Vaccinations are a critical part of your dog’s preventative care. The vaccines we administer contain portions of infectious pathogens that have been killed or otherwise inactivated; they allow the dog’s immune system to generate antibodies to fight off a disease without suffering its ill effects. Some vaccines are crucial for every dog. Others are only needed if the dog will be exposed to certain environments.
So which vaccines does your dog need? And when should they be given?
The most important vaccine for any dog is what we call DA2P/CPV. This stands for Distemper, Adenovirus type 2, Parainfluenza, and Canine Parvovirus. You might also hear this vaccine referred to as distemper/parvo or DHPP (the Adenovirus type II vaccine also protects against CAV-1 and ICH, Infectious Canine Hepatitis, hence the DHPP abbreviation). Parvovirus is especially dangerous because it’s highly contagious and, if left untreated, usually fatal (mortality >90%).
We recommend every dog receive the DA2P/CPV vaccine at ages 8 weeks and 12 weeks, plus a parvo-only booster at 16 weeks. Then an additional DA2P/CPV booster one year later. After that, if protective titers are adequate, boosters can be given once every three years.
Another important vaccine is the one for rabies. While rabies is fairly rare in our state, it’s such a serious disease that vaccination is strongly recommended (and may be required by law). We recommend it be given when the dog is 6 months old, then one year later, and once every three years thereafter.
Next we have bordetella, also called “kennel cough.” It’s usually not as serious as the diseases mentioned above, but as an airborne illness it is very contagious. It should be given if your dog will be exposed to many other strange dogs, like at a boarding facility, professional groomer, dog show, and so on. Each vaccination lasts for one year and can be given orally (squirted into the buccal cavity) or injected (if injected, it should be boostered 4 weeks later).
And lastly, leptospirosis (“lepto”). Dogs can pick up this microbe by drinking contaminated water or coming in contact with the urine of an infected animal. Infection can lead to liver damage, kidney failure, and meningitis. This vaccine should be given yearly and is recommended for dogs that go anywhere that wild animals frequent; hunting, camping, rivers, etc. Leptospirosis vaccine is sometimes included with distemper/parvo and is indicated by an “L” in the abbreviation (e.g. DA2PL/CPV, DHPPL).
Dec. 2015 update: Canine influenza has been on the rise in some areas recently. We carry vaccines for the H3N2 and H3N8 strains. We’re not recommending routine vaccination for these diseases at this time, but if your dog will be traveling or otherwise exposed to dogs from affected areas please discuss it with your vet.
If your dog is likely to come in contact with rattlesnakes, we also recommend the rattlesnake vaccine (crotalus atrox toxoid). More information about this vaccine can be found on this page: Rattlesnake Vaccine.
What about vaccine reactions?
Occasionally, a dog will have a reaction to a vaccine. In the vast majority of cases, this reaction is mild. Most are local reactions which present as a small bump at the injection site. Some are delayed hypersensitivity reactions which cause signs like swelling, rash, and itching (these sometimes require an antihistamine). And in rare cases a dog may have an anaphylactic reaction; this can present as vomiting, shock, and wheezing. Anaphylactic reactions usually occur within several minutes of the vaccination and require immediate treatment. If you think your dog is having a reaction to a vaccine, call our office.
We maintain records for every dog we vaccinate. You can request your dog’s vaccination status statement (which looks like this) or his/her rabies certificate by phone or email. We can usually mail, fax, or email these records to you within one business day.
If you’d like to schedule your dog for vaccination or have any questions about the vaccines mentioned above, call our office at (509) 545-9949.