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Your complete guide to dog vaccines

Dog vaccines

Dog vaccines are a critical aspect of canine preventive healthcare and one of the most cost-effective ways of maintaining your dog’s health, longevity, and quality of life. As pet parents, we read about so many different vaccinations for so many different illnesses that it can be confusing to know which vaccinations your dog needs and which ones are important but optional. 

Why are vaccines important? What vaccines should your dog have?  

Table of contents 

What are vaccines and how do they work? 

A vaccine is a preparation of either killed or altered microorganisms that is administered into the body. Vaccines help prepare the body’s immune system to fight the invasion of disease-causing organisms. Vaccines contain antigens, which look like the disease-causing organism to the immune system but don’t actually cause disease. When the vaccine is introduced to the body, the immune system is mildly stimulated. If a pet is ever exposed to the real disease, his immune system is now prepared to recognize and fight it off entirely or reduce the severity of the illness. 

Vaccinating your pet has long been considered one of the easiest ways to help them live a long, healthy life. Canine vaccination also serves a public health function by forming a barrier against several zoonotic diseases affecting dogs and humans. 

What vaccines do dogs need? 

Vaccines for dogs are generally categorized as either core or non-core. Core vaccines are considered vital to all pets based on risk of exposure, severity of disease or transmissibility to humans. Meanwhile, non-core vaccines are available to and recommended for dogs dependent on their exposure risk and other factors. 

Unless there’s a medical reason not to vaccinate, the American Animal Hospital Association’s Canine Vaccine Task Force notes that all dogs should have the following core vaccines: 

  • Canine distemper virus – This severe and contagious virus attacks a dog’s respiratory, gastrointestinal, and nervous systems. The illness spreads through airborne exposure, as well as contaminated food and water bowls and other surfaces. Symptoms of distemper can include, watery eyes and nose, fever, coughing, vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, twitching, paralysis, and even death in severe cases. Unfortunately, there is no cure for canine distemper virus. Treatment strategies for the illness provide supportive care and reduce the intensity of symptoms. 
  • Canine adenovirus (hepatitis) – Infectious canine hepatitis is a highly contagious viral infection that affects the liver, kidneys, spleen, lungs, and the eyes of an affected dog. Symptoms range from a slight fever and congestion of the mucous membranes to vomiting, jaundice, stomach enlargement, and pain around the liver. In extreme cases, hepatitis can be fatal in dogs. Similar to distemper, treatment for hepatitis provides supportive care and reduces the intensity of symptoms. 
  • Parvovirus – Parvo is highly contagious and is particularly dangerous for unvaccinated dogs and young puppies. The virus attacks the gastrointestinal system and creates a loss of appetite, vomiting, fever, and often severe, bloody diarrhea. Extreme dehydration can come on rapidly and kill a dog within 48-to-72 hours, so prompt veterinary attention is crucial. There is no cure, so keeping the dog hydrated and controlling the secondary symptoms can keep them going until their immune system fights off the illness.  
  • Canine parainfluenza – Canine parainfluenza virus (CPIV) is a highly contagious respiratory virus and is one of the most common pathogens of infectious tracheobronchitis, also known as kennel cough. It is common in shelter dogs and those who have spent time at boarding facilities. 
  • Rabies – Rabies is a viral disease that invades the central nervous system, causing neurological issues such as headaches, anxiety, hallucinations, excessive drooling, extreme fear of water, paralysis, and death. It is most often transmitted through the bite of a rabid animal. For unvaccinated pets, euthanasia or a six-month quarantine are the most common forms of recourse. Due to its severity, most states require regular rabies vaccinations. Some jurisdictions require yearly rabies vaccination, while others call for vaccines every three years. In almost all states, proof of rabies vaccination is mandatory. 

Vaccines for distemper (D), hepatitis (H), parvovirus (P), and parainfluenza (P) are often available in combinations that can be given in one dose. Combination vaccines such as the DHPP vaccine are effective, convenient, and avoid extra injections for your dog.   

Non-core vaccines can be just as essential for some dogs based on their lifestyle and risk. Some of these recommended vaccines include: 

  • Leptospirosis – This bacterial infection is increasingly prevalent in soil and water across the globe. While some infected dogs do not exhibit symptoms, others can experience fever, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, loss of appetite, lethargy, and kidney and liver failure. Antibiotics can be effective, especially when given early.  
  • Lyme disease – Lyme disease is an infectious, tick-borne disease caused by bacteria passed on from ticks. It can cause inflammation that results in limping. Additionally, dogs may experience fever and loss of appetite, and the disease can affect dogs’ heart, kidney, and joints, among other things, or lead to neurological disorders if left untreated. If diagnosed quickly, a course of antibiotics is extremely helpful, though relapses can occur months or even years later. 
  • Bordetella – This highly contagious bacterial infection causes severe fits of coughing, whooping, vomiting, and, in rare cases, seizures and death. It is the primary cause of kennel cough. There are injectable, oral, and nasal spray vaccines available. If your dog goes to dog parks, boarding facilities, dog daycare, or attends training classes or dog shows, then they are at risk for contracting kennel cough, and it is in their best interest to get vaccinated. In fact, most boarding, grooming, and daycare facilities will require proof of Bordetella vaccination. 
  • Canine influenza – Canine influenza, also known as dog flu, is a contagious respiratory disease in dogs caused by specific Type A influenza viruses. Canine flu spreads mainly among dogs through respiratory droplets produced during coughing and sneezing from infected dogs, or through contact with contaminated surfaces. Symptoms often include coughing and sneezing and can range in severity, with more advanced cases resulting in pneumonia and the illness is rarely fatal. 

When does your dog need vaccines? 

Newborn puppies receive immunity from their mother, as maternal antibodies. Part of this passive immunity is transferred across the placenta while the pup is still in the uterus, but most of it is transferred in the first milk or colostrum. This maternal immunity is only temporary, however, and it declines steadily over the first few weeks of life and is largely gone by twelve weeks. An early decline in a puppy’s maternal antibodies can leave them susceptible to infection at a very young age, which is why it is important to consult your veterinarian about your dog’s vaccines as soon as possible. 

Your veterinarian can best determine a vaccination schedule for your pet. This will depend on the type of vaccine, your pet’s age, medical history, environment and lifestyle. According to the American Kennel Club, a widely accepted schedule for the first year of a dog’s life includes: 

  • 6-8 weeks: Distemper, parvovirus, Bordetella (optional) 
  • 10-12 weeks: DHPP, Influenza, leptospirosis, Bordetella, Lyme (optional) 
  • 16-18 weeks: DHPP, rabies, Influenza, leptospirosis, Bordetella, Lyme (optional) 
  • 12-16 months: DHPP, rabies, Influenza, leptospirosis, Bordetella, Lyme (optional) 
  • Every 1-3 years: DHPP, rabies (as required by law), Influenza, leptospirosis, Bordetella, Lyme (optional) 

What to expect following vaccinations 

Immunizations should mildly stimulate the animal’s immune system in order to create protection from specific infectious diseases. This stimulation can create mild symptoms, ranging from soreness at the injection site to fever and allergic reactions. While many pets will show no side effects, it is common for pets to experience some mild side effects after receiving a vaccine, usually starting within hours of the vaccination. The American Veterinary Medical Association recommends you monitor your dog for mild effects: 

  • Discomfort and local swelling at the vaccination site 
  • Mild fever 
  • Decreased appetite and activity 
  • Sneezing, mild coughing, “snotty nose” or other respiratory signs 

If these side effects last for more than a day or two, get worse, or cause your pet significant discomfort, it is important for you to contact your veterinarian. Additionally, always inform your veterinarian if your pet has had prior reactions to any vaccine or medication. If there is a history of prior reaction, the vet may choose to administer or recommend at home administration of antihistamines prior to vaccination. If in doubt, wait for 30-60 minutes following vaccination before taking your pet home. 

More serious, but less common side effects, such as allergic reactions, may occur within minutes to hours after vaccination. These reactions can be life-threatening and are medical emergencies. As with any medical procedure, there is a small chance of side effects with vaccines. However, in most cases, the risks are much smaller than the risks of disease itself. According to the ASPCA, more serious side effects can include: 

  • Persistent vomiting or diarrhea 
  • Itchy skin that may seem bumpy (hives) 
  • Swelling of the muzzle and around the face, neck, or eyes 
  • Severe coughing or difficulty breathing 
  • Lameness 
  • Seizures 
  • Collapse 

It is best to schedule your pet’s appointment so that you can monitor him for any side effects following administration of the vaccine. If you suspect your pet is having a reaction to a vaccine, call your veterinarian immediately. 

How can ElleVet’s CBD + CBDA help stressed dogs? 

Visits to the veterinarian’s office are a leading cause of situational stress in pets. Fortunately, ElleVet’s CBD + CBDA can offer support for dogs in these particularly stressful situations, helping them calmly sit still in the exam room and receive the medical care they need. By calming without sedating, ElleVet’s Calm & Comfort situational use chews provide maximum support for dogs with acute stress. 

Give your dog the appropriate dose of Calm & Comfort 1.5-2 hours before visiting the veterinarian so help your dog relax. Supporting a calm vet visit can make for a safer and more pleasant and effective appointment for everyone involved.  

For any questions about ElleVet’s CBD + CBDA products or how CBD can help your canine friend live their best life, give us a call (844-673-7287) or send us an email ([email protected]). We are here to help.   

Bottom line on dog vaccines 

Going to the vet repeatedly over several months and throughout your dog’s life for vaccinations may seem like an inconvenience, but the diseases that vaccinations will shield our pets from are dangerous, potentially deadly, and, thankfully, mostly preventable. When it comes to which vaccines your dog needs, consult your veterinarian.