Vaccinations: When, Why And What Should Your Puppy Be Getting?

Vaccinations are a very important part of dog ownership. Your dog should be properly vaccinated against certain diseases at certain times to help protect him and other animals he may come in to contact with. The following is an explanation of vaccinations and why they should be given.

When you get a puppy, most likely your veterinarian will recommend a series of three sets of vaccinations. These will generally be given at four week intervals starting at eight weeks of age. The first vaccine will most likely be referred to as “distemper.” This is usually a combination shot that will protect your dog against distemper, hepatitis, parainfluenza, leptospirosis, and coronavirus.

1) Distemper -a highly contagious disease caused by a virus that is similar to measles in humans. It can affect dogs of all ages but is most often seen in unvaccinated puppies. It attacks the gastrointestinal, respiratory, and nervous systems. Symptoms include cough, nasal and eye discharge, lethargy, vomiting, and diarrhea. In advanced stages, dogs may show neurological problems such as lack of coordination, weakness, and seizures. Treatment includes fluids and antibiotics but prognosis is guarded and in about half of the cases, Distemper is fatal.

2) Hepatitis -which affects the liver, pancreas, kidneys, and the lining of blood vessels. It causes fever, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and lethargy. Treatment includes administration of fluids and antibiotics but in serious cases a blood transfusion may be necessary. The severity of the disease varies but young puppies often die from Hepatitis.

3) Parainfluenza - caused by a virus and is quite mild in comparison with other infectious diseases. Symptoms include sneezing, discharge from the eyes and nose, and coughing. Treatment varies but in many cases, no treatment is required.

4) Leptospirosis which is transmitted by contact with water contaminated with infected urine. It affects the urinary tract, kidneys, and liver. Symptoms include vomiting, lethargy, and abdominal pain. In further stages of the disease, dogs may become very thirsty and have a low temperature. Treatment includes antibiotics and fluid therapy. Please note however that some dogs are allergic to the leptospirosis vaccine. Please check with your veterinarian if you have questions or concerns. Oftentimes the leptospirosis component is not a part of your puppy shots and will be administered annually starting the next year your dog is due for vaccination.

5) Coronavirus which causes inflammation of the intestines and diarrhea. This disease most often affects puppies. Symptoms include decreased appetite, orange or yellow diarrhea, lethargy, and fever. Treatment includes fluid administration and antibiotics. Prognosis is usually good. The distemper combination vaccine is given annually after the first three series.

At your second visit (or at age 12 weeks), if you plan to take your dog to puppy class or he will be around other dogs, it is a good idea to get him vaccinated for Bordetella Bronchiseptica. Bordetella Bronchiseptica is most often referred to as Kennel Cough. This disease is incredibly infectious and is usually transmitted in areas where many dogs are together such as boarding facilities, doggy day care, and dog parks. If your dog becomes infected, you will notice a dry cough. Infected dogs are usually treated with antibiotics. Keep in mind that even though most places that take in multiple dogs require immunization to Bordetella, no vaccine is 100% effective so your dog may still become ill with this disease. This vaccine comes in both intranasal and injectible form. The intranasal form is dribbled into your dog’s nostrils. Your dog may need a booster of the Bordetella vaccine at his 16 week visit and annually after that.

At age 16 weeks, your dog can be vaccinated for Rabies. Rabies is usually transmitted to dogs through saliva - most often in the form of a bite from an infected animal. Rabies affects all warm blooded animals but is most often found in bats, skunks, and raccoons. Rabies is always fatal. In many states, rabies vaccination is required by law. Check with your veterinarian on how often this immunization is recommended as protocols may vary. If your dog becomes infected with Rabies, you may notice subtle behavioral changes at first. This may be accompanied by fever, vomiting, and diarrhea. The best defense against Rabies is to make certain your dog is properly immunized.

By properly vaccinating your dog, you are helping to ensure both his safety and the safety of other pets and humans.

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