The first few months of your puppy’s life are filled with many important responsibilities. For you at home, that means lots of love, training, and teaching him to be a good pet. For us at Aldie Veterinary Hospital, that includes making sure we’re working together to make sure he’s healthy and protected against diseases and parasites. Your first vet visit can be overwhelming, and information from Dr. Google can be confusing and scary. Please feel free to ask any questions about diseases, vaccines, and preventive measures you may have. We are here to help and provide you with evidence-based information.
There are two main groups of vaccines for your puppy: core and non-core. Core vaccines are essential vaccines for all dogs to receive throughout their lives. The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) lists the rabies vaccine and the combination distemper/parvovirus/adenovirus vaccine in this category. These are dangerous, contagious diseases which are typically preventable with appropriate immunization.
The need for a “noncore” vaccine is based on each individual dog’s lifestyle. There are four main vaccines listed by AAHA for this category. Your veterinarian is the absolute best resource to help you determine if your dog should have these vaccines; be sure to tell them about where your dog will live, if he will travel, and if he will be around other dogs often, so that you can work together to create a tailored, individual vaccine plan to protect him.
Let’s start by discussing the core vaccines: rabies and distemper.
Rabies, of important note, is 100% fatal and can be transmitted to humans via contact with saliva from infected animals. Because of this risk, all dogs over the age of 16 weeks are required by Virginia law to be up to date on their rabies vaccination. The rabies vaccine is given once as a puppy, then boostered once at 1 year of age, followed by once every 3 years from then on. In the event of an altercation with a wild animal outside, the vaccine is often boostered again as a precaution.
Virginia State Law has very strict protocols for unvaccinated dogs who are exposed to possibly infected wildlife, or if there is a dog-human bite incident. Depending on the scenario, these protocols range from strict quarantine to euthanasia, so it’s important for your dog to stay current on this vaccine. In our area, raccoons are the number one source of rabies, though other animals like foxes, skunks, and bats could also be carriers. You can help decrease your pet’s risk of encountering one of these animals by securing trash cans and other food sources outside, and always being vigilant about watching your pet outside.
Veterinarians often refer to this vaccine as just the “distemper vaccine,” but, it is actually a power-packed combination vaccine that offers protection against distemper virus, parvovirus, adenovirus, and parainfluenza virus. These are all viruses which are transmitted amongst dogs through sneezing, coughing, or sharing bowls. Some viruses can also be passed directly from a mom to her pups.
Distemper virus starts with respiratory/eye symptoms before progressing to neurologic disease. It can be fatal, and some pups that survive will have lifelong deficits. Parvovirus causes severe gastrointestinal disease with profuse vomiting, dehydration, and diarrhea. Affected puppies require intensive care in a hospital for many days at best, but unfortunately many do not survive. Adenovirus affects the lining of blood vessels and can damage many important organs, including the liver, kidneys, spleen, lungs, and eyes. Infected dogs may require blood transfusions, or may not survive the disease. Parainfluenza virus is a highly contagious respiratory virus which causes signs such as nasal discharge, coughing, and fever. Young puppies are at the highest risk for contracting all four of these diseases and suffering from complications associated with them.
Fortunately, we can keep your puppy safe from these diseases with appropriate vaccination. This starts with a vaccine once around 8 weeks of age, then a repeated booster every 3-4 weeks until he/she is over 16 weeks of age. Puppies younger than 4-5 months of age are most susceptible to these diseases, so it’s important to stay on schedule with frequent boosters. He likely has some immunity to these diseases from his mom, but over the first few months of life, her immunity will wear off, and we need to be there with our vaccine to take over protection duties. Your dog will receive another booster at 1 year of age, and then every 3 years from then on, similar to the rabies vaccine.
Bordetella bronchiseptica is more commonly known as kennel cough. This is a respiratory disease that’s easily shared amongst dogs at parks, veterinary clinics, boarding facilities, doggie daycare, etc. This vaccine is a liquid absorbed across the lining of the nose or mouth. No shot needed, and most dogs just think we’ve given them a weird tasting bit of squeeze cheese. At Aldie Veterinary Hospital, we consider this a core vaccine for all our patients, to ensure the safety of all our patients when they come into the clinic for exams, boarding, or treatments.
Making It Fun
Aldie Veterinary Hospital staff members are trained in how to make the vaccination process as easy as possible for your pet. Squeeze cheese, peanut butter, baby food, or other yummy snacks are great distractors and often the puppies don’t even notice the small needle used to give their vaccinations because they are so excited about the treats!
Stay tuned for next week’s blog which covers the three non-core, or lifestyle based, vaccines!
Much love from a happy, healthy, and vaccinated Skipper!