Vaccinating your puppy is one of the most important steps in assuring their long and healthy life. Yet the various opinions regarding which shots are needed and when is confusing, argumentative, and there far too much misinformation out there for most of us to make an educated decision regarding what vaccinations do puppies need or when.
What Vaccinations do Puppies Need
There are many canine diseases that are now preventable by vaccination. These include:
Core Vaccines for Puppies
Canine Distemper – a once common disease similar to measles in humans. Transmitted by air and body secretions. Organs affected are brain, eyes, intestines, skin, and respiratory tract. Symptoms include eye and nasal discharge, coughing, diarrhea, vomiting , fever, and seizures. Symptoms can range from mild to extreme and include pneumonia.
Parvovirus – Parvo is characterized by severe diarrhea often containing blood, vomiting, fever, and dehydration. It is frequently fatal in young dogs. There are several strains and types of the disease and not all can be vaccinated against as of yet. Disease is spread through contaminated feces.
Hepatitis – a disease of the liver caused by canine adenovirus type 1. Transmission is through direct contact with bodily fluids. Begins as sore throat, coughing, and possibly pneumonia. Once it enters bloodstream, it attacks eyes, liver, and kidneys.
Coronavirus – normally a non-fatal disease, Coronavirus is the second leading viral cause of diarrhea in puppies. Causes diarrhea and treatment is normally successful.
Rabies – One of the most commonly known viruses. Contracted primarily by being bitten by an infected host, vaccination protocols and public awareness programs have nearly eradicated the problem in humans in North America. In dogs, rabies exposure comes from wild animals and any exposure should be treated with post-exposure vaccines and antibody injections.
Non-Core Vaccines for Puppies
Measles – part of the Canine Distemper family, measles vaccines are not commonly given to puppies unless they are in a high-risk environment.
Canine Adenovirus-2 – related to the hepatitis virus resulting in respiratory and enteric disease. It is one of the causes of infections Infectious Tracheobronchitis or kennel cough. Vaccine limits the severity of the infection but does not prevent infection. Vaccine is recommended for high-risk dogs such as kennel or show dogs.
Parainfluenza – highly contagious and related to Infectious Tracheobronchitis. Symptoms include coughing and mild fever. Rarely fatal unless secondary infections develop such as pneumonia. Vaccine is recommended for high-risk dogs such as kennel or show dogs.
Bordetella – vaccine against Infectious Tracheobronchitis or kennel cough . Rarely fatal although secondary infections including pneumonia are common. There are many strains of the disease and vaccine may only work to prevent 33 to 50% of infections.
Leptospirosis – penetrates through mucous membranes or abraded skin. Direct transmission through infected urine, sexual, bite wounds, or ingestion of infected tissue. Indirect transmission is through contaminated water, food or bedding. Multiplies rapidly upon entering blood stream and spreads through kidneys, liver, spleen, eyes, nervous system, and genital tract. Symptoms include high fever, shivering, muscle tenderness, vomiting, rapid dehydration, eventually hypothermia, depression and death.
Lyme – Lyme disease is an infectious disease carried by the common deer tick. Tick must be attached to host for 48 hours for transmission of the disease to occur. Clinical signs in dogs develop in two to five months after exposure and include high fever, lameness, swelling of joints, swollen lymph nodes, lethargy, and inappetance. Some dogs develop progressive kidney disease and eventual death.
The most common vaccine administered to dogs is considered a five-way vaccine and includes adenovirus cough and hepatitis, distemper, parainfluenza, and parvovirus. There is also a seven-way vaccine that includes leptospirosis and coronavirus.
However, vaccines are also available in single vaccine formulas and depending on where you live or what breed of puppy you have, single dose vaccines may be preferred.
What vaccines do puppies need is dependent on location, breed, and expected risk factors such as interaction with other dogs, wild animals, rodents, and stressors such as dog shows and kennels. Some breeds that are more susceptible to parvovirus then others include Rottweiler, pit bull creeds, Doberman pinschers, and Labrador retrievers. Many breeders and veterinarians suggest starting these breeds on a parvo only vaccine protocol at five weeks old to help prevent infection in these breeds.
What Vaccines does your Puppy Need?
The best person to answer that is your veterinarian. There is much speculation about vaccines causing cancer, auto immune diseases, and early death in many dogs and that vets over-vaccinate. This may be true but only to a degree. Vaccines have saved far more lives then they ever killed but too much of even a good thing can be detrimental. Only vaccinate your puppy for the bare minimal required for breed and your location and, once he is old enough, begin testing the titer levels in his blood to find out whether adult booster vaccines are required.
Make up your own mind about what vaccines puppies need and which vaccines are not necessary. Your puppy will live a long, healthy life if you research and understand what it is these vaccines are for, which ones your puppies, as well as when and at what frequency.