Diseases and Vaccination – Dogs

Protecting your best friend

One of the most important things you can do to give your dog a long and healthy life is to ensure that he is vaccinated against common canine diseases. Your dog’s mother gave her puppy immunity from disease for the first few weeks of existence by providing disease-fighting antibodies in her milk. After that period it’s up to you, with the help and advice of your veterinarian – to provide that protection.
How do vaccines work?
Vaccines contain small quantities of altered or “killed” viruses, bacteria or other disease-causing organisms. When administered, they stimulate your dog’s immune system to produce disease-fighting cells and proteins – or antibodies – to protect against disease.
When should my dog be vaccinated?
The immunity that a puppy gains from its mother’s milk begins to diminish sometime after 6 weeks of age. It is then time to begin the initial vaccinations, usually a course of 2 or 3 injections given 3 to 4 weeks apart. Thereafter, your dog will require repeat vaccination at regular intervals for the rest of his or her life. As vaccines vary in the duration of immunity they provide, above all, follow the vaccination schedule recommended by your veterinarian.
Which vaccinations should my dog receive?
Most veterinarians believe that your pet should be protected against those diseases which are most common, highly contagious, and which cause serious illness.  These include Rabies, Distemper, Infectious Canine Hepatitis, Parvovirus, and Leptospirosis.  Other vaccinations may be recommended, based on your veterinarian’s evaluation of the risks posed by such factors as your dog’s particular heredity, environment, and lifestyle.

Core Vaccinations:

The following vaccinations are required for almost every dog, with limited exceptions.

  • Rabies (Merial Imrab 3 TF), a viral disease that causes a fatal encephalitis.  The rabies vaccine is required by law in New Jersey.  Rabies is carried by bats, raccoons, skunks, and foxes, though it can infect any warm-blooded animal, including humans.  Upon vaccination, your dog will be issued a rabies certificate.  The first rabies vaccine is good for one year.  Every vaccine after that is labeled for three years of immunity.
  • Canine Distemper (included in DHPP).  Vaccination against this often fatal, hard-to-treat disease is absolutely essential. Highly contagious, it is spread by discharges from the noses and eyes of infected dogs. Symptoms can include listlessness, fever, coughing, diarrhea and vomiting; convulsions and paralysis may occur in the disease’s final stages. The distemper virus attacks many organs, including the nervous system, which may be permanently damaged, even if the dog recovers.
  • Canine Parvovirus (included in DHPP), Very contagious, debilitating and widespread, the disease caused by this virus emerged in many parts of the world only in 1978. Spread through infected feces, the highly resistant virus can remain in the environment for many months. Symptoms of Parvo infection include high fever, listlessness, vomiting and bloody diarrhea. Vaccination is the only certain method of preventing this potentially fatal disease, which is most severe in young pups and elderly dogs.
  • Infectious Canine Hepatitis (included in DHPP), Caused by Canine Adenovirus Type I, this disease is transmitted among dogs by contact with secretions, such as saliva, infected urine or faeces. Its symptoms are similar to those of the early stages of distemper. Causing liver failure, eye damage and breathing problems, the course of this disease can range from mild to fatal. Vaccination remains the best protection.
  • Parainfluenza (included in DHPP), a virus that causes respiratory disease.
  • Leptospirosis (found in DHLPP, Lepto vaccine, and Lepto/Lyme combination vaccine), a bacterial disease which attacks the kidneys and liver.  There are several strains of leptospirosis.  It is spread through the urine of wild animals.  It is zoonotic, meaning it can also infect humans.

Optional Vaccinations:

After evaluating your dog’s particular situation and risk factors, your veterinarian may also recommend vaccination against other infectious diseases. These might include:
  • Lyme Disease (Borreliosis), a tick-borne disease that causes lethargy, joint pain, and reduced appetite.
  • Bordetella (Kennel Cough, Infectious Tracheobronchitis), Just as with the human common cold, this respiratory-tract infection is easily transmitted from one dog to another, so vaccination is imperative if your pet will come in contact with many other dogs in such situations as obedience training or boarding at a kennel.  Kennel Cough can be caused by various airborne bacteria and viruses, including Canine Parainfluenza virus, Canine Adenovirus Type II and Bordetella bronchiseptica.  You’ll first notice its onset by your dog’s dry, hacking cough, sometimes with a small amount of clear or foamy white fluid brought up at the end.  The Bordetella vaccine is required by most kennels.
  • Canine Influenza (Dog flu), a viral respiratory infection.  It is rare but potentially fatal.  The influenza vaccine is required by some kennels.
How effective is vaccination?
Like any drug treatment or surgical procedure, vaccinations cannot be 100% guaranteed. However, used in conjuction with proper nutrition and acceptable sanitary conditions, vaccination is clearly your pet’s best defense against disease. Plus, when you consider what treating a serious illness can cost you and your beloved dog in terms of both money and distress, prevention through vaccination is extremely cost-effective.