We love our dogs like they're family and will do anything to protect them — but sometimes knowing exactly which vaccinations our pets need gets tricky. Over-vaccination is such a hot-button issue for both humans and animals nowadays and the confusion over what's needed and what's not can make people shy away from vaccinations altogether.
But proper vaccination is crucial to keeping your dog healthy — and preventative care is also going to save you big bucks in vet bills down the road.
According to the American Animal Hospital Association, there are two types of vaccines: core vaccines that should be given to every dog and non-core vaccines that are given when the situation makes it necessary. We talked to veterinarian Dr. Corey Shagensky, founder and owner of Progressive Animal Wellness in Avon, Connecticut, and he helped us put together a list of what your pup needs and when based on the 2011 guidelines provided by the AAHA.
Rabies: The rabies vaccine protects your dog against infection of the rabies virus. It is given to puppies at 12 weeks old, with booster shots at one year and every three years after that unless state law requires it to be done more frequently. "The rabies vaccine is critical, not just for the health of cats, dogs and livestock, but for public health in general," said Shagensky. "Rabies has essentially been eliminated from the dog and cat populations in the United States. This provides a crucial barrier against human rabies infection since pets are the animals with which people most commonly come in contact."
DA2PP: The DA2PP vaccine is a combination vaccine that protects your dog from many serious illnesses, the most common of which is distemper. According to Shagensky, distemper is a viral disease that affects both the immune and neurological systems and it can be rapidly fatal. The DA2PP also protects from adenovirus-2, parvovirus and parainfluenza — all of which range from serious to potentially fatal to your canine. This vaccine starts around 6 to 8 weeks old and is given every three to four weeks until the puppy is 14 to 16 weeks old. It is given as a booster shot at one year and again every three years.
Canine parvovirus: The Pet Health Network highly recommends this core vaccine. Parvo is spread from dog to dog by direct or indirect contact with feces and hits puppies especially hard because their immune systems aren't yet fully developed. The intestinal form of parvo can cause massive dehydration, and the cardiovascular form that tends to attack puppies causes cardiovascular and respiratory failure and often leads to death.
Bordetella (kennel cough): The bordetella vaccine protects against a highly contagious bacteria that causes respiratory tract infections in dogs. "At PAW, we consider this a 'semi-core' vaccine, in that we give it to all puppies, along with one of their DA2PP vaccines. We then booster it yearly for dogs who spend any time at daycare, kennels, boarding facilities, dog shows or some groomers," said Shagensky.
Canine influenza: Canine influenza is an emerging disease that, according to Shagensky, only affects dogs in some parts of the country right now. "Dogs who live in these areas who go to places where there are a lot of dogs indoors at once (kennels, daycare, dog shows, etc.) should get this. It protects against a highly contagious respiratory disease that has about a 5 percent mortality rate," he said. Local veterinarians can advise whether this disease has been noted in your region and determine whether the vaccine is needed for your dog.
Lyme vaccine: The Lyme vaccine provides about 85 to 90 percent protection against Lyme disease in dogs in areas with ticks and where the disease is present, according to Shagensky. "Some dogs do not produce a good response to the vaccine," he added. "Therefore, even though the vaccine is licensed for one year, some dogs may need to receive this vaccine every six to nine months to maintain adequate protection."
Leptospirosis: Leptospirosis, a disease mostly unknown to the general public, is caused by a bacterial infection spread through the urine of wildlife (usually rodents). An infection can cause serious liver and/or kidney damage and is potentially transmissible to people. Shagensky says dogs exposed to wildlife or any outdoor water sources may be at risk for this infection. Ask your vet if "lepto" is prevalent in your area, and if your dog is at risk.
Crotalid (rattlesnake) venom toxoid: "This vaccine should be administered to dogs that may be exposed to western diamondback rattlesnakes," said Shagensky. Two doses are given after 4 months of age, and then annually. He warns that even with the vaccine, dogs who actually receive a bite must still receive immediate medical attention.
Partners for Healthy Pets is a non-profit initiative that works with veterinarians and other animal care companies to ensure animals are getting the preventative health care they need. Visit their website to find a trustworthy vet in your area.
Originally published September 2013. Updated April 2017.
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