Dear Hopeful Henry: When should I get my puppy vaccinated and what types of vaccinations are required? Thanks. — Jacob
Jacob: The importance of getting the correct vaccinations at the appropriate time is crucial to your dog’s health and well-being. The age that puppies can be immunized effectively is determined by the amount of antibodies the puppy receives from his mother. High levels of maternal antibodies present in the puppies’ bloodstream will block the effectiveness of a vaccine. When the maternal antibodies drop to a low enough level in the puppy, immunizations by a commercial vaccine will work.
Most veterinarians prefer to vaccinate puppies with a combination vaccine at six weeks initially, with boosters given every three weeks until the puppy is about 16 weeks old. This schedule may not be right for every puppy. Some “high risk” puppies may need a more intense and aggressive vaccination program. Some puppies may need additional vaccinations against parvovirus after 15 weeks of age. It is best to work with your veterinarian on a vaccination protocol that suits your puppies’ individual needs.
As far as what type of vaccines you should be providing your puppy the AVMA Council on Biologic and Therapeutic Agents’ Report on Cat and Dog Vaccines has recommended that the core vaccines for dogs include distemper, canine adenovirus-2 (hepatitis and respiratory disease), canine parvovirus-2 and rabies.
Noncore vaccines include leptospirosis, cononavirus, canine parainfluenza and Bordetella bronchiseptica (both are causes of ‘kennel cough), and Borrelia burgdorferi (causes Lyme Disease). Consult with your veterinarian to select the proper vaccines for your puppy.
When to get your dogs their booster vaccination? According to the AVMA and AAHA, dogs at low risk of disease exposure may not need to be boostered yearly for most diseases, however a booster is always recommended for parvovirus. Consult with your veterinarian to determine the appropriate vaccination schedule for your dog. Remember, recommendations vary depending on the age, breed, and health status of the dog, the potential of the dog to be exposed to the disease, the type of vaccine, whether the dog is used for breeding, and the geographical area where the dog lives or may visit.
A lot of people don’t understand what they are getting the vaccinations for so here is a short description of the common illnesses we vaccinate for.
Canine distemper is a paramyxovirus, which appears very similar to the paramyxovirus causing human measles. Canine distemper virus in the dog can affect a wide range of organs including the skin, brain, eyes, intestinal and respiratory tracts. The virus is transmitted through the air through coughing by infected animals and also through body secretions such as urine. Dogs of any age can be affected, however, most are puppies less than 6 months of age.
Canine hepatitis is a disease of the liver and other body organs caused by canine adenovirus type 1 (CAV-1). The virus is found worldwide and is spread by body fluids including nasal discharge and urine. Recovered patients can shed the virus for up to nine months in the urine. The primary mode of transmission is by direct contact with an infected dog. Contaminated runs, cages, dishes, hands, boots, etc., can also serve as a source of transmission.
Rabies is one of the most well known of all the viruses. Fortunately, through active vaccination and eradication programs, there were only 3 reported cases of human rabies in the United States in 2006, although 45,000 people were exposed and required post-exposure vaccination and antibody injections. In other parts of the world, however, human cases and deaths from rabies are much higher. Around the world 1 person dies from rabies every 10 minutes. — Hopeful Henry
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