Routine Vaccinations for Puppies and Dogs

Lucky for us, there are vaccines to help prevent many illnesses that affect dogs. Vaccinating your dog has long been considered one of the easiest ways to help him live a long, healthy life. Not only are there different vaccines for different diseases, there are different types and combinations of vaccines.

Although vaccination has the potential to protect pets against life-threatening diseases, vaccination is not without its risks. Recently, there has been some controversy regarding the duration of protection and timing of vaccination, as well as the safety and necessity of certain vaccines.

What does this all mean for your dog? Vaccination is a procedure that has risk and benefits that must be weighed for every dog relative to his lifestyle and health. Your veterinarian can determine a vaccination regime that will provide the safest and best protection for your individual pet.

What Exactly Are Vaccines?

Vaccines help prepare the body’s immune system to fight the invasion of disease-causing organisms. Vaccines contain antigens, which look like the disease-causing organism to the immune system but don’t actually cause the disease. When the vaccine is introduced to the body, the immune system is alerted to recognize this antigen. If a dog is ever exposed to the real disease, his immune system is now prepared to recognize and fight it off entirely or reduce the severity of the illness.

How Important Are Vaccines to the Health of My Dog?

Bottom line – vaccines are very important in managing the health of your dog. That said, not every dog needs to be vaccinated against every disease. It is very important to discuss with your veterinarian a vaccination protocol that’s right for your dog. Factors that should be examined include: age, medical history, environment, travel habits and lifestyle. Most vets highly recommend administering core vaccines to health dogs.

What are Core Vaccines?

In 2006, the American Animal Hospital Association’s Canine Task Force published a revised version of guidelines regarding canine vaccinations. The guidelines divide vaccines into three categories – core, non-core, and not recommended.

Core vaccines are considered vital to all dogs based on risk of exposure, severity of disease or transmissibility to humans. Canine parvovirus, distemper, canine hepatitis, and rabies are considered core vaccines by the Task Force.
Non-core vaccines are given depending on the dog’s exposure risk. Some of these include vaccines against Bordetella bronchiseptica, Borrelia burgdorferi and Leptospira bacteria.

How Often Should my Adult Dog Be Vaccinated?

Your veterinarian can best determine a vaccination schedule for your dog. This will depend on the type of vaccine, your dog’s age, medical history, environment and lifestyle. Some adult dogs might receive certain vaccines annually, while other vaccines might be given every 3 years or longer.

For What Diseases Do We Vaccinate?

Canine Distemper
Canine Distemper is a disease that attacks the nervous system of a dog. It also causes respiratory and digestive system conditions in its earlier stages. The Distemper virus attacks the brain within a few weeks and death or euthanasia is generally the outcome. It can affect dogs of all ages and is present world-wide. The vaccination program for every four weeks starting at 8 weeks of age is designed to help prevent distemper. Vaccines are very effective in preventing this disease.

Canine Hepatitis (Adenovirus)
Canine Hepatitis is a viral disease which affects the liver. Fortunately, hepatitis is rarely seen today due to the effectiveness of vaccinations.

Parvo virus is an intestinal virus in dogs. The virus can remain in an area for months to years and can be transmitted on your shoes or other articles of clothing. Because of this, your dog does not necessarily have to be around a sick puppy in order to contract Parvo virus. The symptoms include depression, bloody diarrhea, profound weight loss and vomiting. The treatment is aggressive supportive care with IV fluids and medications for GI upset. Without proper veterinary care this disease is most often fatal. Vaccinations are generally very effective in preventing the disease.

Rabies is a viral disease that is spread mainly through contact between a pet or person with an infected animal. Rabies can be difficult to diagnose and once symptoms are observed in a human or animal, Rabies is fatal as there is no effective treatment for this disease.

Note: Vaccination for Rabies is a state law in Texas. Texas requires that a dog be vaccinated against Rabies by a licensed veterinarian. One year later, that dog should receive a booster. That boost (the second vaccine for Rabies) will be good for 3 years providing that the pet was not overdue for the booster and lives in an area that by law honors the 3 year Rabies vaccine.

Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease which can affect many animals, including humans. It is rare in cats, but more common in dogs.

The severity of symptoms varies, and depends on the dog (age, immune response, and vaccination status), the strain of Leptospira, and other factors. Some dogs may have mild symptoms or no symptoms at all, but severe cases can be fatal. This bacteria often settles in the kidneys causing renal failure, but may also affect the brain, heart, lung and liver.

Bordetella (Kennel Cough)
Kennel cough is fairly common and highly contagious respiratory disease in dogs. It is also known as Infectious Tracheobronchitis. It is easily spread when dogs or are in close contact with infected dogs, such as: kennels, dog parks, veterinary hospitals, grooming facilities or other boarding situations.

Kennel cough may be caused by a variety of disease agents, either singly or in combination with each other. Possible viral disease agents include: canine parainfluenza virus, canine adenovirus 2, or canine distemper virus. Other viruses may play a role, but the information is not as definitive.

Bacteria, such as Bordetella bronchiseptica may be a sole causative agent or may be a secondary infection after initial viral damage. Other bacteria, usually gram negative bacteria, may also be secondary infectious agents after an initial viral infection.

What is a Vaccine Titer?

As we learn more about how a dog’s immune system responds to vaccination, we are realizing that some dogs do not need to be vaccinated against every common disease every year.

Antibodies are the part of the immune system in a dog’s body that recognize different viral or bacterial particles (antigens) and respond to infection. An antibody titer test detects the amount of antibodies your dog has to a particular disease. If a dog has high levels of antibodies to a particular disease, this means their immune system is primed and ready to respond if they have exposure to that disease, making them protected. In protected dogs, there is no medical need for a re-booster of that individual vaccine.

There are no real contraindications to performing a vaccine titer as it only involves a blood sample. However, antibody titers are not available for every commonly vaccinated against disease. Your veterinarian can help determine the best combination of antibody titers and vaccines to keep your pet protected for a long and healthy life free of preventable diseases.

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