Vaccines are given to prepare the immune system to fight disease. Just like in people, dogs need vaccinations to keep them healthy. Vaccines, usually given in injection form, contain antigens. Antigens are foreign substances that look like disease. When the body finds the antigen, it forms antibodies against it. These antibodies are then circulating in the system and ready to fight. Then, if the dog is ever exposed to the disease, the antibodies jump into action and kill off the disease before it makes the dog sick. Over time, the circulating antibodies can decrease if the dog is never exposed to the disease. It is for this reason that regular vaccinations throughout the dog’s life is needed.
What kind of vaccines are needed to protect my dog?
The American Animal Hospital Association has done research and come up with guidelines for vaccination schedules. The have divided available dog vaccinations in to “core” and “ non-core” vaccinations. Core vaccinations are ones that every dog needs regardless of age, breed, location and/or lifestyle. Non-core vaccinations are recommended depending on the dog’s needs and risk of exposure. Below is an explanation of both:
- Rabies-Rabies is a fatal virus contracted usually through bite wounds that affect the neurologic system. Symptoms include excessive drooling, stumbling, aggression and seizures. All mammals have the potential to be infected, including humans. Thus, due to the risk to people, the rabies vaccine is required by law. State requirements vary. Please see the below schedule information for the law requirements of Texas.
- Canine Distemper-Canine Distemper is a virus that is usually fatal. It can infect dogs, ferrets, foxes, raccoons and other types of wildlife. A dog with distemper can have diarrhea, vomiting, green nasal/eye discharge, muscle twitches and seizures. Canine Distemper is very contagious, spreading through the air and with direct contact of bodily fluids.
- Canine Parvovirus- Commonly called “parvo”, this is a widely seen disease among puppies and dogs. Although, it can infect foxes, wolves, coyotes and other wildlife. A dog with parvo will have severe vomiting and diarrhea. This disease can be fatal if not treated properly. It is highly contagious and spreads when the dog comes in contact with the vomit and diarrhea of the sick dog.
- Canine Hepatitis- Otherwise known as Adenovirus 2, this disease is a risk for dogs, bears, foxes and coyotes. The disease attacks the liver, kidneys, eyes, tonsils and the lining of the blood vessels. Dogs can die from the disease, secondary to liver failure and hemorrhage. Dogs with Canine Hepatitis can have lethargy, vomiting, a “blue” eye, diarrhea and enlarged liver. It is spread through contact with the bodily fluids of the sick dog like the vomit and diarrhea.
- Canine Parainfluenza-This is a common pathogen seen in the canine infectious tracheobronchitis (kennel cough.) The disease causes coughing, nasal discharge lethargy and decreased appetite. It is very contagious as it is spread through the air.
NON-CORE- The non-core vaccines offered at Animal Medical Center are for diseases that put our dog patients at most risk in Lubbock, Tx and surrounding areas. The non-core vaccinations offered in other cities may be different. Talk with your veterinarian to decide what your dog needs in your area to be protected.
- Bordetella- In addition to Canine Parainfluenza, Bordetella is another common pathogen that causes kennel cough. Dogs contract this disease through the air and it causes a “honking” and irritating cough. Some dogs will also have nasal discharge. This disease, although usually not life threatening, often needs veterinary treatment for quick resolution. Because of the highly contagious nature, most pet hotels and groomers requires this vaccine. We recommend this vaccine if your dog every goes to high dog traffic areas like a pet hotel, park or groomer. This vaccine can be given as an injection or orally.
- Canine Influenza-Different from the Canine Parainfluenza virus, dog “flu” is similar to human flu. It causes fever, lethargy, coughing, nasal discharge and in severe cases, pneumonia. It is also spread the same, through contact with sick dogs, through the air and by contact with contaminated surfaces. The dog flu can be fatal but usually the dogs recover. Dogs at risk or those that get groomed, visit doggie daycare or pet hotels, travel and participate at dog events like dog shows or agility trials.
- Rattlesnake Vaccine- The Rattlesnake (Crotalus) vaccine is one that aids in the recovery from a rattlesnake bite. The vaccine does not prevent illness but lessens the clinical signs and sometimes the medications needed for the dog to survive. It is highly recommended for those have increased risk for exposure to rattlesnakes like hunting dogs, dogs that live in the country and dogs that camp or hike.
What are the risks of giving my dog vaccines?
The risks of side effects are low for dogs. The most common “reactions” we see are low grade fever, inappetence and lethargy. These symptoms usually don’t require treatment and resolve within 24 hours. More serious reactions that do require treatment include hives, facial swelling, vomiting, severe pain and swelling at injection site, difficulty breathing and collapse. Please call or see a veterinarian if you see any of these symptoms. A recent worry related to vaccines is the risk of tumors developing at the injection site. It is believed that the repeated injection of vaccine in the same area can cause inflammation and the formation of cancer cells. This is a very rare happening and veterinary specialists believe the benefits of the vaccines by far outweigh the risks of a tumor developing. Feel free to ask any veterinarian at Animal Medical Center for more information on this matter.
When do I get my puppy/dog vaccinated?
At Animal Medical Center, we follow the recommendations of the American Animal Hospital Association for vaccine schedules. Please keep in mind that these recommendations are guidelines only. Each individual dog needs their risks assessed by a veterinarian to decided on the appropriate vaccine schedule. In addition, certain chronic illnesses at times prevent dogs from receiving a regular vaccine schedule.
- Puppies-Puppies need regular vaccinations at close intervals to evoke a good immune response. We recommend puppies return every 3 weeks for boosters. If a puppy starts vaccinations 16 weeks or older, we recommend at least two sets of vaccines for protection. Puppies are AT RISK for contracting these diseases while getting their vaccines. Please avoid high dog traffic areas until 2 weeks past the last puppy vaccination required. This includes the park, groomer and certain boarding facilities. Below is a basis schedule for vaccines according to puppy age.
- 6-8 weeks: Distemper, Parvo, Hepatitis, Parainfluenza
- 9-11 weeks: Distemper, Parvo, Hepatitis, Parainfluenza
- 12-14 weeks: Distemper, Parvo, Hepatitis, Parainfluenza
- 15-17 weeks: Distemper, Parvo, Hepatitis, Parainfluenza
- 18-20 weeks: Rabies, Parvo, Hepatitis, Parainfluenza
- We recommend a Bordetella at the 12-14 week
- The rattlesnake vaccine can be given at 16 weeks of age. The amount of boosters for this vaccine is dependent upon the size of the dog.
- The flu vaccine can be given as early as 6 weeks and requires a booster 2-4 weeks later.
- Adult Dogs- All dogs, regardless of age, need to come in yearly for a physical exam. At each visit, the need for vaccines will be addressed. At Animal Medical Center, we work closely with our dog owners to develop a vaccine schedule that provides ideal protection and health. Below are basic recommendations for adult dog vaccinations.
- Distemper, Parvo, Hepatitis and Parainfluenza is recommended yearly until the age of 6 years old. At this age, if the dog has a good history of vaccines, Animal Medical Center recommends these vaccines every other year.
- Rabies is given within 12 months of the first puppy Rabies vaccine. After this, Rabies vaccines can be given every 3 years. Texas State Law is very strict on this requirement. Please ask us for the exact dates the Rabies vaccines are needed to avoid doing the vaccine yearly.
- Bordetella-Most kennels and groomers require this be given every 6 months.
- Rattlesnake- It is recommended that this vaccine be given every 6-12 months depending on exposure risk.
- Flu- After the initial boosters, this needs to be repeated yearly.
How do I schedule an appointment for vaccinations for my dog or puppy?