Vaccines are one of the safest and most cost-effective means of controlling infectious disease. There are several vaccinations which are considered core vaccines. The other vaccine options are considered non-core and should be recommended based on risk factors, life stage and lifestyle. This article will discuss the different vaccines, why they are important and how often they should be administered. The article is not all inclusive and everyone should consult with his/her regular veterinarian.

Rabies vaccines

Rabies vaccines are the only vaccinations that are required by law. Rabies is a viral disease that is carried by many animals. Skunks, bats, raccoons and foxes are commonly infected with rabies. They can infect your golden retriever if they come in contact. Once symptoms appear the disease is almost always fatal. Proper vaccination is the best and only way to keep you and your dog safe. There is no test that can be done on a living person or an animal to tell if they are infected, and there is no treatment that can stop the virus once symptoms occur.

If your golden retriever is not current on its rabies vaccine and bites someone or sometimes even scratches a child, the law may require that your dog be quarantined or even euthanized to keep other pets and people safe.

The first vaccine should be administered between 12 and 16 weeks. It is considered appropriate to give a 1-year vaccine at this time. A booster should occur within 1 year of this initial vaccine. There are vaccines that are labeled 1 year and 3 year.

Canine Distemper Virus

Canine Distemper virus is considered a core vaccine. Canine distemper is a contagious and serious disease caused by a virus that attacks the respiratory, gastrointestinal and nervous systems of dogs and puppies. The virus is found in wildlife such as foxes, wolves, coyotes, raccoons, skunks, minks and ferrets.

Puppies and dogs most often become infected through airborne exposure (coughing and sneezing) to the virus from an infected dog or wild animal. The virus can also be transmitted by shared food and water bowls. Infected dogs can shed the virus for months and mother dogs can pass the virus through the placenta to their puppies. Distemper is often fatal, and dogs that survive usually have permanent, irreparable nervous system damage.

Puppies should begin the vaccination protocol between 6 and 8 weeks of age. Puppies should receive a series of 3 vaccines with the last vaccine around 16 weeks of age. Boosters should occur with 1 year of the last puppy vaccine. Administer subsequent boosters at 3-year intervals.

Instead of vaccinating every 3 years, a titer can be checked. The titer measures antibody levels to provide a reasonable assessment of protective immunity. Antibodies are what the body produces to fight infection when the body is presented with Distemper virus. Currently, it is still costly to obtain titers.

Parvovirus

Parvovirus vaccines are considered core vaccines. Canine parvovirus is a highly contagious virus that can affect all dogs, but unvaccinated dogs and puppies younger than four months of age are the most at risk. The virus affects dogs’ gastrointestinal tracts and is spread by direct dog-to-dog contact and contact with contaminated feces, environments, or people. The virus can also contaminate kennel surfaces, food and water bowls, collars and leashes and the hands and clothing of people who handle infected dogs. It is resistant to heat, cold, humidity and drying and can survive in the environment for long periods of time. The virus is readily transmitted for place to place on the hair or feet of dogs or via contaminated cages, shoes or other objects.

Puppies should begin the vaccination protocol between 6 and 8 weeks of age. Puppies should receive a series of 3 vaccines with the last vaccine around 16 weeks of age. Boosters should occur with 1 year of the last puppy vaccine. Administer subsequent boosters at 3-year intervals.

Instead of vaccinating every 3 years, a titer can be checked. The titer measures antibody levels to provide a reasonable assessment of protective immunity. Antibodies are what the body produces to fight infection when the body is presented with Parvovirus. Currently, it is still costly to obtain titers.

Canine Adenovirus -2

Canine adenovirus -2 is considered a core vaccine. Canine adenovirus -2 is a viral infection that causes inflammation of the liver. This virus is present in the urine, as well as in the nose and eye discharges of infected animals. The virus is transmitted by direct contact with these infected materials. Young dogs are at highest risk of contracting this virus.

Puppies should begin the vaccination protocol between 6 and 8 weeks of age. Puppies should receive a series of 3 vaccines with the last vaccine around 16 weeks of age. Boosters should occur with 1 year of the last puppy vaccine. Administer subsequent boosters at 3-year intervals.

Canine Parainfluenza Virus

Parainfluenza is considered a core vaccine. Parainfluenza virus is easily spread from dog to dog and causes symptoms which may become fatal. The highest instances of this respiratory infection are seen in areas with high dog populations, such as boarding kennels, shelters and pet stores. The virus remains highly contagious to any dog of any age.
Puppies should begin the vaccination protocol between 6 and 8 weeks of age. Puppies should receive a series of 3 vaccines with the last vaccine around 16 weeks of age. Boosters should occur with 1 year of the last puppy vaccine. Administer subsequent boosters at 3-year intervals.

Bordetella Bronchiseptica

Bordetella is considered a non-core vaccine. Bordetella is a highly contagious upper respiratory condition that infects a lot of dogs. It is also known as kennel cough and infectious tracheobronchitis. Infected dogs have a dry, hacking cough or honking cough. The dog may act like he has something stuck in his throat and may vomit after the cough. The cough usually gets worse with activity or excitement. Dogs can have a watery nasal discharge, runny eyes and sneezing. In severe cases, dogs can have fevers, lethargy, breathing difficulties, and pneumonia.

Bordetella is spread from dog to dog. It is common in boarding kennels, shelters, obedience classes, dog parks and day care facilities. Bordetella can be prevented by keeping your dog away from other dogs, especially if you have a puppy as their immune systems are not able to fight off the infection. There are vaccinations that can help prevent pneumonia from Bordetella.

If given via injection, puppies need 2 vaccines given 2-4 weeks apart. If given, intranasally, a single dose is effective. When there is risk of exposure, a booster needs to give 1 year after the initial vaccine and then annually thereafter.

Leptospirosis

Leptospirosis is considered a non-core vaccine and should be given to dogs who are risk. Leptospirosis is a disease caused by infection with Leptospira bacteria. These bacteria are found in soil and water. There are many strains of Leptospira bacteria that can cause disease. Leptospirosis is a zoonotic disease, which means it can be spread from animals to people. Leptospirosis is more common in areas with warm climates and high rainfall, but it can occur anywhere. Common risk factors include exposure to or drinking water from rivers, lakes or streams, roaming on rural properties (because of exposure to potentially infected wildlife, farm animals or water sources), exposure to wild animal or farm animal species, even in the backyard and contact with rodents.

Most vaccines contain 4 Serovars (strains) of Leptospirosis. These can be combined with the DA2PP vaccine. Initially, 2 doses are administered 2-4 weeks apart. The vaccine is then administered annually thereafter.

Borrelia Burgdorferi – Lyme disease

The Lyme vaccine is considered a non-core vaccine and should be given when the risk of exposure is high. Lyme disease is caused by a bacterium called Borrelia burgdorferi that passes to your dog through the bite of certain types of ticks. These ticks live in tall grass and wooded areas. If your dog frequents these types of areas or you frequent these areas, the dog should probably be vaccinated for Lyme disease. Lyme disease can cause many different symptoms from joint pain, vomiting, and kidney disease. To help prevent against Lyme disease, dogs should be given a tick preventative (topical or oral). Preventing ticks is the best way to prevent Lyme disease.

If you choose to vaccinate for Lyme disease, two initial doses are required 2-4 weeks apart. The vaccine will need to be administered annually thereafter.

Canine Influenza (H3N8 and H3N2)

Canine influenza or dog flu is a non-core vaccine. It is a highly contagious viral infection affecting dogs and cats. Two strains of influenza have been identified in the United States: H3N8 and H3N2. Canine H3N8 was first identified in Florida in 2004 in racing greyhounds. Canine H3N2 was first identified in March 2015 following an outbreak of respiratory illness in Chicago. Prior to this, reports of H3N2 were restricted to South Korea, China and Thailand. Neither strain has been reported in humans. Canine influenza is transmitted through respiratory secretions from coughing, barking and sneezing. Dogs in close contact with infected dogs in places such as kennels, groomers, day care facilities and shelters are at increased risk of infection. Canine influenza can be spread indirectly through objects (kennels, food and water bowls, collars and leashes) or people who have been in contact with infected dogs.

If you choose to vaccinate for Canine Influenza (H3N8 and H3N2), two initial doses are required 2-4 weeks apart. The vaccine will need to be administered annually thereafter.