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The ABC’s of Dog Vaccines

Proper and regular vaccination of our canine companions is very important to help lower their risk to serious infectious diseases.  There are many vaccines available and different protocols among veterinary clinics.  However,there are a group of core vaccinations that should be given to every dog.  These core vaccinations are rabies and DHPP (distemper, hepatitis, parainfluenza, parvo).  The other vaccine that we strongly recommend, which is anon-core vaccine nationally, but locally important, is the leptospirosis vaccine.

Rabies virus is a serious viral disease seen in mammals that adversely affects the central nervous system, leading to death. It is a zoonotic disease that’s typically transmitted through bites from infected animals.  Clinical signs initially include,behavior and personality changes, and fearfulness.  These progress to agitation and restlessness, eventually leading to full-blown aggression, disorientation, then seizures.  Once the symptoms have appeared, Rabies is nearly always fatal.  Death usually occurs less than a week after the onset of signs.  Luckily, due to vaccinating dogs regularly, rabies in dogs is uncommon. Puppies should receive their rabies vaccination at 4 months of age, one year later, and every three years thereafter.  Legally, all dogs must be vaccinated for rabies and can only be done so by a licensed veterinarian.

For the DHPP vaccine, it is extremely important that all puppies are initially vaccinated between 6-8 weeks of age, then every 3-4 weeks until 16 weeks of age.  A year later, the dog must receive a booster.  After this one year booster, discuss with your veterinary clinic about their vaccination protocol and whether your dog should be vaccinated annually or every three years.  Be aware that skipping any of the puppy series greatly increases your dog’s risk of contracting these diseases.  Another risk is self vaccinating.  When a licensed veterinarian gives this vaccine, not only are you ensuring that it was given and handled properly, but if the dog contracts one of these diseases, the cost of treatment is generally covered by the pharmaceutical company. When you get your vaccines from a feed store and give it yourself, there are no guarantees.  If cost is at all is a concern, please remember that our clinic, as well as others hold low-cost vaccination clinics.  We want to protect your dog as best as we can.

Of the DHPP vaccine, I am going to briefly discuss parvovirus, since we have been seeing it a lot lately and is one of the most common, preventable disease.  Canine parvovirus is a highly contagious and serious disease caused by a virus that attacks the gastrointestinal tract of dogs (usually puppies) and wild canids (e.g. coyotes, wolves, foxes).  It can also damage the heart muscle in very young and unborn puppies. This virus is spread by direct dog-to-dog contact and contact with contaminated feces, environments, or people.  The virus is very resistant for long periods of time to all types of weather and conditions. Parvovirus causes lethargy, loss of appetite, fever, vomiting, and severe, often bloody diarrhea. Both vomiting and diarrhea can cause rapid dehydration, and most deaths from parvovirus occur within 48 to 72 hours following the onset of clinical signs.   Although parvovirus has nonspecific clinical signs to its disease, infection with this virus is often suspected based on the dog’s history, physical examination, and laboratory tests.  There is no specific drug that will kill the virus. Treatment is intended to support the dog’s body systems until the dog’s immune system can fight off the viral infection.  Treatment must be started immediately and aggressively.  It can be very expensive, and the dog may still die of this disease. Early recognition and treatment are very important in successful outcomes.  Get to your veterinarians soon as possible if your dog is experiencing any of the clinical signs.  For prevention of parvo, proper vaccination and good hygiene are critical.  Also, until a puppy has received its complete series of vaccinations, pet owners should use caution when bringing their pet to places where young puppies congregate (e.g. pet shops, parks, puppy classes, kennels,and grooming establishments).  Finally,do not let your puppy or adult dog come into contact with the fecal waste of other dogs while walking or playing outdoors.

Leptospirosis is a disease caused by a spirochete bacteria. It is another deadly, serious infectious and contagious disease that can be easily prevented through vaccination. This disease is zoonotic, meaning it can be spread to humans, and is a health risk to humans as well.  The bacteria causes major organ damage to the liver and kidneys.  It is spread through the urine or contaminated water of infected wild and domestic animals.  We live in a county that has wildlife and bodies of water everywhere, including gated Hidden Valley Lake. So, even our little dog companions, like chihuahas and yorkies are at risk.  EVERY breed of dog is at risk.  Treatment is through specific antibiotics and aggressive supportive therapy. Even with early detection and treatment, lasting organ damage and death are common.  Recently, there have been outbreaks of this disease, so please have your dog regularly vaccinated.  The vaccination protocol includes a vaccine between ages 10-12 weeks, followed by a booster at14-16 weeks.  After that it needs to be given annually.

For more information on these vaccinations, as well as others, such as bordetella, rattlesnake, and lyme vaccines, please contact your veterinarian.  Remember, prevention is key!  You can save your dog’s life just by simple, easy, and affordable vaccinations. 

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