Puppy and Adult Dog Vaccines
Preamble about puppies and vaccine timing
Puppies, like most mammals, are protected for the first 6-8 weeks of their lives by maternal antibodies. These are antibodies that come in the mother's first milk (colostrum). For the first 24 hours of life, the puppy's gut is "open" to these antibodies and absorbs them intact, right into the bloodstream. These antibodies then circulate and protect the puppy from the diseases to which the mom developed antibodies, whether by natural infection or vaccination. (This is why breeding females should be well vaccinated before pregnancy, to provide the pups with good protection while their little immune systems are developing.) These maternal antibodies hang around for 6+ weeks and are gradually eliminated by the puppy's immune system.
But... not every puppy has an equal shot at getting colostrum. Weak puppies may not feed well in the first 24 hours, new moms might not want to nurse their puppies well, strong puppies may push smaller puppies off the nipple, lots of things can happen. So we have a situation where in any given litter of puppies we don't really know who had a whopping dose of maternal antibodies and who might have gotten little or none.
If a pup has little or no maternal antibody they will be susceptible to infection from virus and bacteria brought in by visitors who come to see the puppies, other dogs in the home, and in a new home if they are sold before getting any vaccines. On the flip side, a pup with a whack of colostrum will have high maternal antibody levels, and those levels might not wane until they are 8 weeks old, or even older. For this reason most breeders will start vaccinating puppies at 6 weeks of age, to try to protect the pups with little or no remaining antibodies, and we vaccinate every 3-4 weeks to try to catch all the puppies as soon as their maternal antibody levels are dropping off.
(The one problem with having a bunch of maternal antibodies running around is that they do their job against vaccine viruses just as well as they do against wild viruses that try to infect the puppy. When we vaccinate a puppy and it has a lot of maternal antibodies, those antibodies look at the antigens in the vaccine and go, "I'll eat that, thanks, quite delicious." They get rid of the vaccine antigens before the puppy's own immune system can get a look at them and be stimulated enough to make its own antibodies. So for the majority of the puppies a vaccine given at 6 weeks of age won't do much. But for the pups who didn't get enough colostrum and antibodies from mom, it lets their immune systems get geared up and make their own antibodies for protection.)
In practical terms, this means that we don't pay a lot of attention to the 6 week vaccine, and have to assume it was largely inactivated by the maternal antibodies in most puppies. We are most concerned about getting at least 2 vaccines into the puppy when it is over 8 weeks of age, one to prime the immune system and the other(s) to boost antibody production and other branches of the immune response.
Core vaccines are recommended for all patients, as they cover diseases that are either common in our area or may be uncommon but have very serious consequences.
1. Canine distemper, adenovirus type 2, parvovirus, parainfluenza
Common abbreviations: DA2PP, DA2P, DAP, DHPP, “distemper parvo”, “dog annual”
Canine distemper virus affects all canids (eg. dogs, coyotes, wolves, foxes) as well as other wildlife that we have locally like skunks and raccoons. Infected dogs can have respiratory signs ranging from mild cough to virulent pneumonia, gastrointestinal signs such as vomiting and bloody diarrhea, and central nervous systems signs, including seizures and myoclonus (muscle spasms). Most affected dogs die, and surviving dogs usually have serious permanent aftereffects. Thanks to vaccination, this disease is fairly well controlled but because of wildlife reservoirs it will never be eliminated. (Those who have been on the North Shore for a while may remember that raccoons disappeared for several years in the early 2000’s; this was due to distemper killing off most of the local population.)
Parvovirus affects the lining of the GI tract and causes it to slough off, resulting in severe bloody diarrhea, rapid dehydration, and (often) death. Survivors can have permanent intestinal damage. Puppies are particularly prone to dying from this disease due to their small size and lack of reserves.
Adenovirus type 1 causes liver disease (infectious hepatitis). Vaccines that were made using adeno-1 tended to cause “blue eye” in puppies, so those vaccines were quickly scrapped and adenovirus type 2 was used. It cross-protects against adenovirus type 1, so it provides immunity to infectious hepatitis.
Frequency of vaccination: Puppy series of 2 or 3 vaccines every 3-4 weeks, depending on age. Boosted 1 year later. Subsequent boosting depending on lifestyle factors, but is generally no more frequent than every 3 years.
Titer testing: Titers are a measurement of the antibody levels each pet has to the three components of the vaccine. Titers are readily available and quite affordable, and will let us know whether a pet has adequate antibody levels or needs a booster vaccine. Titers can be done at any age. They are especially useful for pets with "mystery history", where we don't have any vaccine records. If you are hesitant to get a booster, titer testing will tell us whether that's a good decision or whether it's leaving the pet open to infection. This is something you can discuss with the veterinarian.
Common abbreviations: none, It's just rabies.
Rabies is fatal in pets and is "zoonotic", which means that it is transmissible between species, including to humans. All warm-blooded animals are capable of carrying rabies (except, oddly, opossums). It is spread through the saliva of infected animals into wounds (ie. through a bite) and causes progressive neurological damage. Dog rabies is well controlled in North America due to excellent vaccination habits. Rabies vaccination is strongly recommended for all dogs, regardless of lifestyle, because of the risk to both pets and humans.
Frequency of vaccination: Once as a puppy, once a year later, then every 3+ years depending on lifestyle.
Titer testing: Is available, but is very expensive ($300+). It is not usually used to determine vaccine frequency. Titer testing is required before a dog can enter certain countries, and that is where it is most practically useful.
Non-core vaccines are those that not all dogs need, but some might due to lifestyle, breed, or other factors.
1. Bordetella bronchiseptica
Common abbreviations/alternative names for disease: Kennel cough, infectious canine tracheobronchitis, infectious canine cough, canine infectious respiratory disease complex (CIRDC)
Bordetella bronchiseptica is a bacteria that causes bronchitis and tracheitis in dogs. There are over 50 viruses, bacteria, and other microorganisms that can cause "kennel cough", but Bordetella is one of the main players. Kennel cough is rarely fatal, except rarely in puppies and geriatric dogs where it can cause pneumonia. However, even "just" the cough can be debilitating for a dog while it lasts. It tends to be a hacking cough, and can go on for weeks. (The human equivalent, also caused by a Bordetella bacteria, is whooping cough.)
Who should get this vaccine: Bordetella is easily transmitted between dogs, as with any other respiratory disease. Any dog that is social with other dogs (playing with others in a park, going on group walks or hikes with a dog walker, going to daycare, grooming parlors, boarding facilities, or being exposed to fostered puppies or adults) deserves to be vaccinated for this disease.
Frequency of vaccination: Because this is a bacterial vaccine the duration of immunity is relatively short, anywhere from 9 to 15 months. For this reason we tend to vaccinate yearly. At our clinic this is usually an oral vaccine, but can be given by injection for those dogs that don't like having their mouth handled.
Titer testing: is not available due to the type of immunity that is stimulated.
Common abbreviations: Lepto
This is another bacterial disease that affects many mammals.It is spread by contact with water, soil, or food that is contaminated by urine from an infected animal. This also means that humans can be infected by contact with an infected dog's urine, which presents a human health hazard. Locally, the biggest "spreaders" of concern are rodents, especially rats, as well as raccoons, opossums, and skunks.
This is a RARE disease in this area of the country. However, in dogs this bacteria can cause severe kidney and liver infections that can be fatal. This is also a zoonotic disease that can be spread from the dog to people.
Who should get this vaccine: Dogs that live on the waterfront or urban areas where there are rats, dogs in urban, suburban or rural areas with resident rat, raccoon, or skunk populations. Dogs that spend time in the wilderness, especially if they drink from rivers, creeks, or puddles.
Frequency of vaccination: Yearly