Vaccinations are a crucial part of the health of your pet dog. For owners of new puppies, the vaccination schedule seems never ending, but as dogs age, this schedule consolidates to two yearly vet visits. Below we will take a look at what vaccinations your dog should receive, what they are for and how old your dog should be when they receive each vaccination.
What Do Vaccinations Do?
As with human vaccinations, your dog’s vaccinations are designed to protect them against an array of different illnesses. Vaccinations work by injecting your dog with a small trace amount of infectious organisms. These organisms are placed under your dog’s skin as non-harmful strains of the bacteria in question (known as a live vaccine) or with a dead sample of the disease causing organism. As these infectious organisms make their way in to the body, your dogs immune system should recognize them as foreign bodies and begin to fight them. After being exposed to a specific infectious agent, your dog’s body will be able to identify these agents and release antibodies more quickly in the future.
Can My Dog Survive Without Vaccinations?
Many people believe that since dogs do not receive vaccinations in the wild, they can survive without vaccinations when domesticated. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Over time researchers have discovered a number of infectious organisms that can severely shorten the lives of canines whether feral or domesticated. It certainly is possible that a dog without vaccinations could survive to live a full long life; however, if they do not, there is a potential for developing any number of severely painful and potentially fatal diseases. One example of this is rabies. Frequently dog owners that do not vaccinate their dogs are also dog owners who believe that their dogs should be “outside only dogs.” This exposes their dog to wildlife that has the potential for carrying rabies. Without a rabies vaccination a dog that contracts rabies suffers from a long and drawn out illness that results in death if not treated.
Common Dog Vaccinations
There are a number of dog vaccinations that are “common” for pet owners to administer to their dogs, these include: parvovirus, coronavirus, Rabies, a five way vaccine, a seven way vaccine, leptospirosis, Lyme disease, bordatella and parainfluenza.
Parvovirus, also known as “parvo” is a disease that can affect any number of mammals. The parvovirus being referred to in this case however is canine parvovirus. Canine parvovirus is extremely contagious and is contracted through the feces of an infected dog. Parvo is commonly recognized for killing young puppies that do not have well developed immune systems. Mortality in untreated cases of parvovirus is around 91%. Vaccination against parvovirus is the only way to prevent a dog from contracting this virus. Parvovirus cannot be spread from dogs to humans. Dogs that have contracted parvovirus generally show symptoms within 3 to 10 days. The most commonly seen symptoms of parvo include: secondary infections, dehydration, lethargy, diarrhea, vomiting, endotoxemia, shock and eventually death. If a dog has a confirmed case of parvovirus they can infect neighborhood dogs with their feces and through soil that has come in to contact with their feces. Even if a dog recovers from parvovirus it is possible for them to shed the virus in there feces. The parvovirus vaccination can take as long as two weeks to take effect and fully protect a dog from contracting parvo. Before a dog is protected against parvo by a fully effective vaccination, they should be kept away from potential sources of the virus.
The Parvovirus Vaccination
The parvovirus vaccination is given to puppies of five weeks old if the puppy is deemed at high risk for contracting the virus. At ages six and nine weeks puppies that are not deemed as “high risk” and puppies receive a five way vaccine (sometimes referred to as the DHLLP) which includes the parvovirus inoculation. A combination vaccination is given again at 12 and 15 weeks. After the initial puppy parvovirus vaccinations, adult dogs receive a booster shot every year – or every three years depending upon individual veterinarians vaccination preferences.
Coronavirus is a disease that affects the intestinal tract. While for most dogs coronavirus is a short lived illness, it does have the potential to cause a number of side effects and complications. The canine coronavirus is passed through feces and may be passed through saliva as well. Dogs that have been exposed to this disease have an incubation period between one and five days at which point symptoms will begin to present. As coronavirus makes its way to the intestinal tract dog’s will exhibit sudden onset diarrhea, a decrease in appetite and lethargy. The stools of dogs that have this virus often contain mucus or blood and always have a distinct odor. There is no treatment for coronavirus to date other than to control symptoms until the virus runs its course. Oftentimes dogs with coronavirus do develop secondary infections, so antibiotics are commonly prescribed. This virus is rarely fatal except in the cases of dogs with underdeveloped or compromised immune systems.
The Coronavirus Vaccination
The coronavirus vaccination is given to puppies at 6 and 9 weeks in areas where coronavirus is a concern. Additionally, when these dogs reach 12 and 15 weeks they are given another coronavirus vaccination. Generally, adult dogs do not require boosters for the coronavirus vaccination; however, some veterinarians include it in combination vaccines such as those for canine distemper, canine parvovirus and canine adenovirus type 2.
Rabies is a viral disease that can be carried by a number of mammals and is one of the few zoonotic diseases (diseases humans can catch from their dogs.) The most common method of transmission is through a bite from an infected mammal. The rabies virus causes acute encephalitis and eventually infects the entire nervous system causing death. If rabies is treated prior to the onset of symptoms it can be stopped; however, once symptoms begin to appear, it is a fatal disease. After being bitten by a mammal infected with rabies symptoms it can take anywhere from two to twelve weeks to present, but in some cases it is much longer. Currently there are two recognized forms of rabies: furious and paralytic. Initially all dogs infected with rabies will begin by exhibiting slight nervous system abnormalities. Just a few days’ later dogs will either die immediately or progress to either the furious or paralytic stage of infection. Dogs with furious rabies exhibit extreme behavioral changes. When rabies is depicted in the media it is often shown as furious rabies in which animals show extreme aggression and willingness to attack. Dogs with paralytic rabies exhibit a slow loss of coordination, weakness and finally paralysis.
Anytime you believe that your dog has come in to contact with rabies they should be taken to a veterinarian immediately even if they are up to date on their rabies vaccination. Symptoms of rabies include: fever, paralysis, seizures, a dropped jaw, inability to swallow, hydrophobia, pica, a change in bark tone, unusual aggression, lack of coordination, excessive salivation or frothy saliva.
The Rabies Vaccination
The rabies vaccination is generally given to a puppy at 12 weeks old; however, this age may vary from city to city depending upon local laws. A second rabies shot is administered one year following the first shot. Following the initial two rabies shots, boosters are generally given once every two years or once every three years, depending upon the vaccination used and local laws.
About The Adenovirus Cough and Hepatitis
The canine adenovirus type 1 causes canine hepatitis. Dogs that have contracted the canine adenovirus type 1 suffer from swelling and cell damage in the liver that can also result in hemorrhage and death. This virus can be contracted through feces and urine of infected dogs. Symptoms of canine adenovirus type 1 include: pain in the abdomen, abdominal distension, lack of appetite, pale color, lethargy, fever and tonsillitis. Fluid swelling in the corneas often results in the appearance of the dog having blue eyes. Death is common in more severe cases within one to two days; however, surviving the first few days can result in a full recovery and future immunity to the virus.
The canine adenovirus type 2 is a relative of the hepatitis virus and is one of the causes of kennel cough. Vaccination against canine adenovirus type 2 limits the severity of the virus if it is contracted so that the chance of death from secondary infection is unlikely. Symptoms of the canine adenovirus type 2 include: the development of a hacking cough a week after exposure, inflammation in the airways, white foamy discharge after coughing, pink eye, inflamed nasal passages and nasal discharge.
The Adenovirus Cough and Hepatitis Vaccination
The canine adenovirus-1 or the canine adenovirus-2 injection will both protect against the adenovirus cough and hepatitis. Of these two vaccinations the adenovirus-2 is much more preferred. This inoculation is generally included in a combination vaccination such as the 5-way vaccine or the 7-way vaccine. The canine adenovirus vaccination is generally given at 7 to 9 weeks old, 12 to 13 weeks old and again at 16 to 18 weeks old. Another adenovirus vaccination is given with a combination booster shot at 12 months. Whether or not your dog should receive annual boosters for adenovirus is something that should be discussed with a veterinarian since vaccination regulations vary by location.
About Canine Distemper
Canine distemper is a viral disease that is extremely contagious. The distemper virus itself is closely related to the virus that causes measles. There is no known cure for canine distemper and it is possible for the virus to be carried by a number of wildlife species in addition to canids. Canine distemper spreads through the air and begins by attacking the tonsils and lymph nodes of the dog. As the virus replicates in the body it then begins to attack the gastrointestinal, respiratory, urogenital and nervous systems. While there is no cure for canine distemper, some dogs have been known to recover fully after receiving treatment for symptoms and constant care. Dogs that are fully recovered will no longer carry or spread the disease. Symptoms of canine distemper include: high fever, eatery nasal or eye discharge, red eyes, lethargy, lack of appetite, coughing, vomiting, diarrhea, seizures and paralysis. Some dogs also experience thickening or enlargement of their foot pads.
The Canine Distemper Vaccination
The canine distemper vaccination is given as a part of a combination vaccination, most commonly the DHLLP. The “D” in DHLLP stands for distemper. This vaccination also protects against hepatitis (adenovirus), leptospirosis, parvo and parainfluenza, this is the commonly referred to “5-way vaccine.” Dogs should receive a vaccination against canine distemper at 6, 9, 12 and 15 weeks. A booster shot is provided at 12 months and every year thereafter.
Leptospirosis is a bacterial infection caused by the pathogen Leptospira. Leptospirosis can affect both canines and humans and in some cases can result in death. Leptospires are an organism that thrive in water and generally invade a dog through consumption of urine contaminated water or contact with infected urine. Once inside the dog’s system, the Leptospires use the kidneys to breed and continue living out their life cycle. Symptoms of Leptospirosis include fever, vomiting, depression, loss of appetite, generalized pain and conjunctivitis. Later symptoms include a drop in temperature, increased thirst, change in urine color, jaundice, frequent urination, dehydration, difficulty breathing, muscular tremors, vomiting and bloody feces. If caught in its early stages, antibiotic treatment can shorten the lifespan of the disease and reducing the potential for organ damage. In more severe cases, kidney filtration and blood transfusion may be necessary. Leptospirosis is not a significantly fatal disease and only approximately 10% of cases result in death that occurs from secondary complications.
The Leptospirosis Vaccination
The Leptospirosis vaccination is a preventative vaccination based upon the two most common Leptospires known for causing this infection in dogs. As time has progressed however, infection rates have severely dropped and those dogs that do become infected are infected by an entirely different strain of Leptospire. It is because of this that most veterinarians do not regularly give the Leptospirosis vaccination unless there have been a number of cases in your particular area. The Leptospirosis vaccination can be included in a combination vaccination such as the DHLLP or it can be given individually. The frequency of Leptospirosis vaccinations depends upon the veterinarian giving the injection and the geographical area in which you live.
Lyme disease is a bacterial infection that is spread through the bite of the tick. Lyme disease is the most common tick-borne illness within the United States at the present time. Many dogs that contract Lyme disease do not actually display symptoms, although some will show swollen lymph nodes or lameness. When dogs do display symptoms of Lyme disease, it is important to check them over for any ticks that may still be present. In some cases, the ticks may have long fallen off and it may be months after the initial infecting bite. If Lyme disease is left untreated for long periods of time it can cause extreme inflammation in your dog’s nervous system, heart and kidneys and potentially lead to death. Veterinarians test for Lyme disease through taking blood samples. If a dog comes up positive for Lyme disease, early treatment with Doxycycline is prescribed. If a more advanced stage of Lyme disease is suspected antibiotic treatment will continue for longer and NSAIDS may be prescribed.
The Lyme disease Vaccination
The Lyme disease vaccination is generally given only in areas where Lyme disease is of a concern. This vaccination is given at 12 and 15 weeks as well as at 12 months. Lyme disease booster shots may be given annually as recommended by your veterinarian.
Bordatella is also known as “kennel cough” and is a highly infectious respiratory disease. Caused by bacteria, this disease is easily spread through airborne contaminants. Bordatella can be spread through being exposed to infected dogs or through transference of bacteria in food bowls, cages and water bowls. As the bacteria multiply they destroy the lining of the dog’s trachea and result in a high pitch cough. Dogs with bordatella also often gag and retch as they cough. Dogs with bordatella can also suffer from a fever, sneezing and nasal discharge in addition to loss of appetite and depression. Incubation for kennel cough is approximately 5 to 7 days. Once symptoms begin to present, the infected dog should be given a course of antibiotics and cough suppressants. If left untreated, bordatella can lead to pneumonia and a secondary bacterial infection.
The Bordatella Vaccination
The bordatella vaccination can be given as a traditional vaccination or as an inhaled nasal mist. It takes 48 hours after the vaccination for a dog to develop immunity to the disease. Most kennels require dogs to have their bordatella vaccination before they will allow boarding. Bordatella vaccinations are generally given once every 6 months.
Parainfluenza is also recognized as canine influenza and is a respiratory based disease. Parainfluenza is highly contagious. Dogs that develop parainfluenza may present with a dry cough, a fever, wheezing, difficulty breathing, a runny nose, sneezing, pneumonia, reduced appetite, lethargy, eye inflammation, runny eyes and conjunctivitis. Most dogs recover from this disease on their own; however, it is extremely contagious which is why most veterinarians treat immediately utilizing antibiotics and antiviral drugs. Dogs may also receive cough suppressants and additional fluids.
The Parainfluenza Vaccination
Vaccinating a dog against parainfluenza will not prevent contraction of the disease but it will limit the severity of infection. The parainfluenza vaccination is incorporated in to combination shots called canin distemper-measles-parainfluenza shots and DHPP shots. The first vaccination takes place at 8 to 12 weeks old, a second at 16 weeks and again at 1 year and every six months following. The parainfluenza vaccination can be given intra-nasally or as an injection. The injection protects the dog from parainfluenza where the nasal administration prevents development and spreading of the disease.
Considerations When Vaccinating Dogs
There are a number of considerations to make when vaccinating a dog. The first thing that should be taken in to consideration is local and country-wide laws that determine which vaccinations are mandatory for dogs living in the area. These types of vaccinations are referred to as “core” vaccinations and are mandatory for all dogs regardless of any other circumstances. Core vaccinations are designed to protect animals from extreme illness or disease and include: the rabies vaccination (in some areas), CDV (canine distemper), CAV-2 (canine hepatitis virus or adenovirus-2) and CPV-2 (canine parvovirus.)
Non-core vaccinations are other canine vaccinations that are not mandatory except in areas where the specific illness or disease is endemic. An example of this type of vaccination is the canine parainfluenza vaccination. Many veterinarians will still offer these non-core vaccinations in areas where they are not mandatory, but it is up to the vet and the pet owner to decide whether the dog in question is a suitable vaccination candidate.
Factors to Consider Before Administering Non-Core Vaccinations
There are a number of factors to take in to consideration before agreeing to allow your veterinarian to administer a non-core vaccination to your dog.
Your Dogs Age
There are generally minimum age requirements for all vaccinations and these should be strictly adhered to. Young puppies do not have very developed immune systems and as such they can be severely affected by vaccinations that involve injecting small amounts of live virus in to the body. Additionally, some vaccinations cause side effects that young puppies have a particularly difficult time managing.
Very elderly dogs also often suffer from compromised immune systems and for this reason veterinarians may be hesitant to administer unnecessary vaccinations to senior dogs as well. In some instances vets may recommend a longer period between non-core vaccinations for elderly dogs or they may forego those vaccinations completely.
Other Vaccinations Being Administered
In some cases, veterinarians may be hesitant to administer non-core vaccinations due to the number of other vaccinations being administered at the same time. Giving a dog too many vaccinations at once can increase the likelihood for side effects from vaccination and tax your dogs system overall.
Your Dogs Size
Depending upon your dog’s size or weight, your veterinarian may opt to forego non-core vaccinations for the time being. This is particularly true for dogs that are malnourished due to illness or runts of the litter. In these instances the dogs may not be strong enough or have enough weight on them to cope with the vaccination.
Allergies to Vaccination Ingredients
Just like people, dogs can have allergies to specific ingredients that can be found in vaccinations. If a vaccination is a non-core vaccination and your dog has an allergy to a particular ingredient in a vaccination then your veterinarian will forego this vaccine.
The Breed of Your Dog
Although it may seem strange to some, certain breeds of dog have sensitivities to elements that other breeds do not have. These particular breeds commonly exhibit negative reactions to these ingredients and in these cases these elements much be avoided. One example of this is the German Shepherd which has shown to have a sensitivity to Ivermectin in some cases (this is due to the presence of the MDR1 gene that is also seen in other herding dogs including: the Australian shepherd, the border collie, the collie, the Australian shepherd mini, the English shepherd, the McNab, the Shetland sheepdog, the old English sheepdog and breeds that are mixed with these. Additionally the longhaired whippet and the silken windhound have this gene as well.)
Some of the drugs that can become a problem to these types of dogs are:
Previous Vaccination History
Previous vaccination history is important when determining whether or not a dog should receive a non-core vaccination because it can indicate whether or not a dog will experience a negative reaction. Some dogs have a particular reaction to vaccinations and if your dog is one of these then your veterinarian may opt to forego any non-mandatory vaccinations.
Your Dog’s Overall Health
Your dogs overall health plays a big part in whether or not your veterinarian will recommend a non-core vaccination or not. The reason for this is exactly the same as the reason for not vaccinating humans when they are ill or recovering from being ill. Vaccinations can tax the body and the immune system and in an individual or a dog with an already taxed immune system this can spell trouble. If your dog is recovering from an illness, surgery or medical treatment such as chemotherapy then your veterinarian will not recommend any non-necessary medical procedures including vaccinations.
Knowing Whether to Vaccinate or Not
When it comes to non-core vaccinations there is some disparity as to whether or not dogs should be subjected to non necessary vaccinations. Some claim that these vaccinations are simply done to put our own minds at ease; however, there are others who believe that they should guard their beloved pets against every possibility for illness and infection. The truth is that there really is no definite answer until you take in to consideration all of the factors mentioned above. If you find yourself overwhelmed in trying to decide whether or not your dog would benefit from a specific vaccination then it is always best to consult your veterinarian. By looking at your dog’s medical records and listening to your concerns, your vet will be able to help you to make the right decision for your dog.
Adverse Reactions to Vaccinations in Dogs
Something that many new dog owners tend to concern themselves with is the possibility for adverse reactions to vaccinations in dogs. While this is certainly not a common occurrence, it is something that can happen from time to time. To put things in to perspective, the chance of a dog (or a cat) developing a reaction to a vaccination are around 40 to 50 occurrences for every 10,000 animals vaccinated. Rarely are these adverse reactions life threatening.
Factors Impacting the Chance for Adverse Vaccination Reactions
There are a few different factors that determine whether your dog is at a higher risk than another dog for a vaccination reaction. While reactions to vaccinations are not common, they are seen among smaller dog breeds more often than they are seen in larger breeds. Additionally, younger dogs have a higher risk of developing a reaction to a vaccination rather than an older dog. Many times pet owners who have a cat that has suffered a vaccination reaction will bring this up as a concern when they bring their new dog in for routine vaccinations. It is important to know that cats are more likely to experience certain types of reactions to vaccinations as opposed to dogs.
How Does a Vaccination Reaction Present?
Since there are a number of different vaccinations given many times and since all animals are different, vaccination reactions too can present differently. The most frequently seen reaction to a vaccination however is a loss of energy and a slight fever. These animals will sleep more than usual. This type of reaction is most frequently noticed in younger animals that have received their first couple of rounds of inoculations. This is much like a young human child who might present with a slight fever or other symptoms after their inoculations.
Another type of reaction is not so much a reaction to the inoculation but rather an allergy to the substance being used during the inoculation. Allergic reactions tend to appear very quickly after the initial inoculation and present much the same way they do in humans. Facial swelling, swelling of the tongue, swelling of the airway and redness may be present. If these symptoms present it is likely that you will already be in the company of your veterinarian and they will need to initiate treatment. Treatment in these cases frequently includes a dose of epinephrine to relieve respiratory distress and swelling. Other less serious reactions that indicate an allergy to an inoculation include itching, nose running, coughing and redness of the eyes. While not as severe as the swelling symptoms mentioned above, these symptoms should still be monitored by your veterinarian.
Another type of allergic reaction to vaccinations is swelling at the site of the injection. This type of reaction may also feel like a lump or a small mass. In most cases this is nothing to worry about; however, it should be checked out by your dog’s veterinarian to ensure that all is well. This type of allergic reaction is most common in cats rather than dogs. Any masses or swelling should be monitored closely and if it continues to grow for three to four weeks following vaccination or has not disappeared completely within ten to twelve weeks a biopsy should be performed on the mass. In very few cases cancers can form at areas of swelling; however, this is most common in cats and is referred to as feline vaccine associated sarcoma. In few cases masses caused by vaccinations can be abscesses. Abscesses result when bacteria was present in the vaccination or when bacteria from your pet’s skin is pushed in to the vaccine area by the needle.
Preventing Vaccination Reactions in Your Dog
As previously states, vaccination reactions are fairly uncommon in pets, regardless of this fact however, many pet parents still ask what they can do to prevent vaccination reactions. The truth of the matter is that for most pets, until a reaction occurs there is no way to know whether an animal is prone to a vaccination reaction. It is also important to understand that (particularly with allergic reactions) just because your dog does not experience a reaction with one vaccination does not mean they will not experience one with another type of vaccine.
If you are concerned about a possible vaccination reaction in your pet however, it is important that you discuss this concern with your vet. Many times when this is a concern vets will recommend that only one vaccine be administered at a time which reduces the chances that an allergic reaction will be particularly severe. If you have a pet that has shown allergic reactions before and a vaccination is mandatory (for example the rabies vaccination) your vet will administer a medication before hand to reduce the symptoms of allergic reaction. Often, veterinarians will also administer a different brand of the same vaccine, a different type of vaccination or a different vaccination schedule. In very few cases are allergic reactions are so severe that the dog can no longer receive a particular vaccine but this does happen. When a dog has a very severe reaction to a vaccination like rabies, whether or not your dog must receive the vaccination again during their lifetime is dependent upon local and state regulations.
Intradermal Skin Testing
Intradermal skin testing refers to a process that some veterinarians will conduct for dogs that have a risk for vaccine reaction i.e.: they have had a previous reaction or are a breed or type of dog that has a tendency to vaccine reaction. Intradermal skin testing involves the veterinarian administering a small amount of a vaccine under the skin of the dog to determine a reaction response. In these instances only .1 ml of the vaccine is administered to ensure that any reaction is not severe. Most often, veterinarians rely on this procedure only when a dog has exhibited a reaction to a vaccination that was received in conjunction with other vaccines. In this manner the veterinarian is able to determine which of the administered vaccinations resulted in the allergic reaction.