Happy New Year! I am sure we are all ready to move on from the past two years, so let’s hope that each day brings us more optimism and the right tools to move forward.
If I had to guess, I would think that at least some of us adopted or acquired pups and kitties during the holidays. If that is the case, congratulations! For this Woof column, I will be discussing the most common and most important vaccines for our pups.
(We will focus on canine vaccines, because I would not have enough space here to discuss all vaccines for both dogs and cats. For my readers that are cat parents, feel free to contact me, and I will gladly discuss cat vaccines in detail, but they are far more simplified than dog vaccines.)
It is worth mentioning that different doctors have different vaccination protocols. Unfortunately, there is not only one “correct” protocol, but most of us follow a similar vaccination protocol. I am a fan of “less is more,” and I believe that some vaccines should only be administered based on lifestyle needs.
You have probably heard about parvovirus and its vaccine. This is likely the most common canine vaccine out there and certainly one of the most important ones.
Parvovirus, a lethal virus transmitted through stools, mostly attacks the inner lining of the stomach and intestines of our unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated young pups. Once the virus is acquired, it usually leads to lack of appetite and lethargy, which usually continues with vomiting and/or bloody diarrhea. If left untreated, these poor babies tend to succumb to dehydration and malnutrition very quickly. Even when treated aggressively early on, this virus can still be lethal.
Canine parvovirus can live in the environment for many months, which is why it is vital to avoid taking our puppies that are not fully vaccinated to areas where other dogs go, in order to avoid exposure to this and other infectious organisms. The parvo vaccine is usually started at 6-8 weeks of age and given every 3 weeks until four months of age. Afterwards, it is administered either yearly or every three years, based on age and lifestyle.
Along with the parvo vaccine, we usually also administer the distemper vaccine, another important vaccine against another potentially lethal virus.
Distemper virus is transmitted mostly through saliva, including sneezing or coughing, from an infected dog or other animal. This virus affects different parts of the body but primarily the respiratory and nervous systems.
Unfortunately, both parvo and distemper can only be prevented with vaccines, as there is no cure against them yet. The distemper vaccine has a very similar vaccination schedule as the parvo vaccine.
Another important and common vaccine is the one against the Bordetella bacteria, known for causing “kennel cough,” a contagious respiratory disease.
Bordetella is not the only organism that can cause this disease, but administering the vaccine usually helps in avoiding significant complications, even if they acquire Bordetella or any other bacteria or virus that cause kennel cough.
It is important to know that this vaccine only prevents Bordetella, not all organisms that cause respiratory diseases in dogs. Nevertheless, it is still considered a very important vaccine for dogs that socialize with other dogs, and it is always strongly recommended. This vaccine is usually given after eight weeks of age and, depending on the type of vaccine and the lifestyle of the dog, it is usually repeated every year.
No canine vaccine discussion would be over without talking about the rabies vaccine. This vaccine is very important because not only it prevents a lethal disease that is transmissible to humans, but it is also required by authorities. According to the Texas Department of State Health Services, dogs (and cats) are required to be vaccinated against rabies by four months of age. It is also extremely vital to have our pups up to date with their rabies vaccines in order to avoid legal issues where a human is bitten by a dog and, more importantly, to keep our babies from having to go through challenging quarantines that may be stressful for them. We usually start this vaccine after three months of age, and, while the first one is typically valid for one year, it is usually administered every three years thereafter.
Distemper, parvo, bordetella, and rabies vaccines are the most important and common vaccines for dogs, but please know that your veterinarian may recommend other vaccines (including leptospira vaccine), based on your baby’s lifestyle.
When it comes to vaccine reactions, the most common ones that are usually not alarming are slight lethargy and soreness at the injection site. These usually go away within 1-2 days after administering the vaccines.
However, more concerning reactions can be seen, including excessive vomiting/diarrhea, facial swelling, hives and even collapsing. These reactions can be life threatening and should be immediately addressed by a veterinarian. Thankfully, we do not commonly see these concerning vaccine reactions nowadays.
I would like to dedicate this column to the amazing Betty White, an animal lover who left us a beautiful legacy. If we all aspired to be more like her, the world would be a much better place for humans and the rest of the animals as well. May 2022 be a much better year, filled with hope that tomorrow will be a better day than yesterday. ¡¡Abrazos para todos!!
Dr. Josh owns Isla Veterinary Boutique Hospital at 14380 Marsh Lane, Ste. 110 in Addison (next to Tom Thumb). Call him at 972-738-1111 or visit IslaVet.com