Vaccinations for Your Dog

Why should my dog be vaccinated?

The best way to combat any disease is to prevent it. Vaccines help protect against infectious disease by stimulating the immune system to destroy the threat and ‘remember’ the infection so the body can fight it off again in the future. Without vaccination, many dogs become seriously ill or die from a disease that their immune system was unable to fight effectively on its own.

What are the recommended canine vaccinations?

Rabies is a threat to both humans and pets. Rabies is always fatal once it affects the brain and nerves. Rabies is usually transmitted through bites from rabid animals, but it could also be spread by infected saliva coming in contact with broken skin. Wildlife (such as bats, raccoons or skunks) are usually the main source of potential rabies infection, but public health officials recommend that all pet dogs, cats and ferrets be vaccinated against rabies to minimize the human exposure risk.

Parvovirus is a highly contagious virus that causes severe vomiting and bloody diarrhea leading to dehydration and possible death. Young puppies and older dogs are most at risk. The virus is shed in feces and survives a long time in the environment. It means that even if your dog is not in contact with other animals, you could still bring the virus home on your shoes. Vaccination is highly effective at preventing this disease.

Canine Distemper is a viral disease most commonly seen in young puppies, but unvaccinated dogs of all ages are at risk. The virus can cause respiratory signs such as sneezing and nasal discharge, or neurologic disease, including seizures and difficulty walking. Distemper is very difficult to treat and often causes death, so vaccines are essential to control the disease.

Infectious Canine Hepatitis is a virus that attacks the dog’s liver, especially puppies. The virus may cause an illness that progresses so rapidly it could be mistaken for a case of poisoning. This virus does not cause hepatitis in humans. Vaccination is very effective in preventing this disease.

Kennel Cough (Canine Infectious Respiratory Disease Complex) is commonly seen in dogs that go to a boarding kennel, groomer, doggy daycare or dog park. Kennel cough usually causes a dry hacking cough, but some dogs become quite sick from secondary infection such as a runny nose or discharge from the eyes. Vaccination is recommended for all dogs even if they do not go to a kennel or groomer because the illness can be spread through the air and asymptomatic carriers (healthy dogs that do not look sick).

There may be some other recommended vaccinations depending on your travel plans and lifestyle, such as Leptospirosis and Canine Influenza. Please speak to your veterinarian to determine which vaccine protocol is right for your dog.

Written by: Dr. Laura McKenny, DVM