Dog vaccinations are essential for your dog’s continued health and well-being through puppy-hood to their golden years. Vaccines protect your dog against dangerous diseases, some of which can prove fatal. With consistent vaccinations throughout their lives, your pup will enjoy a healthier, longer life with you.

What Are Vaccines?

Vaccines are comprised of either killed or weakened organisms that cause certain diseases. These killed or weakened organisms stimulate your dog’s immune system which works to fight them, developing antibodies in the process. In the future, if your dog comes across the actual disease-causing virus or bacteria, their immune system will be able to recognize it and destroy it before it causes any major symptoms. At Antioch Veterinary Hospital, we often use ULTRA Duramune vaccines to help reduce unwanted reactions and discomfort after vaccination.puppy lying on couch

What Is the Difference Between Core & Lifestyle Vaccines?

Vaccines are considered either core or lifestyle. Core vaccines are recommended for all dogs regardless of their lifestyle, while lifestyle vaccines are only recommended based on certain factors. In most cases, the vaccines for rabies and distemper are highly recommended for all dogs. In many states, including California, the rabies vaccine is required by law. For lifestyle vaccines, your veterinarian will work with you to determine which vaccines your dog needs to stay healthy.

Factors your vet will consider include:

  • Your pet’s lifestyle
  • Age
  • Breed
  • Size
  • Allergies (if any)
  • Medical history
  • Overall health

Let’s take a closer look at the possible vaccines for your dog, and why they are recommended.

Rabies

Rabies is a highly contagious, zoonotic disease that is often fatal. Zoonotic means it can be passed between species, including from dogs to humans. The most common means of transmission is being bitten by an infected animal. Dogs can potentially get rabies if they come in contact with wildlife such as bats, raccoons, or foxes. Symptoms of rabies include fever, aggression, loss of coordination, paralysis, hydrophobia, dropped jaw, confusion, foaming at the mouth, and pica. Once symptoms develop, the disease is always fatal; however, symptoms can take 2 to 12 weeks to show up, and sometimes longer! If ever your dog has an encounter with a wild animal, it’s best to take them to your vet as soon as possible, even if they are up to date on their rabies vaccine.

The rabies vaccine for dogs is required by law in the state of California. It is often administered to puppies at about 12 weeks of age, and then a booster is given at 1 year of age. After that, your dog will require a rabies booster vaccine either annually or triennially, depending on the type of vaccine given.

Distemper

Canine distemper is a highly contagious viral infection that spreads easily between dogs on respiratory droplets. The virus attacks the gastrointestinal, respiratory, nervous, and urogenital systems. There is no known cure for canine distemper, but your veterinarian can provide support with IV fluids, medications, and close monitoring to strengthen your dog’s immune system to fight it off on their own. If a dog recovers from distemper, they are no longer at risk of getting or spreading the virus. Symptoms of distemper include high fever, runny nose and eyes, lethargy, lack of appetite, coughing, vomiting/diarrhea, seizures, and paralysis.

The canine distemper vaccine is highly recommended for all dogs and is given in a core combination vaccine, DHPP or DHLPP, which includes distemper, hepatitis (adenovirus), parvovirus, parainfluenza, and leptospirosis. The combo vaccine is given to puppies starting at about 8 weeks of age. Second and third boosters are given 3-4 weeks apart and at one year of age, and the following boosters are needed annually or triennially, depending on the type of vaccine given.

Parvovirus

Parvovirus is extremely contagious and is spread through your dog’s feces. The disease is fatal if left untreated, and dogs who are young or old, or who have compromised immune systems are at the most risk. Symptoms of parvo include dehydration, lethargy, diarrhea, vomiting, secondary infections, endotexemia, shock, and eventually, death.

Even after a dog recovers from parvo, they can still spread the disease through their feces and the vaccine takes up to two weeks to take effect. Puppies receive the parvo vaccine in the combo core DHPP or DHLPP at about 8 weeks of age and will receive boosters at about 12 and 16 weeks, and then at 1 year of age. The vaccine is then administered on an annual or triennial basis.

Parainfluenza

Parainfluenza is a type of canine influenza that is very contagious. Luckily, most dogs recover on their own from this virus, however, vets will often treat it with antibiotics and antiviral drugs, since it is so contagious. Symptoms include dry cough, wheezing, difficulty breathing, fever, runny nose and eyes, pneumonia, reduced appetite, lethargy, and conjunctivitis.

The parainfluenza vaccine will not stop the virus spread if your dog is already infected, but it will significantly reduce the severity of the disease. Puppies often receive the parainfluenza vaccine in the core DHPP or DHLPP combo which is administered at about 8, 12, and 16 weeks of age and then at 1 year of age. Following boosters are given annually or triennially.

Adenovirus & Hepatitis

Adenovirus type 1 causes hepatitis in dogs, which results in swelling and cell damage in the liver. If left untreated, the disease can cause hemorrhage and death. The virus is spread between urine and feces of an infected dog. Symptoms include abdominal distention and pain in the abdomen, lack of appetite, pale in color, lethargy, fever, and tonsillitis. The disease can also cause swelling in the corneas, which results in the appearance of blue eyes in your dog. In severe cases, death is common in one to two days; however, if your dog survives the first few days, they often make a full recovery, which means future immunity to the virus.

Adenovirus type 2 is a relative of the hepatitis virus and can cause hacking cough, airways inflammation, pink eye, white foaming discharge in the mouth after coughing, and nasal discharge.

Both the adenovirus type 1 and 2 vaccines protect your dog from adenovirus, however, type 2 is often preferred. It is frequently given in the core DHPP combo vaccine in the same timeline of 6-8 weeks, 10-12 weeks, and 14-16 weeks of age. A final booster is given at 1 year of age, and then boosters are given annually or triennially.

Leptospirosis

Leptospirosis is a bacterial infection that is spread through the urine of an infected animal. The urine can contaminate water and soil, making your dog highly susceptible to it if they spend time outdoors in wildlife areas. Symptoms include fever, vomiting, depression, loss of appetite, conjunctivitis, and general pain. As the disease progresses, it can cause more serious symptoms such as a drop in temperature, increased thirst, jaundice, dehydration, difficulty breathing, muscle tremors, and bloody feces. Antibiotics can treat the disease and are especially effective in the early stages of the disease. In untreated cases, lepto can cause severe damage to the kidneys and even death.

The leptospirosis vaccine is considered a lifestyle vaccine, and will only be recommended to your dog if they are frequently outdoors around bodies of water where leptospirosis has been detected. If your dog does require it, puppies are given it with the combo DHLPP vaccine, at 12 weeks of age, and then again at one year of age. The lepto vaccine will then be given annually as a single vaccine.

Lyme Disease

Lyme disease is a tick-borne illness and is spread when a tick bites your pet and transmits the disease while it is attached for a length of time. Many dogs don’t even have symptoms of the disease, although some will develop swollen lymph nodes or lameness. Untreated Lyme disease could affect your dog’s heart and kidneys, their nervous system, and may result in death.

The Lyme disease vaccine is lifestyle-based, and will only be recommended for dogs who frequent areas where ticks are common. The vaccine can be given to puppies as early as 8 weeks of age with a second dose following 2-4 weeks later. Boosters are given annually after the second shot.

Bordetella

Bordetella, also known as kennel cough is caused by bacteria and is very contagious. The bacteria attack the trachea, causing a high-pitched cough. Symptoms of the illness include fever, sneezing, nasal discharge, depression, and loss of appetite. Antibiotics and a cough suppressant can treat the disease.

The Bordetella vaccine is considered a lifestyle vaccine, yet it is often required by boarding facilities, groomers, and group training facilities. The vaccine can be given as an injection, inhaled through the nose, or orally. The first vaccine can be given as early as 8 weeks, with boosters needed yearly or ever 6 months depending on the vaccine.

Canine Influenza

Canine influenza is a similar illness to the flu in humans. It is very contagious and can cause fever, chills, loss of appetite, lethargy, and vomiting/diarrhea. The canine flu vaccine is often bivalent, meaning it covers the two most common strains of the virus (H3N8 and H3N2). The disease is often treatable with antibiotics and antiviral medication.

The canine influenza vaccine is considered a lifestyle vaccine, but similarly to Bordetella, is it often required by boarding, training, and grooming facilities. The vaccine can be given to puppies as early as 8 weeks of age, with a second booster following about 3-4 weeks later. Then, the vaccine is needed annually to maintain immunity.

So What Are the Most Important Vaccines for Dogs?

Dogs in Antioch need vaccinations throughout their lives to maintain immunity. While the most important vaccines are the core ones (distemper, hepatitis, parainfluenza and parvovirus), if your pet is at risk for any other disease, lifestyle vaccines can be just as important. Talk to your vet today about your dog’s vaccines!