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Canine Vaccinations

Many of the serious diseases of dogs can be prevented by vaccination. With over 50 million pet dogs in the United States alone, your pet is likely to come in contact with an infectious disease at some time. Even if your pet is predominantly indoors, your dog can be exposed to viral and/or bacterial infections carried in the air, in soil, or on clothing. Vaccination is inexpensive protection against costly treatment, or premature death of your dog.

When the puppy nurses its mother, it receives a temporary form of immunity through its mother's milk. This immunity is in the form of proteins called antibodies. For about 24-48 hours after birth, the puppy's intestine allows absorption of these antibodies directly into the blood stream. This immunity is of benefit during the first few weeks of the puppy's life, but, at some point, this immunity fails and the puppy must be able to make its own long-lasting immunity. Vaccinations are used for this purpose. As long as the mother's antibodies are present, vaccinations do not have a chance to stimulate the puppy’s immune system. The mother's antibodies interfere by neutralizing the vaccine.

Many factors determine when the puppy will be able to respond to the vaccinations. These include the level of immunity in the mother dog, how much antibody has been absorbed, and the number of vaccines given to the puppy. Since we do not know when an individual puppy will lose the short-term immunity, we give a series of vaccinations. We hope that at least two of these will fall in the window of time when the puppy has lost immunity from its mother but has not yet been exposed to disease. A single vaccination, even if effective, is not likely to stimulate the long-term immunity that is so important.

Rabies vaccine is an exception to this, since one injection given at the proper time is enough to produce long-term immunity.

There are two broad categories of vaccinations: Core and Non-Core.

CORE VACCINES: Are those vaccines, which every dog should receive, regardless of lifestyle and exposure to other dogs. These include Rabies, Distemper, Hepatitis and Parvovirus.

Rabies: Rabies is a Fatal Infection of the nervous system that attacks many warm-blooded animals, including humans. Rabies has become synonymous with the image of a vicious dog. Rabies is a public health hazard and a personal risk to all pet owners. All states require vaccination against rabies. Rabies can be transmitted through the bite of an infected animal. Even dogs kept indoors can come in contact with a rabies carrier in a basement, garage, or attic. Because there is no cure for rabies, vaccination is your pet’s only protection. This vaccine is given as a single dose, then an adult booster a year later. Then, in our state, the rabies vaccine may be given every 3 years.

Distemper: Distemper is one of the two most important diseases of dogs. It is very widespread, and nearly every dog may be exposed to distemper within the first year of life in our area. Signs include coughing, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, fever, and discharge from the eves and/or nose. “Squinting” of the eyes is often the first sign observed. Once the virus enters the nervous system, convulsions, twitches, or partial paralysis become evident. It is spread through all body secretions and is highly contagious and is usually fatal.

Parvovirus: Since its devastating worldwide appearance in 1978, most dog owners have heard of parvo. It is transmitted through direct contact with an infected dog’s feces. A dog that recovers from the disease remains a “carrier” spreading the virus in its bowel movements for 1-3 months. Signs include vomiting, fever, depression, and diarrhea, which often will contain large amounts of blood. There is another form where the virus attacks the heart muscle causing a heart attack and death. The younger the pet, the GREATER chance of death, the death rate is very high in dogs under 4-6 months of age. Dogs remain susceptible to Parvovirus infection until two Weeks After The Last Injection. In the vaccination series this is the Most Serious and Fatal disease we see today.

Infectious Canine Hepatitis: Canine hepatitis affects the dog’s liver. Spread through an infected dog’s urine, exposure can mean anything from a mild infection to death. Puppies are at the most risk with this disease. Vaccination has controlled this disease for several years, and is therefore rarely seen by veterinarians today.

Although the distemper combo vaccine is labeled to be given every year to adult dogs, evidence now supports that the protection lasts longer. The recommendation for adult dogs is a booster every 3 years after the first adult booster.

NON-CORE VACCINES: are those vaccines which may or may not be necessary since the diseases they prevent occur sporadically, are more common in specific circumstances, or are new or “emerging” diseases. These vaccines are available and can be given based on your dog’s risk.

Leptospirosis: Dogs become infected by leptospires when abraded skin comes into contact with infected urine or with water contaminated with infected urine. Bite wounds, reproductive secretions, and even consumption of infected tissues can transmit this infection. The organisms quickly spread through the bloodstream leading to fever, joint pain, and general malaise that can last up to a week. The organism settles in the kidneys and begins to reproduce, leading to further inflammation and then kidney failure. Depending on the type of leptospire involved, other organ failure (especially liver) can be expected as well. Make no mistake; leptospirosis is a life-threatening disease with worldwide significance. People can be infected, too. Leptospirosis is controlled by vaccination.

Canine Respiratory Disease Complex: Previously called “Kennel cough,” the CRDC is actually comprised of several viruses and bacteria (ie. Bordetella, Parainfluenza, and Adenovirus), which can all cause respiratory signs. Canine influenza is a newcomer to this group of infectious diseases and is in a separate vaccination. The goal of these vaccinations is not to prevent disease, but to minimize the severity of disease and to decrease the amount of virus shed and spread by your dog if infected.

Canine Cough Complex: Technically known as “tracheo-bronchitis,” it is an upper respiratory infection with the major sign being a persistent, dry, hacking cough. It often lasts several weeks and is Highly Contagious. The “Kennel Cough” vaccination includes Bordetella, Parinfluenza and Adenovirus.

Canine Influenza: It is an infectious disease caused by a “flu” virus. In dogs, a highly contagious strain of the influenza virus known as H3N8 is able to cause respiratory illness. Just like human “flu”, canine influenza is highly contagious. Virtually every dog exposed to the virus will be infected. Canine influenza spreads the same way that human flu, through direct contact (kissing, licking,); through the air (coughing or sneezing); and via contaminated surfaces (such as when a person picks up the virus on their hands or clothing, then touches or pets a dog). The symptoms are fever, nasal discharge, lack of energy, loss of appetite, and persistent cough that can last for up to a month. Some dogs have a soft, moist; “productive” cough, while others have a dry cough similar to that seen in dogs with kennel cough. The vaccination requires two doses, 2 to 4 weeks apart followed by annual revaccination.

Corona Virus: Corona virus is an intestinal infection, which may result in diarrhea, vomiting, and depression in young puppies.

Lyme Vaccine: It is a multi-system disorder transmitted by a deer tick that affects animals differently, and many display no clinical signs at all. In dogs, many cases start with limping, lymph node swelling, fever, loss of appetite, pain in the legs or body, arthritis or joint swelling, lethargic behavior, depression, cough. Symptoms usually appear 2 – 5 months after your dog is infected. 95% of dogs that are exposed do not show any symptoms. It is more common in some areas of the United States than in others. Your vet can tell you whether it is necessary to protect against this disease in your area.

Risk of vaccination: In general, possible side effects of vaccines include localized pain or swelling, low-grade transient fever, and mild lethargy. Less commonly vaccination may result in allergic reaction such as swelling of lips and eyelids, or anaphylaxis (a potentially fatal hypersensitivity reaction). Signs of this type of reaction include vomiting, diarrhea, and significant depression. If you notice signs of allergic reaction or anaphylaxis, contact an emergency center or us immediately. While there is no direct cause and effect relationship between vaccinations and certain immune-mediated diseases, this continues to be investigated. Overall, the risk of any reaction is quiet small compared to the risk of the diseases the vaccines protect against.

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