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The Types and Schedules of Dog and Puppy Vaccinations

Dog receiving vaccination shotsDog owners may feel a bit confused and overwhelmed when they take their new puppy or dog to the vet for the very first time, especially when they are asked which dog vaccinations they want to give. While the vet may explain which shots are needed the most, dog owners often leave the office with many questions. Did the puppy really need this shot? What is it for? Why does the puppy have to come back again in 3 to 4 weeks? It’s a good idea to learn as much as possible about puppy and dog vaccination schedules so to be better prepared.

About Puppy Immunity

Part of a puppy’s immunity is gained in the uterus through exposure to the placenta, but a greater part is attained through ingestion of mother’s milk. Indeed, during the puppy’s first 36 to 48 hours, mother dog produces a special milk called “colostrum” which is rich in antibodies. However, this form of “passive immunity” is only temporary and is largely gone once the puppy reaches 12 weeks, according to VCA Animal Hospitals. When puppies are sent to their new homes at around 8 weeks it’s a good time to have them see the vet for their first set of vaccinations.

In the case the breeder already gave some vaccinations, the puppy will simply need to continue the series and get more booster shots. Dog owners should bring along documentation about the vaccinations given by the breeder and the dates administered so the vet can keep track. So what vaccinations should puppies and dogs have? The following are important core vaccinations for puppies and dogs recommended by the American Animal Association (AAHA).

Core Vaccinations

Core vaccinations are vaccines recommended by veterinarians and important veterinary organizations. These vaccines are very important because they protect against serious, life-threatening diseases that are widely distributed. These are shots all dogs, regardless of circumstances, should receive.

  • Distemper virus

This potentially deadly virus mostly affects young puppies and adolescent dogs, but can also affect adult dogs. It affects the dogs’ respiratory tract, digestive tract and nervous system. The virus is transmitted through contact with urine, blood, saliva and respiratory secretions. Affected dogs develop coughing, sneezing, mucoid eyes and nose, fever, lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite and seizures. Commonly, the term distemper vaccine is actually used to depict a combination of various vaccines.

  • Parvo virus

Young puppies are particularly vulnerable to this deadly virus which mostly affects the digestive tract causing loss of appetite, lethargy, severe vomiting and bloody diarrhea. Affected puppies can become quickly dehydrated causing a life-threatening situation. The virus is highly contagious and can be easily transmitted through contact with anything infected with dog feces including shoes, car tires and floors.

  • Adenovirus-2 (hepatitis)

The adenovirus causes canine infectious hepatitis and is transmitted through respiratory secretions and exposure to contaminated urine and feces. Affected dogs may develop coughing, retching, fever, abdominal pain, vomiting and diarrhea. Type 1 adenovirus is known for causing infectious hepatitis, while type 2 adenovirus is responsible for the respiratory form.

  • Rabies virus

This vaccination is mandated by law in all states. Rabies is a very serious disease because it is transmissible to humans and it is highly fatal. Most commonly the virus is transmitted through a bite. Affected dogs develop serious central nervous system abnormalities, paralysis, hypersalivation, and eventually death.

Non-Core Vaccinations

There are also certain vaccinations that are only recommended under certain circumstances on an individual basis depending on the dog’s age, risk of exposure and inhabited geographical areas. These vaccinations are known as “non-core vaccinations.”

  • Leptospirosis

This disease is caused by organisms known as spirochetes which tend to abound in areas with heavy rainfall. Carrier animals may consist of several types of rodents, raccoons, skunks. The organism tends to live in the host’s kidneys with the release of leptospira occurring when the animal voids. Dogs become infected when they sniff or drink the infected urine. Dogs spending time outdoors nearby wildlife are more likely to contract this disease. Affected dogs will develop fever, join pain, lethargy, and eventually, life-threatening kidney and liver failure.

  • Lyme

This tick-born disease is also caused by spirochetes, this time caused by the bite of deer ticks. The chances for transmittal are higher the longer the tick remains attached to the dog’s skin enjoying a blood meal. Affected dogs may develop lameness, fever, and in some cases, kidney problems. The disease can be prevented by limiting exposure to tick protected areas, removing ticks swiftly and investing in tick repellent products.

  • Parainfluenza

This respiratory virus is highly contagious and can be easily spread in areas where many dogs congregate such as kennels, dog day cares and pet stores. Affected dogs develop coughing, a low-grade fever, nasal discharge and loss of appetite.

  • Bordetella

Similar to parainfluenza, bordetella is a respiratory condition that is common in kennels and other areas where many dogs are housed closely together. For this reason, it’s often referred to as “kennel cough.” Affected dogs develop a typical hacking cough accompanied by retching, nasal discharge, ad sometimes even fever, lethargy and loss of appetite. The bordetella vaccine can be given intranasally or by injection.

  • Corona

Corona creates symptoms quite similar to parvo, but unlike parvo, it rarely kills puppies. The virus invades the cells lining the intestinal tract causing lack of appetite, nausea, vomiting and watery diarrhea. The virus in spread by contact with the feces of infected dogs. According to Vet Street, this vaccination may be recommended in areas where the virus is common.

Decoding Vaccination Abbreviations

After the vaccines are administrated, most veterinarians will provide a receipt with a list of vaccinations given. This can get confusing as often abbreviations are used. Dog owners need not to worry though, as those abbreviations can be easily decoded. Often, the distemper vaccine is given in combination with other vaccines, which gives life to acronyms such as “DA2PPV, DA2PP, DHPP, or DHPPV which are meant to depict combo vaccines that protect against canine distemper, hepatitis canine adenovirus-2, parvovirus, and parainfluenza. In some cases, distemper vaccines also include protection against corona and lepto.

  • D stands for Distemper
  • H stands for Hepatitis
  • L stands for Leptospirosis
  • P stands for Parainfluenza
  • P or PV stands for Parvo Virus
  • C stands for Corona
  • A2 stands for Adenovirus 2

Puppy Vaccination Schedules

Puppies need to receive a series of distemper vaccination boosters so to be protected from distemper, parvo and hepatitis. The first series is generally given when the puppy is between 6 to 8 weeks. The following boosters are usually given at 3 to 4 weeks intervals with the final booster given at 16 weeks according to Pet MD. Other non-core vaccinations such as leptospirosis or corona may be recommended depending on circumstances. Why do puppies need a series of vaccines? They need several series so to first prime the immune system and then to actually provide immunity.

The rabies vaccination is only given to puppies once they are 12 weeks old. After receiving the complete series of boosters and the rabies vaccine, the puppy can then be vaccinated again a year later. A typical vaccination schedule for boosters may look like this; however, each veterinarian may have slightly different protocols.

  • 6 to 8 weeks: first DHLPP , bordetella
  • 11 to 12 weeks: second DHLPP, first lyme
  • 15 to 16 weeks: third DHLPP, rabies, second lyme

Adult Dog Vaccination Schedules

Yearly vaccination in adult dogs has been an issue of debate with some organizations concerned about overvaccination and now suggesting to vaccinate less often. The American Animal Hospital Association Task Force, for instance, now advocates giving core vaccinations at 3 years or even greater intervals. The rabies vaccine though will still needs to be given on a yearly basis in some states, while others allow it to be given every 3 years.

The Bottom Line

Vaccinations protect and have protected dogs for many years from contracting very serious diseases. It’s important to recognize though that despite the many benefits of vaccinating a dog, there are also risks such as overvaccination and adverse effects dog owners should be aware of. It’s always best to consult with a vet to find out what’s the best vaccination protocol for each particular dog.

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