One of the simplest ways pet parents can ensure their dog has long, healthy life is to keep immunizations current. Just as in humans, vaccines against infectious diseases reduce sickness and suffering and can even prevent death. Yet sometimes immunizations are allowed to lapse, putting pets at risk.
The veterinary community considers the following vaccines vital for every dog because of the potential for cause serious illness, difficulty of treatment and a high risk of transmission:
Rabies: A current vaccination for rabies is actually a legal requirement, so be sure to keep proof of your dog’s vaccines. Each state has its own laws governing the frequency of administration after the first anniversary vaccine. Your vet can advise you on your state’s or county’s requirement.
Parvovirus: This contagious disease causes severe vomiting and diarrhea and can lead to death. It is transmitted in feces, so a dog can be exposed simply walking through an area where an infected dog has eliminated. What’s more, the virus can survive for up to six months, making it difficult to avoid areas where a pet with parvo has been. Regular boosters are essential.
Coronavirus: Another highly contagious disease, corona causes vomiting and diarrhea in puppies and is often seem at the same time as Parvo. Puppies usually need two to three vaccinations against corona.
Distemper: This is multisystem disease that usually starts with vomiting and diarrhea, then progresses to respiratory illness and may lead to pneumonia. If it travels to the central nervous system, causing seizures, chance of recovery is poor. Like the other diseases listed here, there is no cure, so vaccination is essential. Puppies receive a series of four shots, followed by a one-year booster, then boosters every three year.
There are several other vaccinations that I recommend for the majority of my canine patients –especially if they spend time out in contact with other dogs.
Bordetella. Despite its common name, “kennel cough” (a misnomer), this disease affects many dogs who haven’t been in a kennel or grooming salon. Bordetella and Canine Influenza (see below) are transmitted through breathing or sneezing and can be picked up anywhere there are other dogs – the dog park, playgroup, even a walk around the neighborhood. Canine cough normally resolves on its own in a few weeks, but can sometimes lead to a secondary infection. The vaccine is an inexpensive form of insurance.
CIV. Canine influenza – or dog flu – was first identified in Florida in 2004, and it has been seen in about 30 states. While it is usually self-limiting, it can sometimes lead to pneumonia. Because the virus is so new, few dogs have developed immunity, so the vaccine is a smart choice for dogs who spend time in social settings.
Leptospirosis: This bacterial infection is transmitted when infected wildlife (raccoons, possums, rodents) urinate in creeks, ponds and puddles. Dogs ingest the bacteria by drinking contaminated water or eating grass where runoff has occurred, especially after heavy rains. Lepto can cause kidney damage and liver failure, so the vaccine is very important for pets who spend time outdoors.
A final thought: while vaccinations protect against life-threatening diseases, they are not without some risks. It’s important to talk with your dog’s veterinarian about the benefits and risks based on your pet’s individual health and your family’s lifestyle.