August in National Immunization Month so it’s time to have a spotlight on our pet’s vaccines! Vaccines for pets are a big topic and can be very confusing. My hope is to clear up some confusion and, hopefully, convince you to vaccinate your pet for something that they aren’t already receiving. Also, because this is such a large topic, in this article we are going to focus on canine or dog vaccines. Watch for a later post about vaccines for your kitties!
Vaccines for all animals are divided into two categories, core and non-core vaccines. Core vaccines are ones that every pet should be receiving as all individuals are considered “at risk” of developing the disease that is being vaccinated against. Non-core vaccines are based on lifestyle and are not necessarily recommended for every pet. A quick conversation with your veterinarian will help to identify which vaccines are appropriate for your pet.
Canine Core Vaccines
Let’s start with dogs. There are two core vaccinations for dogs – Rabies and Distemper. The distemper vaccine can have multiple names, but the components of the vaccine are the same. The distemper vaccine protects against canine distemper, hepatitis (advenovirus-type 2), parainfluenza, and parvovirus. Sometimes this vaccination will be combined with another vaccination called leptospirosis, which we will cover later.
Rabies vaccinations are required in the state of Connecticut for every animal by twelve weeks of age. Rabies vaccines are important for animals, but also their families. Rabies is what we called zoonotic, meaning that animals can transmit this to their people, unintentionally. And we have no known cure for Rabies, which can be fatal, so this vaccination is extremely important. So, vaccinate, vaccinate, vaccinate!
Canine Non-Core Vaccines
- Canine Influenza
There are several non-core vaccines for dogs: Lyme, Leptospirosis, Bordetella, and Canine Influenza. In Connecticut, we are the home state for Lyme disease which was first discovered in Lyme, Connecticut. So, for this reason, all of our dog friends should be receiving a Lyme vaccination.
Leptospirosis is best for dogs in inner-city environments or rural environments with exposure to wild animal urine from rodents or other wild animals. Leptospirosis is a bacteria that is transmitted through wild animal urine causing liver and kidney failure – yikes! In my area of Connecticut, I’m recommending that all dogs that are frequent hikers or swimmers be receiving the leptospirosis vaccine.
Bordetella, or kennel cough, is a vaccination for dogs that are around other large groups of dogs like at doggy day care, the dog park, the groomers, or obedience training. Kennel cough can cause a dry hacking or honking cough and is very contagious to other dogs. If you think your dog is exhibiting symptoms of this, please keep them home! Even though your dog may receive the Bordetella vaccine, doesn’t mean that they can’t develop kennel cough. It means that they will be more protected from developing severe infections that require medical intervention. Generally, kennel cough is a self-clearing disease process and best medicine says it just needs time to go away!
Canine Influenza is an up and coming virulent organism that is getting a lot of press. Similarly to Bordetella, if you dog is going to be around other large groups of dogs like at doggy day care, the dog park, the groomers, obedience training, or at dog shows, we recommend an influenza vaccine be administered. In Connecticut, recent outbreaks are making this a more necessary vaccine than it has been before.
If your dog is an active, outdoor dog, likely many of these non-core vaccinations will be recommended for safety. It’s not harmful for your pet to receive all of these vaccinations, but it is recommended to spread them out. Talk with your veterinarian about appropriate timing of vaccinations in your canine friend.
When it comes to boostering vaccines and vaccine series, your veterinarian knows best and has only the best interest of your pet in mind. The science of immunology sets the standards for our vaccine protocols. There are specific rules to follow with vaccine series. Any deviation from these rules and a series is at risk of being restarted.
Is your pet overdue on vaccines? Certain vaccines require repeating a booster series to maintain effectiveness, while others do not. Ask your veterinarian what’s right for your pet.
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