Puppy Shots

So you just got a new puppy and know that you are supposed to bring the lil’ cutie to the vet for its shots.  What you may not know is exactly why, what and when he/she needs them.  Here’s some basic information to bring you ‘up-to-speed’:

The WHY . . .

Why Do I Need to Vaccinate My Puppy?

Because dogs are such social creatures, they can come in contact with a lot of nasty bacteria and viruses that can potentially cause severe illness and life-threatening conditions.  A lot of dogs that may look healthy can actually be “carriers” of some of these contagions, and can transmit them easily when greeting another dog (nose-to-nose and nose-to-bum).  Sometimes, if the conditions are right, theses contagions can also be free-living in the environment (such as dog parks, kennels, and trails, anywhere really) and can easily infect your dog when he/she is sniffing around.  Because we don’t want to keep our dogs in a bubble for the rest of his/her life, vaccination is the best way to help prevent the spread of disease and is typically less costly than treating an animal once it is sick.

Why Are There So Many Shots So Close Together?

A puppy gets protection (in the form of “maternal antibodies”) from these diseases through their mother’s milk.  These only last for the first few months, but while present, can interfere with our vaccines and make them not last as long.  A pup will receive 2-3 doses of vaccine over several weeks so that if there were any maternal antibodies interfering with an earlier vaccine, the later doses will stimulate the pup to make its own antibodies and thus be protected.


 . . . the WHAT . . .

The main vaccines we give puppies are what are considered “Core” vaccines and are recommended by the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA):

  1. DAP Combo:  Distemper, Adenovirus and Parainfluenza
    a. Canine Distemper Virus:  Due to proper vaccination, this virus is no longer as common as it once was; though with recent trends towards not vaccinating our pets, there have been a resurgence of the disease.  This is a disease that is extremely contagious (through direct contact and mucus/saliva) and can be fatal especially in puppies and young dogs.  The signs can vary from diarrhea, vomiting, a thick yellow discharge from the eyes and nose, cough and, in severe cases, seizures and neurological signs. Dogs that recover from the disease are often left with persistent nervous muscular twitches (chorea) and recurrent seizures.

    b. Adenovirus (Infectious Canine Hepatitis):  The hepatitis virus is present in the urine and in the nose and eye discharges of infected animals. The virus is transmitted by direct contact with these infected materials.  The signs can be mild (decreased appetite, depression, fever, “blue-eye”) or more like an upper respiratory infection (eye/nose discharge).  More severe cases, common in puppies, can cause stomach pain, vomiting, diarrhea, puffy face, and jaundice.  These cases are usually fatal.

    c. Canine Parainfluenza Virus:  This is actually a ‘non-core’ vaccine, but is made in a ‘combo’ shot with distemper and adenovirus.  This is the viral pre-cursor to what is commonly referred to as “kennel cough”.   This virus is extremely contagious if dogs come nose-to-nose or close enough to be coughed on.  The main symptom is a dry, unproductive cough (hacking), but you may also see mild lethargy and decrease appetite.  Most healthy adult dogs can recover from this within 5-7 days, though puppies, geriatric, or dogs that have other illnesses can develop a secondary bacterial pneumonia; which can be fatal if not treated aggressively ($).

  2. Parvo: Canine Parvovirus

This is a debilitating disease affecting mostly puppies, though can still be seen in unvaccinated dogs.  It causes excessive vomiting and explosive, bloody diarrhea.  The virus attacks the lining of the intestines, preventing absorption of nutrients and causing puppies to die of dehydration and malnutrition if not treated aggressively (usually involving multiple days in hospital on IV fluids and medications).  Puppies with start to shed the virus in feces even before they are showing signs of disease and continue for about 10 days.  Unlike most other viruses, parvovirus is extremely stable in the environment and resistant to to the effects of heat, detergents, alcohol, and many disinfectants.   You can imagine how difficult it would be to try to prevent the spread of this disease when a dog only has to lick its paws after walking through the park, even if the feces was picked up.

  1. Rabies:

Though rabies is not very common, it is almost 100% fatal once symptoms occur.  Also, because of the potential for transmission to your family and friends, it is an essential part of the canine vaccine program.  If your dog is unvaccinated for rabies and bites someone, that person has the legal ability to request rabies quarantine ($$$) or testing (sending the brain away for testing).

We also offer some “non-core” vaccines that are recommended for those dogs that may be at higher risk of exposure than others:

  1. Bordetella:

This is a bacterium that makes up part of your dog’s respiratory ‘flora’ (the group of non-pathogenic bacteria that live in the respiratory tract of healthy animals).  However, if your dog gets sick (like from Parainfluenza), this bacteria will take the opportunity to cause a possible life threatening pneumonia.  Because healthy dogs can be ‘carriers’ of bordetella, most kennels and boarding facilities will require dogs to be vaccinated for this before admittance is allowed.  I personally recommend this vaccine in puppies, as we are constantly trying to ‘socialize’ our new dogs and increasing their risk of exposure.  (Kind of like having a kid in daycare!)

  1. Leptospirosis:

This is the bacterium that is found in puddles or standing water such as ponds, ditches, etc.  It is spread though the urine of infected animals (other dogs, rodents, wildlife, ect) and can infect dogs (and PEOPLE!) if ingested or through open cuts and sores.  It can cause mild signs at first, such as decreased appetite, energy, vomiting and diarrhea and then may quickly progress to fatal liver, heart and kidney failure.  If you don’t think your dog is at risk because you can prevent him/her from drinking from puddles, let me ask you this:  does (s)he lick his/her paws after a walk?  Grooms him/herself after (s)he gets wet?

  1. Lyme Disease: Borrelia burgdorferi

This is the bacterium that is transmitted through the saliva of infected ticks.  The most common type of tick that carries this bacterium is the Deer Tick, though it is now thought that several species of ticks may be affected.   Once the bacteria get into the bloodstream it can affect any of the blood filtering organs, but usually tends to deposit in the joints.  The body attacks these bacteria and cause inflammation of the affected areas: arthritis if in the joints, hepatitis if in the liver, etc.  These dogs tend be lame on multiple legs and may resolve only to recur in a few months.   Affected dogs may not show signs for weeks to months.

. . . and the WHEN of it.

8 weeks             DAPP, +/- Bordetella

12 weeks           DAPP

16 weeks           DAPP

Rabies given once for puppies at >12 weeks.

Leptospirosis and or Lyme given twice (3-4 weeks apart) for

puppies if elected.

1 year                 DAPP, Bordetella, Rabies

2 years               DAP/P/Rabies rotating every third year (1 vaccine per

Year on an alternating schedule)

Bordetella annually if elected

                             Leptospirosis annually if elected

                             Lyme annually if elected

For more information on first time vaccines for your puppy, call Mountain Road Animal Hospital to book your appointment!