Vaccinating your puppy is the BEST way to protect them from potentially fatal diseases that can be prevented! It is also important to understand that giving your puppy it’s vaccinations on the schedule recommended by your veterinarian, is important for obtaining protective immunity. Many vaccines need one or more ‘boosters’ in order to be effective as the first shot ‘primes’ the immune system for the next shots. If the booster vaccines are not performed in a timely manner (usually within 4 weeks), that ‘priming’ effect is lost and we must start over.
The following vaccines are considered ‘core’ vaccines and are always recommended, to EVERY puppy, because infection with these viruses is often fatal.
1) DAPP – Distemper, Adenovirus, Parvovirus, Parainfluenza
Distemper – a viral disease that attacks the respiratory system and nervous system, among others (eyes, foot pads, teeth etc), and is very often fatal, or causes life-long problems.
Adenovirus – There are two types of this virus- type 1 can cause a life-threatening hepatitis. Type 2 can cause ocular and respiratory disease.
Parvovirus – a virus that attacks rapidly growing cells, resulting in life-threatening vomiting and diarrhea. An infection with parvovirus is usually fatal unless treated aggressively, and even then, many will still succumb to the disease.
Parainfluenza – this virus can cause respiratory disease, and is often a component of canine kennel cough.
2) Rabies – this is a viral disease that is always fatal. It attacks the central nervous system and poses a dangerous public health risk, as this virus is also fatal to humans.
Puppies are typically considered protected, with adequate immunity, against these diseases 2 weeks after the last vaccine booster is given – usually around 4 months of age if following the recommended schedule. This is the general guideline of when it is safe to begin allowing your puppy to explore the outside world, where it may come into contact with these 5 viruses.
The following vaccines are considered ‘non-core’ vaccinations. The diseases these vaccines can prevent are typically not fatal, but are debilitating. Both Lyme’s disease and Kennel Cough are frequently seen in our area therefore most dogs would benefit from having been vaccinated to these increasingly common diseases.
1) Lyme’s – Lyme’s disease is caused by a spirochete that is transmitted via certain ticks (deer ticks). It is endemic in this area. Dogs that may be at increased risk of contracting this disease are dogs that have times where they roam in wooded or grassy areas (ie dog parks), or dogs that are in close contact with dogs that do this (tick can be carried into the house on humans and other animals). Vaccination is recommended in all dogs but even more strongly recommended in those that often get ticks, even a few, a year.
2) Kennel Cough – this is a highly contagious disease that can have several contributing bacteria and viruses (mainly Bordetella bronchiseptica bacteria, and Parainfluenza virus) and causes respiratory disease. Most dogs experience coughing and fever, some get nasal discharge, others can progress to pneumonia, in which case the disease can become life-threatening. There are two types of vaccinations available to choose from – intranasal spray or injectable. The intranasal form is generally the preferred form, if the puppy will tolerate it!
Vaccine titers are now more available and cost-efficient than ever before. ‘Vaccicheck’ a simple blood test done in clinic, that checks for adequate immunity (circulating antibodies) to Distemper, Adenovirus and Parvovirus. We can use vaccine titers before booster vaccines in adult dogs to see if vaccination is necessary at that time. Also, you can test your puppy’s vaccine titers as soon as 2 weeks after the last boosters are given (around 18 weeks old) so that you know how well your puppy responded to the vaccines. There are two reasons why your puppy may not have mounted an immune response despite having been vaccinated:
- There are a small percentage of puppies who are considered ‘non responders’. This means they are unable to mount an immune response to the vaccines given, and will NOT be protected against these fatal diseases.
- We do our best in making sure a puppy is healthy at time of vaccines, and that the vaccine is administered properly. However if your puppy is even slightly sick at time of vaccination, it can result in an inability of the immune system to respond to the vaccination. Furthermore, there can, rarely, be a problem with administration of the vaccine or with the vaccine itself (for example if it was not kept in the refrigerator somewhere in transport to our clinic), your puppy would not even have had a chance to respond properly.