Routine vaccinations are essential for prevention of infectious diseases in puppies. Puppies receive immunity against infectious disease in their mother’s milk; however, this protection begins to disappear between 6 and 20 weeks of age. An appropriate vaccination program for adult dogs should be based on the pets’ lifestyle.
Canine Vaccine Recommendations
Before the days of effective vaccines, dogs routinely died from distemper, hepatitis, leptospirosis, parvovirus and complications of upper respiratory infections. Current vaccination programs protect our dogs from these and the threat of rabies. Despite the well-known benefits of vaccination, the practice of annual vaccination of mature dogs is a matter of healthy debate. Some veterinarians believe that annual revaccination is an important and critical part of preventative health care. Others suggest that there is little scientific information to suggest that annual revaccination of older dogs is necessary for some diseases. There is insufficient information regarding the duration of immunity beyond a year.
Certainly routine vaccinations are essential for prevention of infectious diseases in puppies. Puppies receive immunity against infectious disease in their mother’s milk; however, this protection begins to disappear between 6 and 20 weeks of age.
To protect puppies during this critical time, a well-researched approach is taken: a series of vaccines is given every 3-4 weeks until the chance of contracting an infectious disease is very low. The typical vaccine is a “combination” that protects against canine distemper virus, canine adenovirus, parainfluenza, and canine parvovirus (the four viruses are commonly abbreviated DHPP). Many veterinarians also recommend incorporating leptospirosis in the vaccination series. Rabies vaccines are given between 16 and 26 weeks of age in most states (governed by law). All vaccines require booster immunizations (“shots”) that are given one year later.
The protective effect of vaccinations for bacterial infections (e.g. bordetella and leptospirosis) typically does not persist for more than a year making yearly (and occasionally more frequent) booster vaccines advisable. If your adult dog has an adverse reaction to the vaccine (fever, vomiting, shaking, facial swelling or hives) discuss the risk of annual revaccination with your veterinarian.
Puppy Vaccine Recommendations
Puppies 4 to 20 weeks of age: In puppies, a series of vaccines is recommended. These should begin between 6 and 8 weeks of age. Typically the last vaccination is given between 14 and 16 weeks of age. The vaccine should protect against canine distemper virus, canine adenovirus, parainfluenza and canine parvovirus. If the risk of kennel cough is great, a vaccine against Bordetella is recommended. Rabies vaccine should be given in accordance with individual state laws usually between 16 and 26 weeks of age. Other vaccinations that are sometimes given by your veterinarian include Coronavirus, Lyme and Giardia. These are not routinely given to every animal, and their use should be discussed with your veterinarian.
Specific vaccine requirements for individual dogs should be discussed with your veterinarian. The most appropriate vaccination program for your pet should be followed. Here is a guide to the diseases for which your pup will need vaccines:
Distemper is a contagious viral disease that affects the respiratory and nervous system of dogs. Distemper does not cause “bad temper.” It is a serious illness that is almost always fatal.
Hepatitis is a viral infectious disease that affects the liver and eyes and may cause reproductive problems. Hepatitis is not contagious to people.
Leptospirosis is a bacterial infectious disease that causes severe liver and kidney damage and may also affect humans.
Parainfluenza is a highly contagious viral respiratory disease that may spread quickly from dog to dog.
One of the most serious contagious diseases for puppies, parvovirus causes severe vomiting and diarrhea while suppressing the immune system and may be fatal even if treated. After the initial vaccination series, a blood test can be done to ensure adequate protection. Rottweilers, Doberman pinschers and Pitbulls seem to be more susceptible than other breeds.
Rabies is a serious public health concern because the virus is carried by mammals including raccoons, skunks, foxes, bats, dogs and cats and can be transmitted to humans. The virus is spread through wounds, via the saliva of a rabid animal, and causes symptoms such as: overly vicious or timid behavior, lack of coordination and difficulty swallowing. Once these symptoms appear, the disease is fatal. While there is an effective post-exposure treatment for humans, there is none for animals.
Bordetella is one of the bacterial causes of “kennel cough.” Signs like a honking cough during the night can be stressful for the dog as well as the owner