leptospirosis. There are several serovars of the leptospirosis bacteria and it is important to use a vaccine that contains four of the most common rather than the older two serovar vaccines that were originally released to the market. This vaccine is initially given as two injections 3-4 weeks apart and then yearly after that.
The vaccine for Lyme disease is somewhat controversial and the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine cannot agree on a consensus for this vaccine. Lyme disease is caused by the Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria that is transmitted via a bite from the Ixodes ticks. Clinical signs of Lyme disease include fever, lethargy, decreased appetite, shifting leg lameness and in rare cases kidney failure. Many dogs test positive for Lyme disease but only 5-10% develop clinical signs. It is widely agreed that the very best way to prevent Lyme disease is good tick control with year round preventives. This will also prevent infection from other tick borne diseases such as Ehrlichia and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. As no tick control product is 100% effective all the time, daily tick checks on your canine (and human) family members is the best step you can take in preventing tick borne disease. Like leptospirosis the vaccine is initially given as two injection 3-4 weeks apart and then yearly after that.
There are several vaccines that are necessary to protect again “canine cough” which refers to a collection of upper respiratory infections consisting of Bordetella, canine influenza, parainfluenza and countless other unnamed viruses and bacteria that cause similar signs. There is a wide range of symptoms associated with canine cough ranging in severity from a mild cough that is self-limiting to potentially life threatening pneumonia.
Canine influenza now has two vaccines to protect against each strain that we commonly see. The H3N8 strain has been in the United States for several years and the more recent strain originating in Asia is called H3N2. The canine influenza and upper respiratory vaccines are necessary if your dog is going to daycare, boarding, the groomer or any place where he will be among other dogs.
It is important to discuss you and your dog’s lifestyle with your veterinarian so that he or she can make appropriate recommendations for what vaccines are necessary to protect your dog. Apart from the necessary core vaccines there is no one size fits all protocol for vaccinating your dog.