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Dog Vaccines: Everything You Need to Know

Dog Vaccines: Everything You Need to Know | BetterVet

CIV. DHPP. Lepto. It’s easy to get lost in the alphabet soup of vaccine acronyms and abbreviations. But when it comes to keeping your dog healthy, what vaccines does he actually need and how often? Vaccines aren’t one size fits all, so we’ll try to break down some of the confusion around your pup’s vaccination plan.

Vaccinations for pets are generally split into ‘core’ vaccines and ‘non-core’ vaccines. Core vaccinations include inoculations like the Rabies vaccine; these are vaccines that just about every dog and cat should receive throughout their life. Non-core vaccines are sometimes called ‘lifestyle’ vaccines because they depend on the lifestyle of the individual pet. For example, if your dog doesn’t live in an area with rattlesnakes, he wouldn’t be a good fit for the vaccine that protects against rattlesnake venom! Let’s break down the vaccines your dog may receive.

Core Vaccines

The most familiar of the vaccinations available to your dog, the Rabies vaccine protects against this lethal virus that affects the brains of infected mammals. The most common method of transmission is via the saliva of an infected animal. Because of the seriousness of this almost always fatal disease, the Rabies vaccine is a core vaccine and is required by law for all dogs. Your pet will receive this vaccine between the ages of 12 and 16 weeks, 1 year later, and then every 3 years.

DAPP or DHPP, often simply called Distemper for short, stands for Distemper, Adenovirus (or Hepatitis), Parvovirus, and Parainfluenza. Like Rabies, this vaccine is considered a core vaccine meaning every dog should be kept up to date. Generally, puppies receive this vaccine every 3-4 weeks until they are about 4 months old, 1 year later, and then every 3 years. Though it is administered in one syringe, each DHPP inoculation protects against multiple viruses including:

Canine Distemper Virus: This very contagious and dangerous disease affects a dog’s nervous system and respiratory and gastrointestinal tracts. Spread from airborne particles or contact with infected wildlife or dogs, this virus can cause fever, vomiting, coughing, neurological disease and even death. Outbreaks in local raccoon or fox populations can often impact dogs who aren’t properly vaccinated.

Canine Parvovirus: Commonly called “Parvo,” this highly infectious virus can cause severe and life-threatening vomiting, diarrhea, and dehydration especially in young puppies. Part of what makes this virus so serious is how quickly and easily it spreads from contact with an infected dog, his feces, or contaminated objects. This particularly resilient virus can even survive for months on some surfaces! Because most Parvo-related deaths occur within 2-3 days after the onset of illness, quick medical intervention is always advisable. Unfortunately, it’s not always successful, so the best way to protect your pup is by getting him vaccinated with this very effective vaccine.

Canine Adenovirus: Young dogs are especially susceptible to this virus which can affect multiple organs in addition to causing hepatitis, or inflammation in your dog’s liver. Because infected dogs can shed the virus in their urine for months after they’ve recovered, making sure your pup is up to date on this core vaccination is very important!

Canine Parainfluenza: Though they sound similar, Parainfluenza and Influenza are different viruses that can affect your dog’s respiratory tract causing coughing, decreased appetite, and fever. As is the case with many respiratory bugs, close contact and airborne particles can be blamed for transmission between dogs.

Lifestyle Vaccines

The non-core or lifestyle vaccines you may consider for your dog depend on where he spends his time and what he loves to do! Does your pup love burrowing in the dirt, drinking from puddles, and swimming in lakes? You’ll definitely want to consider protecting him against strains of the bacteria, Leptospira. Often called Lepto for short, this bacteria can be found globally in the urine of wildlife or infected dogs and can cause serious disease that culminates in kidney and liver failure. An annual vaccine can protect your dog and your family from this zoonotic (transmissible between humans and animals) disease.

Is your pup going to be spending a lot of time with other dogs, especially in close quarters? If doggy daycare, training classes, or grooming visits are in your dog’s future, consider vaccinating him with the Bordetella (a.k.a Kennel Cough) and Canine Influenza (a.k.a. CIV) vaccines. The Bordetella bacteria and the Influenza virus are contagious pathogens that can cause uncomfortable, and sometimes serious, respiratory disease in your dog. These annual vaccinations can help protect your pup if he encounters these pathogens during his busy social life.

As the weather gets warmer and the ticks emerge, Lyme disease may already be on your radar. But did you know that the Northeast reports some of the nation’s highest numbers of Lyme disease? Deer ticks which transmit Borrelia burgdorferi, the bacteria that causes Lyme disease, can easily latch on to your dog’s face, ears, and paws as he explores the world around him. Clinical signs of Lyme disease in most dogs often include a decreased appetite, lameness or lethargy, and a fever. A smaller number of canine patients can be affected by severe kidney damage or neurological disease. Preventing this ubiquitous disease from affecting your pup starts with effective flea and tick prevention and an annual Lyme vaccine.

The vast majority of dogs and cats do very well after receiving a vaccination, however, a small percentage of animals can experience vaccine reactions. As with humans, these reactions can vary and most commonly include mild swelling at the vaccine site, lethargy, and soreness. More serious reactions however do occur in an even smaller percentage of animals; these may include vomiting, facial swelling or even signs of anaphylaxis. You’ll probably just be watching a sleepy puppy, but it’s not a bad idea to keep an eye on your pet after his annual vaccine!

Ask Your BetterVet Veterinarian about Dog Vaccines

You and your dog want to explore the world around you. Sniffing new friends, eating dirt, jumping in lakes, and putting everything he sees in his mouth is all part of the fun! Make sure your pup is protected from the things he can’t see by keeping him up to date on his vaccinations. For more information about your dog’s vaccines, check out the helpful information published by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). Or talk to your BetterVet veterinarian today about which vaccinations are right for your dog!


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