Vaccinations are very important in the prevention of serious disease in your dog. There are many vaccines available, but not all are necessary for every dog. At Cliffdale Animal Hospital we give vaccines according to the exposure risk of your dog.
The “core” or basic vaccines are distemper, parvovirus, infectious canine hepatitis, Bordetella and rabies. All dogs should be vaccinated for these diseases as they can have serious health issues. Dogs that are kept current on their vaccine protocol can go to vaccinations for 3 years with the distemper/parvo/hepatitis vaccine and rabies.
When puppies are born, their mother produces a special kind of milk called colostrum. This milk has antibodies that protect puppies from disease during the first few weeks of life. This maternal immunity begins to wear off after 6 weeks of age and the pup can begin to respond on its own to vaccines. Though this response happens between 6-20 weeks, the age when this happens is different for each puppy. For this reason we begin puppy vaccinations at 6 weeks of age and then every 3 weeks until they are 16-20 weeks of age.
Distemper is a very contagious virus. It may be presented as a nasal discharge and cough with discharge from the eyes. “Hard pad” is often found on exam and the nervous system can be affected. Seizures, chewing fits, and involuntary twitching can often lead to grand mal convulsions and death. If they survive, dogs will have life-long effects such as twitching and damage to the enamel of the teeth. Those with seizures will often progress in severity over time. Vaccines have helped us see a decrease in the number of distemper cases seen today.
Parvovirus is often fatal in young puppies. Vomiting, bloody diarrhea, lack of appetite, and lethargy are the most common signs. This virus can also affect the heart as well as the gastrointestinal tract. Puppies that have not been vaccinated or have not finished their vaccine series and older dogs with compromised immune systems are at the greatest risk. These puppies will be sick anywhere from 3-10 days. We can help the survival rate by given supportive care in the hospital, i.e. IV fluids and medications for vomiting and diarrhea, but survival depends on how well the puppy’s immune system can fight off the virus.
Infectious canine hepatitis is a liver infection transmitted from contact with contaminated urine, feces, nasal discharge or saliva of an infected dog. Liver failure, eye damage and breathing problems are often seen with this disease. Most dogs recover, but death can occur.
Bordetella is a very contagious upper respiratory disease. A severe cough is often the first symptom noted. Controlling the cough will help the dog feel better and allow the owner and dog to get some sleep. If left untreated there is concern of developing pneumonia. Dogs at the highest risk are those that will encounter other dogs such as at a grooming facility, dog shows, in boarding facilities, in dog parks, obedience class or even casual contact with neighborhood dogs. You can even track it in to your pet. Dogs with active life styles that frequently come in contact with other dogs should be vaccinated every 6 months. If your dog is a stay at home type once a year vaccination is recommended.
Rabies is incurable. It attacks the nervous system and almost all mammals can contract this virus including dogs, cats and, yes, humans. Any abnormal behavior in wildlife such as approaching humans or coming out during the day instead of at night are signs of rabies. Foxes, raccoons, coyotes, skunks and bats are the most common carriers in NC. Bats can leave an undetected bite mark on unsuspecting sleeping victims. The virus is spread through contact with saliva from an infected animal with a bite or through open wounds.
Rabies vaccination is required by law. The risk of this disease spreading to humans is a great concern. The law concerning unvaccinated pets are very strict for this reason and if exposed and unvaccinated, can result in euthanizing your dog and at the very least, very heavy fines.
Other available vaccines are based on where you travel with your dog, its risk of exposure to the viruses or bacteria, and its risk of exposure to ticks.
If your dog is boarding with us, we require the canine influenza vaccine. This virus was brought into the country from dogs imported from Asia. This new strain of influenza can be very serious and has resulted in the deaths of numerous dogs. There have been multiple outbreaks throughout the United States since it was first introduced into this country. Symptoms are nasal discharge, sneezing and/or coughing that can progress to fatal pneumonia. The vaccine is initially given 2-4 weeks apart. It is then given yearly.
Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease that occurs in warm humid areas of the country. NC is one of those areas. And, yes, humans can become infected with leptospirosis. Wild animals, including squirrels, mice, rats, and raccoons can carry “lepto”. It is usually shed in the urine. Wildlife coming into your yard can be a source of infection. Even “city dogs” can be exposed to rodent urine. Once in the dog or human, the bacteria hides out in the kidneys. Symptoms include vomiting, weakness, joint pain, diarrhea, frequent urination and yellowing of the gums and membranes around the eyes. Lepto is an annual vaccine after the initial series of two vaccines 3 weeks apart.
Lyme disease is a bacterium carried and transmitted by the deer tick. Symptoms include lethargy, lameness, lack of appetite, and swelling of joints. Some dogs can develop kidney disease and may not show symptoms for years. We test your pet for this disease every year during its annual physical along with its heartworm test. Not all dogs develop symptoms, but those that do require treatment to minimize damage to the joints and kidneys. Tick prevention is very important and if you go camping or hunting with your dog or travel to areas known to have Lyme disease, the Lyme vaccine is available. The initial vaccine is given 3 weeks apart and then annually after that. People can get Lyme disease if bitten by an infected tick, but NOT directly from their dog.
Vaccines are very important in maintaining the health of your dog as well as reducing your risk of exposure. Giving the appropriate vaccines can mean your dog can lead a long healthy life without losing it to a preventable disease.