Vaccinations are a very important part of dog ownership. Your dog
should be properly vaccinated against certain diseases at certain
times to help protect him and other animals he may come in to
contact with. The following is an explanation of vaccinations and
why they should be given.
When you get a puppy, most likely your veterinarian will recommend
a series of three sets of vaccinations. These will generally be
given at four week intervals starting at eight weeks of age. The
first vaccine will most likely be referred to as “distemper.” This
is usually a combination shot that will protect your dog against
distemper, hepatitis, parainfluenza, leptospirosis, and
1) Distemper -a highly contagious disease caused by a virus that is
similar to measles in humans. It can affect dogs of all ages but is
most often seen in unvaccinated puppies. It attacks the
gastrointestinal, respiratory, and nervous systems. Symptoms
include cough, nasal and eye discharge, lethargy, vomiting, and
diarrhea. In advanced stages, dogs may show neurological problems
such as lack of coordination, weakness, and seizures. Treatment
includes fluids and antibiotics but prognosis is guarded and in
about half of the cases, Distemper is fatal.
2) Hepatitis -which affects the liver, pancreas, kidneys, and the
lining of blood vessels. It causes fever, abdominal pain, diarrhea,
and lethargy. Treatment includes administration of fluids and
antibiotics but in serious cases a blood transfusion may be
necessary. The severity of the disease varies but young puppies
often die from Hepatitis.
3) Parainfluenza – caused by a virus and is quite mild in
comparison with other infectious diseases. Symptoms include
sneezing, discharge from the eyes and nose, and coughing. Treatment
varies but in many cases, no treatment is required.
4) Leptospirosis which is transmitted by contact with water
contaminated with infected urine. It affects the urinary tract,
kidneys, and liver. Symptoms include vomiting, lethargy, and
abdominal pain. In further stages of the disease, dogs may become
very thirsty and have a low temperature. Treatment includes
antibiotics and fluid therapy. Please note however that some dogs
are allergic to the leptospirosis vaccine. Please check with your
veterinarian if you have questions or concerns. Oftentimes the
leptospirosis component is not a part of your puppy shots and will
be administered annually starting the next year your dog is due for
5) Coronavirus which causes inflammation of the intestines and
diarrhea. This disease most often affects puppies. Symptoms include
decreased appetite, orange or yellow diarrhea, lethargy, and fever.
Treatment includes fluid administration and antibiotics. Prognosis
is usually good. The distemper combination vaccine is given
annually after the first three series.
At your second visit (or at age 12 weeks), if you plan to take your
dog to puppy class or he will be around other dogs, it is a good
idea to get him vaccinated for Bordetella Bronchiseptica.
Bordetella Bronchiseptica is most often referred to as Kennel
Cough. This disease is incredibly infectious and is usually
transmitted in areas where many dogs are together such as boarding
facilities, doggy day care, and dog parks. If your dog becomes
infected, you will notice a dry cough. Infected dogs are usually
treated with antibiotics. Keep in mind that even though most places
that take in multiple dogs require immunization to Bordetella, no
vaccine is 100% effective so your dog may still become ill with
this disease. This vaccine comes in both intranasal and injectible
form. The intranasal form is dribbled into your dog’s nostrils.
Your dog may need a booster of the Bordetella vaccine at his 16
week visit and annually after that.
At age 16 weeks, your dog can be vaccinated for Rabies. Rabies is
usually transmitted to dogs through saliva – most often in the form
of a bite from an infected animal. Rabies affects all warm blooded
animals but is most often found in bats, skunks, and raccoons.
Rabies is always fatal. In many states, rabies vaccination is
required by law. Check with your veterinarian on how often this
immunization is recommended as protocols may vary. If your dog
becomes infected with Rabies, you may notice subtle behavioral
changes at first. This may be accompanied by fever, vomiting, and
diarrhea. The best defense against Rabies is to make certain your
dog is properly immunized.
By properly vaccinating your dog, you are helping to ensure both
his safety and the safety of other pets and humans.