“The best defense is a good offense.”
While this idiom is often used by the military and even sports teams for their own battles and game plans, it applies very well to the canine vaccination process. Vaccines help prevent many dog-specific diseases, and regular vaccination increases the odds of long-term health. The first vaccine boosts the animal’s immune defense system while subsequent doses continue to stimulate the creation of antibodies needed to prevent disease..
Core Vaccines and Non-Core Vaccines: Take Your Best Shot
From infancy through adulthood, canine vaccinations follow established recommendations from the American Veterinary Medical Association and are divided into two categories: Core Vaccines and Non-Core Vaccines.
Core vaccines include vaccines for canine distemper, canine adenovirus-2 (hepatitis and respiratory disease), canine parvovirus-2, and rabies. Non-core vaccination covers several more conditions and diseases but the use of these shots also depends on several factors. Among the factors are the age and breed of a dog, their overall health, the geographic area a dog resides in or may travel to, and the risk for exposure to another canine that has a specific disease. Non-core vaccinations include Lyme, coronavirus, leptospirosis, Bordetella, parainfluenza, and respiratory disease from canine adenovirus-2 (CAV-2).
All this information can be overwhelming so being able to discuss it with your vet will help you take the proper course of action for your dog. Your veterinarian can discuss these considerations with you on an individual basis and help you make an informed decision.
Get to the Core of Vaccines
Getting a grasp of the complete dog vaccination schedule looks easier if you break it down by a canine’s age. Puppies require several core vaccinations for specific diseases in their first year of life. This is because young animals are more susceptible to infectious disease, due to their immune systems being still in development. Initially, their mother’s milk provides some antibody protection, but for the long haul they need additional help.
First SHOTS for puppy’s first year-6-8 weeks - Puppies between 6-8 weeks should receive distemper and parainfluenza.
*Distemper is a virus that affects a dog’s respiratory, gastrointestinal, and central nervous systems, as well as the conjunctival membranes of the eye. Its symptoms include sneezing, coughing, and thick mucus coming from the eyes and nose. It can also display with fever, loss of appetite and lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea and depression.
Distemper is passed from dog to dog via direct contact with infected body fluids and blood. There is no targeted medication for distemper. Dogs can be treated for symptoms through antibiotics and using intravenous fluids to ward of dehydration until the dog’s immune system becomes strong enough to recover. However, not all canines can beat the disease and it can have fatal consequences, especially for puppies and young dogs that are not vaccinated.
*Parainfluenza goes by a couple of other names—such as canine cough, dog flu, and kennel cough. It is highly contagious and affects the upper respiratory system. Symptoms include a soft, wet cough that lasts for 10-30 days along with fever, reduced appetite, sneezing, eye/nose discharge, and a lack of energy. Humans who have experienced respiratory flu can commiserate with their affected furry companions on what this feels like. In severe cases, dogs may run high fevers from 104-106 degrees and show signs of pneumonia, most likely caused by secondary bacterial infection.
Parainfluenza is spread through the air or from contact with items from an infected dog, like bedding, toys, and food dishes.
Treatment will involve tackling the symptoms with fluids, possible antibiotics, and anti-inflammatory medication to ease fever, swelling and pain. Severe cases may require more intervention with other medication and hospitalization. Recovery can take two to three weeks.
First SHOTS for puppy’s first year-10-12 weeks AND again at 14-16 weeks- - Puppies should receive a DHPP (combination) vaccine during 10-12 weeks and 14-16 weeks, which will include boosters for distemper and parainfluenza and add adenovirus (hepatitis) and parvovirus.
*Adenovirus (hepatitis), also called infectious canine hepatitis, derives from contact with infected feces, urine, blood, saliva, and nose secretions from another dog. The virus can cause a serious liver infection, but can also affect the kidneys, eyes and the cells that line the interior of blood vessels. Adenovirus may start out in the tonsils and then spread through the blood stream, eventually ending up in the white blood cells in the liver. This virus has the ability to use these cells to replicate and spread, damaging other liver cells. During this stage, all feces, urine, and saliva would be contaminated and contagious to other dogs.
A healthy immune response in a dog would void the virus-affected cells from the liver in 10-14 days and continue to remove these from the kidneys during urination for another 6-9 months. In dogs with compromised immune systems, chronic hepatitis would develop, which would also begin to affect not just the liver and kidneys, but overall health. A condition called “hepatitis blue eye” would occur due to the swelling and death of cells of the front of the eye. A complete diagnosis may require urinalysis, electrolyte panel, blood work, abdominal x-rays and liver biopsies.
The vaccination is highly effective for adenovirus. For dogs that have not been vaccinated, treatment of canine hepatitis will be long and complicated process with fluid and blood component therapy. Food intake will need to balance protein needs and other necessary minerals. Antibiotics and fluid reducers may be prescribed. Liver and kidney function may be damaged and severe impairment could lead to death.
*Parvovirus, often called Canine Parvovirus (CPV), is a highly contagious viral illness that appears in two types: a more common intestinal form, characterized by vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss, and lack of appetite (anorexia), and a less common cardiac form, which attacks the heart muscles of very young puppies, often leading to death.
Puppies are most affected by parvovirus between six weeks and six months old, due to their immature immune systems. However, early vaccination has greatly reduced the infection in young puppies.
Unvaccinated dogs that are diagnosed with parvovirus need to be treated symptomatically and may require in-patient care. Treatment might include intravenous fluids and feeding, the use of antibiotics for secondary infections, and administering medication to halt vomiting and diarrhea. CPV-infected puppies can die quickly from shock and intestinal hemorrhaging.
Related Article: First Vet Visit Establishes Long-Term Puppy Health >>
First SHOTS for puppy’s first year-12-24 weeks - Puppies will be required to get a rabies shot in this time period, one of the most important vaccinations, a dog needs throughout his life.
*Rabies, a severe and usually fatal disease, affects the brain and central nervous system. Scientifically called viral polioencephalitis, it attacks the gray matter of the dog’s brain and its central nervous system (CNS). Dogs get rabies from being bitten by an infected fox, raccoon, skunk, or bat. Once the rabies virus enters the dog’s body, it heads to the closest nerve fibers, utilizing the body’s nervous system as a super-speed highway to infect it internally.
Symptoms include fever, seizures, paralysis, foaming at the mouth, aggression, lack of coordination, and more. Any encounter with a suspected rabies carrier should be checked out immediately by a veterinarian, who will start testing and place the dog in quarantine for up to six months (or according to state and local regulations). Rabies is always fatal for unvaccinated dogs. Vaccinated dogs, bitten by a suspected rabid animal, will also be quarantined and monitored for at least 10 days to guard against health complications.
Vaccines Aid Doggie Adults, Too
As your matures to an adult dog, vaccinations will still be needed to aid his immune system, but the administration of these shots will be fewer and farther apart.
SHOTS for Adult Dogs-12 to 16 months - Adult dogs should receive another Rabies and combination DHPP vaccination.
SHOTS for Adult Dogs-Every 1 to 2 years - Adult dogs should receive a booster DHPP vaccination.
SHOTS for Adult Dogs-Every 1 to 3 years - Adult dogs should receive a Rabies vaccination.
Sticking Points for Non-Core Shots
Administering Non-Core vaccinations to your beloved pet will often depend on the advice of your veterinarian. If your vet sees a need for some of these vaccinations, they may begin in puppyhood and continue into adulthood with booster shots or be administered as an adult canine due to travel to specific areas or local outbreaks of a disease.
*Bordatella bronchiseptica refers to a bacteria associated with respiratory disease in dogs. It is one of the more common bacterial causes of canine infectious tracheobronchitis, sometimes called “kennel cough”. It is a highly contagious disease and will infect a high percentage of dogs in their lifetime. Its most common symptom is a dry hacking cough, which may sound like a “honk”, followed by retching. A nasal discharge may also be visible. Severe symptoms may progress to fever, loss of appetite, lack of energy, and pneumonia. Extreme cases can also be fatal.
The duration of Bordatella will range from about 10 days to 20 days, but the animal may continue to shed the bacteria for 6 to 14 weeks after the disease has resolved, still spreading it to other animals. Diagnosis is usually based on the symptoms shown and recent exposure to other dogs in kennel or group situations. Treatment can involve antibiotics in mild cases, but it won’t shorten the length of the disease. Cough suppressants might be prescribed, too, in mild cases. In severe cases, usually for an unvaccinated canine, antibiotics will be administered to stave off secondary respiratory infections, but the vet may not use cough suppressants or steroids, since they may hinder eliminating the mucus and extra fluid to resolve the condition.
*Coronavirus ranks number two as the leading viral cause of diarrhea in puppies. Canine Parvovirus leads this list. Coronavirus is spread by virus shedding in the feces of infected dogs and is usually not connected to high death rates. Coronavirus has been known to exist for decades and most adult dogs show measurable antibodies to the disease, meaning they have been exposed to it at some time in their life. The biggest symptom is diarrhea, but not vomiting like Parvovirus. Only a lab test will be able to distinguish which disease it is between the two.
There is no cure for Coronavirus, so it is treated by its symptoms like Parvovirus. Young puppies are at greatest risk of serious illness and even death because of their limited immune system. Severe diarrhea can lead to serious dehydration for the young canines. Pet parents should seek immediate vet care for young pets to prevent a weakened animal from dying.
*Leptospirosis can represent a threat to humans since its bacteria can be picked up via contact with infected canine urine. The bacteria that causes this disease looks like spirals (called spirochetes), which penetrate the skin or mucus membrane through a cut, wound or scrape. The bacteria spread through the entire body and reproduce in the liver, kidneys, central nervous system, eyes, and reproductive systems. Symptoms can include fever, muscle pain, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, lack of energy, depression and passing blood in urine.
Depending on a dog’s immune system strength, it will clear out the bacteria from most of his body and hopefully prevent serious organ damage. However, Leptospirosis can remain in the kidneys and liver, reproducing and infecting urine for years. This damage increases the risk of death for an animal. Younger animals are more at risk due to their immature immune system.
Since leptospirosis is a zoonotic disease (one that can be passed from an animal to a human), extreme care is needed in handling all canine body fluids and discharges. This requires gloves and disposing of all waste as a biologically, hazardous material. Your vet will diagnose this disease based on a full-range of blood and urine tests. Treatment may involve antibiotics, prescribing an anti-vomiting drug, and increasing fluid intake. Serious cases may require hospitalization to combat hydration due to vomiting or lack of appetite. A blood transfusion may also be needed if the dog has been hemorrhaging severely.
A dog undergoing treatment for leptospirosis will be infectious to everyone around it, human, canine, feline and other. Keeping the dog caged with limited outside activity will keep other family members safe. Again, all waste should only be touched with latex gloves and properly disposed of, so it does not infect others. All dog areas, involving urine and feces, cages, kennels and more should be cleaned with a antibacterial cleanser to ensure the bacteria is not allowed to re-infect a household.
*A tick, infected with spirochete Borrelia burgdoreri causes Lyme disease. A dog bitten by an infected tick will experience lameness, swollen joints, fever, and depression. In extreme cases, Lyme disease can also damage kidney function and cause failure. The good news about Lyme disease is its treatability with antibiotics. Dog vaccination will also help keep your canine from being at risk. Though Lyme disease is becoming more prevalent in the United States, it is still centered around areas with larger natural forest habitat.
Diagnosis by a veterinarian comes from getting a dog’s detailed health and travel history, blood tests, urinalysis, fecal examination, x-rays, examining joint fluid, and Lyme disease specific testing. A vet will want to determine if a dog’s arthritic disorder stems from Lyme disease or another trigger or medical condition.
Most dogs affected by Lyme disease will be treated with a 4-week regimen of antibiotics on an outpatient basis. A seriously ill dog, especially if the kidneys are impaired, may require hospitalization. Lyme disease can also lurk internally though the symptoms may disappear. It can return in the future and bring back joint and kidney issues. Dog owners should be vigilant about tick removal and using tick sprays and collars to keep this Lyme disease-causing pest away.
So take the offensive when it comes to dog health and vaccinate your furry companion as required by law and following the advice of your vet. Taking aim at these preventable canine conditions may help keep him around for a longer, healthier and happier life.