What You Need to Know About Dog Vaccinations
The point of vaccinations is to build a strong immune system. You vaccinate your children to fend off diseases, and we in the veterinary field recommend that you do the same for your dog. Dogs can catch diseases just like kids can. What’s worse is that some of these diseases are zoonotic, which means you can catch them from your dog. Two such examples of this are Rabies and Leptospirosis.
Dog vaccinations, or dog shots, can be divided into two categories - core and non-core vaccines. Contact a local veterinarian to assess your dog’s specific needs and then formulate a vaccination plan accordingly.
Core Dog Vaccines
Your puppy should start the core vaccine series at eight weeks old. These vaccinations consist of Distemper, Canine Hepatitis, Parvovirus, Parainfluenza (known as the combo DHPP), and Rabies. Your dog will be given these vaccines as injections, some every 3-4 weeks until they reach 16 weeks of age. Certain vaccines are given in a booster series because, at this age, your puppy needs to mount a longer-term immune response. After completing the puppy vaccinations series, your dog should receive a booster yearly to every three years, depending on your veterinarian’s recommendations and your dog’s lifestyle.
This combination vaccine does quite a lot to protect your dog:
- Canine Distemper is a highly contagious disease spread through contact direct and indirect contact with infected dogs. Unfortunately, there’s no cure for canine distemper, but symptoms can be managed with IV fluids and medications.
- Canine Hepatitis is an upper respiratory disease that can also affect the organs. Dogs are usually able to recover from the upper respiratory symptoms, but the disease stays in the liver and kidneys for about a year.
- As a puppy and young adult, your dog is susceptible to a disease called Parvovirus. Unfortunately, many puppies do not survive once they have Parvo. Treatment for this disease is long, intensive, and expensive. They can receive it from other dogs as well as dogs that have not been vaccinated.
- Parainfluenza can be mistaken for kennel cough, but it is usually present with a fever. It can also be deadly if left untreated.
DHPP vaccines are started when your dog is eight weeks old. Your puppy is given a booster until they have received a total of 4-5 vaccines, depending on your veterinarian and dog’s lifestyle. This combo vaccine is usually available for purchase at farm/ranch stores, but it cannot be guaranteed to have been at consistent temperatures to ensure efficacy. Therefore, your dog should only receive this vaccine from the veterinarian’s office.
The vaccine for Rabies is vital for your health and the health of your dog. Rabies is zoonotic, transmittable through saliva, and unfortunately fatal. Rabies vaccines are required by law. This vaccine is only administered by your veterinarian. Your dog will be vaccinated for Rabies once they reach 16 weeks of age; it will be a part of their last round of puppy vaccines. After your dog is vaccinated, you will receive a Rabies Certificate and a tag. This is helpful if your dog escapes and is found. An ID number on the tag serves as proof of a Rabies vaccine. Hospitals, shelters, and rescues can look up this number and may be able to contact you when your dog is found.
Other vaccines should be given to your dog based on location and lifestyle. These consist of Bordatella, Leptospirosis, Influenza, and Lyme vaccines. These vaccines are not required but are helpful in continuing to build your dog’s immune response, especially if they are frequently outdoors or around other dog populations.
If your dog is around other dogs often - whether they are boarded or go to a groomer - they should be vaccinated for Bordetella (or Kennel Cough). This upper respiratory disease is highly contagious and can be uncomfortable for your dog. Most kennels require this vaccine prior to your dog staying with them. It would also be beneficial to have your dog vaccinated for kennel cough if he or she will be staying in the veterinary hospital for surgery. This vaccine is given every six months for those dogs who are constantly around other dogs, or yearly if not - either by injection or through the nostrils.
If your dog is outdoors consistently or hunts, you should talk to your veterinarian about vaccinating for Leptospirosis. This disease is treatable but is also zoonotic, which means you are putting yourself at risk for contracting it. Like the core vaccines, the Lepto vaccine needs to be followed by a booster and then administered yearly.
Unlike parainfluenza, a part of the DHPP combo vaccine, the Canine Influenza vaccine is like the human flu vaccines. Again, if your dog is constantly in public around other dogs, you should talk with your veterinarian about vaccinating them for Influenza. Canine influenza is highly contagious and can be more damaging in dogs with compromised immune systems.
If you live in an area that is known for tick-borne diseases, your veterinarian will highly recommend vaccinating your dog for Lyme disease. Prior to receiving the initial Lyme vaccine, your dog should be tested for any tick-borne diseases. Unfortunately, dogs that have contracted the disease will have it for life. It is manageable with antibiotics (Doxycycline), but flare-ups are possible. Your dog needs to be tested yearly to ensure adequate organ function and to check levels of Lyme disease in his or her system. If negative, your dog will receive the vaccine, and it will need a booster a month later and yearly after that.
Speak With Your Veterinarian About Your Dog’s Vaccination Needs
Overwhelmed by all the different kinds of vaccines for your dog? Simply start with the core vaccines and speak with your veterinarian about your dog’s lifestyle to help you choose what additional vaccines would be beneficial for your dog. Just remember - only vaccinate your dog at a veterinarian clinic; vaccines are specially formulated to ensure efficacy when stored and handled properly.
Reach out to a veterinarian near you to get your dog vaccinated based on location and lifestyle, so he or she can live a long and happy, healthy life.