Vaccines and vaccinations for your pets can be a confusing topic with seemingly conflicting advice and information offered.  Even informed owners often feel overwhelmed when it is time for their pet’s annual exam and may have questions such as; What should my dog be vaccinated for?  How often should I have them vaccinated?  What do the vaccines actually protect my pet from?  How do I know if my dog is “at risk”?

Vaccines are now divided into two classes. “Core” vaccines for dogs are those that should be given to every dog. “Noncore” vaccines are recommended only for certain dogs or situations. Whether to the ‘noncore’ vaccinations will depend on exposure of the dog to an animal that has the disease, the type of vaccine and how common the disease is in the geographical area where the dog lives or may visit.

The AVMA Council on Biologic and Therapeutic Agents' Report on Cat and Dog Vaccines has recommended that the core vaccines for dogs include distempercanine adenovirus-2 (hepatitis and respiratory disease), canine parvovirus-2, and rabies. Noncore vaccines include  leptospirosiscoronavirus, canine parainfluenza and bordetella bronchiseptica (both are causes of “kennel cough”), and borrelia burgdorferi (causes Lyme Disease).

According to current AVMA recommendations, puppies should be vaccinated every 2-4 weeks with a DA2PP vaccine (Distemper, adenovirus type 2, Parvo, and Parainfluenza) until they are 16 weeks or 4 months old.  The next booster vaccine should be administered in one year (at the first annual checkup).  If a dog was fully vaccinated as a puppy, research has shown that the first annual booster will provide protection for 3 years.  However, always follow your vet’s recommendations for your specific area and situation.

With the rabies vaccine, a puppy is first vaccinated at 12-16 weeks (or 3-4 months) old.  A booster is required at the first annual exam that will provide enough protection for 3 years.  City and County ordinances may be different so be sure to check with your Vet to make sure you comply with local regulations.

Leptospirosis is a harmful bacterium which if infected may cause renal failure, or other serious complications.  Lepto is carried by many wild animals such as deer and rodents, and is transmitted through their urine.  Dogs considered “at risk” include any dog that has access to a pond where wild animals may come to drink and contaminate the water with urine, or a small dog that may root through a woodpile where rodents nest.  Lepto is also Zoonotic, which means humans are also at risk of infection.  The Leptospirosos vaccine is necessary annually to provide protection.

Lyme disease is carried and transmitted by ticks such as the deer tick.  Lyme disease is an inflammatory disease that may result in joint pain, kidney failure, heart problems or central nervous system disorder.  Similar to Leptosirosis, Lyme disease is Zoonotic and requires annual vacination to provide adequate protection.  Any dog that lives in an environment with ticks is considered “at risk”.

Bordetella vaccine helps protect your dog against exposure to “kennel cough.”  It should be noted that “Kennel Cough” is comparable to a human cold.  It is a virus combined with bacteria and therefore is impossible to protect against completely.  If your dog is vaccinated though its symptoms will be less severe.  “At risk” dogs include any dog that comes in contact with other dogs such as a regular visitor to dog parks, groomers, or boarding.  It is best to vaccinate your dog at least 2 weeks before exposure with a booster administered every 6 months or annually at your vet’s recommendation.

Recommended vaccination protocols differ with each pet and each situation so always consult your vet to determine the best plan to protect your dog.

Bethany Jordan CVT. CDT

The DogSmith.