Hello, and welcome to a new year! Let’s hope that the symbolism of a new year brings an opportunity to move forward and learn from the past as much as we can. I am excited to welcome 2021 with my first Dallas Voice Woof column of the year. And this time around, I want to discuss the most important vaccines and what they protect our babies against.

I want to start by noting that many doctors have different approaches to vaccines and how often they should be administered. I am a fan of “less is more” and of determining which vaccines are needed based on lifestyle.

We will be focusing on dog vaccines, as there are multiple different ones that are important to address. For my cat parents and cat lovers: Feel free to contact me, and I will gladly discuss cat vaccines in detail. But they are far more simple than dog vaccines.

Let us start with the most common dog vaccine: the parvo vaccine. Parvo is a virus that attacks with rapidly dividing cells, mostly in the digestive system. This lethal virus, transmitted through stools, almost always affects puppies and younger dogs, especially if they are not fully vaccinated. It causes dehydration from vomiting and diarrhea, along with lack of appetite. Many times it starts with just lack of appetite and within just a couple of days, they are usually severely affected by the virus.

Canine parvovirus can live in the environment for many months, which is why it is so important to avoid taking our puppies that are not fully vaccinated to areas where other dogs go to to avoid exposure to this and other infectious organisms. This vaccine is usually started at 6-8 weeks of age and is given every three weeks until four months of age. Afterwards, it is administered either yearly or every three years, based on age and lifestyle.

The parvo vaccine is typically combined with another very important vaccine which prevents infection with the virus called distemper. This virus, also considered lethal, is transmitted mostly through saliva and sneezing or coughing by an infected dog or another animal that may carry the virus.

It affects different systems in the body, especially the respiratory and nervous systems.
As with parvo, there is no cure for this viral infection, and prevention is the most important aspect in keeping our pups from suffering with this horrible disease.

Another important organism that can be prevented from affecting dogs through a vaccine is the bacteria known as bordetella, which causes what is commonly known as kennel cough. This vaccine, however, does not fully prevent kennel cough, as there are other kinds of bacterias and viruses that can cause this respiratory disease. 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 8 weeks of age and, depending on the type of vaccine and the lifestyle of the dog, it is usually repeated every year.

Lastly, we have the rabies vaccine. This one is very important because it not only 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 4 months of age. In cases where a human is bitten by a dog, it is also extremely vital to have our pups up to date on their rabies vaccines in order to avoid legal issues, and more importantly, avoid our babies from going through challenges that may be stressful or negative for them.

We usually start this vaccine after 3 months of age, and while the first one is typically good for one year, it is usually administered every 3 years thereafter.

There are other vaccines for dogs, but the vaccines discussed here are the most popular ones. Regarding vaccine reactions, the most common ones that are usually not alarming are lethargy and soreness at the injection site. These usually go away within 1-2 days after administering the vaccines.

However, more concerning reactions that can be seen include excessive vomiting/diarrhea, facial swelling, hives and even collapsing. These reactions can be life threatening and should be immediately addressed by your veterinarian. Thankfully, we are seeing less and less vaccine reactions these days, and they are considered to be an exception in the present, even with the strongest of vaccines.

As always, I hope this information I have shared through my Woof column is helpful and cheers to an amazing year!! 2020 will not repeat itself, right? Abrazos, my friends.

Dr. Josh owns Isla Veterinary Boutique Hospital, 14380 Marsh Lane, Ste. 110 in Addison (next to Tom Thumb). Visit IslaVet.com or call 972-738-1111.