HEALTH & CARE

What Vaccines Do Dogs Need: Benefits And Health Risks Associated with Vaccines

What Vaccines Do Dogs Need
Wyatt Robinson
Written by Wyatt Robinson

Apart from ensuring a healthy and productive life for your dog, vaccines are also an effective tool that can be used to prevent the spread of potentially serious canine diseases such as rabies and distemper. Furthermore, canine vaccination is also a great way to keep your family members safe from some of the canine diseases, which can be transmitted from dogs to humans. Despite the fact that annual vaccination has become more of a general statute, research has shown that vaccines have the ability to stay in a dog’s immune system for long time.

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Also, due to the advancements in technology vaccines are continuing to become very effective, much safer and easily customization to meet each dog’s need. Since it is every dog owner wish to have his or her dog in a healthy and productive state, vaccines are indeed a great way to ensure that he or she can achieve this. Also, most of the common canine diseases can be prevented through vaccination, hence vaccinating your dog will ensure that he or she is free from contracting any of these diseases.

There are two general types of vaccines that every dog must receive in its lifespan to lead a healthy life. The first category of vaccines are compulsory for every dog, and they are commonly known to as the core vaccines. These are used to protect the dog from diseases that are very common among the canine community and can be easily transferred from one dog to another. The most common types of diseases vaccinated against by the use of core vaccines include rabies, parvovirus, adenovirus, and distemper.

Vaccines for dog

The second category of vaccines is usually referred to as the non-core vaccines and is used to protect the dog from diseases that may be related to lifestyle or environmental exposures. Unlike the core vaccines, the non-core vaccines may vary from one dog to another depending on the geographical location and the lifestyle the dog is subjected to on a daily basis.

Hence, before administering the non-core vaccines, the veterinary officer will be required to conduct a medical evaluation in your dog. Some of the most common examples of diseases vaccinated using the non-core vaccines include Kennel cough, Lyme diseases, and leptospirosis.

During the first year of any dog’s life, there is a standard vaccination procedure that must be adhered to by the dog owner irrespective of your area of residence. Immediately after the first year, three core vaccines must be administered after every one year or three years depending on the veterinary’s recommendation. The three core vaccines that are to be administered after the first year include adenovirus, parvovirus and distemper vaccines.

Despite the fact that there are some veterinarians who stand with the customary yearly vaccination schedule there are others who choose to address each circumstances separately. Needless to say as a dog owner, you should make a point of making yourself conversant with the guidelines stipulated in your country’s legal system. For most countries, rabies vaccination is compulsory, and the duration usually ranges from one to three years. Here’s our schedule for your puppy vaccination that can guide you well.

Common diseases that can be prevented through vaccination

Rabies

Apart from being potentially fatal, rabies is also highly contagious and can be equally hazardous to humans as it is in dogs. The incurable disease remains a puzzle to many scientists up to this date, particularly due to its ability to fight off antibodies and antigens. Despite the fact that there is no particular prescription that can cure an infected patient of rabies, vaccination remains one of the most reliable options for many dog owners and their dogs.

As the only way of fighting the diseases, research has shown that close to 96 percent of all vaccinated animals have survived attacks from the virus. Despite the fact that it is a legal requirement for all dogs to be vaccinated against the disease in most countries, very few dog owners have taken their dogs for vaccination.

Rabies vaccine

Transmission — transmission of rabies mainly occurs when an uninfected animal or human is bitten by a carrier /infected animal. In most animals, the virus mainly spreads through the nerves and eventually into the animal’s brain. Since it is a slow moving virus, the virus’s incubation period, from the time of infection until it invades brain is usually between 3 to 8 weeks in dogs.

The most common carriers of this virus include raccoons, skunks, foxes, and bats though very few bat infection cases have been reported. All in all, the rabies virus does not stay for very long duration outside the host though it can stay for up to 24 hours in the carcass of an infected animal.

Symptoms and phases — once the dog becomes infected with the virus, a dog may either undergo one of the stages or all of the three stages depending on the dog’s natural defense mechanisms. It is during these stages that a dog may start to portray various symptoms and not during the incubation period because the virus is still relatively inactive. The first stage is usually referred to as prodromal phase and usually lasts between 2 to 3 days in dogs.

During the initial stages of the prodromal phase, a dog may start to show apprehension nervousness, fever, solitude, and anxiety. On one hand, Animals that were previously extra friendly start to become shy or short-tempered and may choose to snap without any warnings. On the other hand, animals that were previously aggressive will start to become docile and affectionate. If the dog survives this stage, it then enters the second phase.

The second phase is commonly referred to as the furious phase that may last from 1 to 7 days in dogs. The main characteristic of the furious stage is the rapid change in behavior where dogs tend to become restless and irritable. Also, they also tend to become hyper-responsive to visual and auditory stimuli. Once the dogs become restless, they tend to become vicious and irritable hence attacking and biting whoever or whatever they come into contact.

After some time, the dogs eventually become disoriented, have seizures then after a short period they die. The paralytic phase is the third and last phase of this disease, and a dog may enter this phase immediately after the prodromal phase or after undergoing both the prodromal and furious phase simultaneously.

Rabies vacc

Like the prodromal phase, the paralytic phase is much shorter and usually lasts for only 2 to 4 days. During this phase, the nerves that are connected to the throat and brain are usually the first to be affected and, as a result, a dog usually begins drooling uncontrollably due to the inability to swallow.

Furthermore during this stage a dog usually begins to experience deep labored breathing and a plummeted jaw due to the paralysis of the diaphragm and the facial muscles. In the course of the final stage of the prodromal phase, a dog will start to produce choking sounds due to the failure of the respiratory systems and after some time death is invertible.

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Diagnosis, treatment, and vaccination — currently, the only way of diagnosing rabies is through microscopic examination of the brain tissues though research is still being conducted on some new techniques of diagnosing rabies. Since there is no viable treatment for rabies, the only technique that can be effectively employed to combat this disease is by the use of vaccinations.

Usually in most countries, the standard vaccination modus operandi for rabies is usually during three to four months after birth. After which the dog is to be vaccinated a year later for a total of three years. Though the three-year vaccination is highly recommended, there are some states or countries that may require vaccination of dogs after every year or, after every two years. Read our tips and guidelines on dog rabies that we’ve written in our article to give you more insight.

Tracheobronchitis (kennel cough)

Initially referred to as Kennel cough, tracheobronchitis or Bordetellas’s is one of the most ubiquitous upper respiratory diseases in dogs. Apart from being found on almost all the seven continents, tracheobronchitis is a highly contagious disease that can spread at a very fast rate among dogs that are within the same proximity.

All in all, there are some agents that have the ability to cause tracheobronchitis, with the most common ones being mycoplasma, parainfluenza virus, and the canine herpes virus. Despite the fact that some of the disease agents may cause various symptoms of the tracheobronchitis diseases, the majority of the incidences reported were as a result of a combination of two or more agents.

Symptoms — a dry hacking cough is the most common symptom, which is usually followed by retching and watery nasal discharges in some cases. In mild cases, the dog will continue to its day to day activities like eating as usual while in the most severe cases the symptoms will always be slightly advanced. During the severe cases, the symptoms may include fever, lethargy, pneumonia and inappetence that may eventually lead to death.

Diagnosis and treatment — the diagnosis of tracheobronchitis is usually conducted by assessment of the symptoms together with the history of exposure to other dogs. By isolating the virus, bacterial cultures and blood work will be performed to determine the individual agents of tracheobronchitis.

Since this process can be a daunting task, these tests are not usually conducted but instead diagnosis is usually done by assessing the symptoms alone. Currently, there are two main treatment options that are available, and each option will be administered depending on the severity of the disease.

Vaccination — all in all, vaccination is the best protection that a dog owner can offer his or her dog especially if the dog has a higher probability of being exposed to other dogs. The standard vaccination modus operandi for tracheobronchitis is usually a regular 5-way or 7-way vaccine that will protect him from agents such as adenovirus and parainfluenza. Apart from the regular 5-way and 7-way vaccine, your dog will also need an injectable Bordatella vaccine that will assist to reduce the severity of tracheobronchitis by a larger margin if your dog becomes infected. Check out our piece on how to treat and prevent kennel cough in dogs for added information.

Canine distemper

As the number one dog killer, canine distemper is a deadly and highly contagious disease though it can be prevented through vaccination. The canine distemper virus usually attacks the mucous membranes, skin, gastrointestinal tracts and brain membranes. Of all the infected dogs, about half of the number showed mild symptoms and in other dogs almost none. Despite the fact that most dogs might show mild symptoms it is highly advisable to attend to these cases as soon as possible.

If left unattended to the effects of canine distemper can be lifelong and devastating. The lifelong effects include paralysis, impaired hearing, smell, and sight. Once attacked, a dog’s natural defense mechanism usually becomes compromised which in turn leaves the dog vulnerable to other diseases such as pneumonia.

Canine distemper

Symptoms, diagnosis, and prevention — since the canine distemper virus usually attacks the body’s defense mechanism the most common symptoms of the disease are eye and nasal discharge, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, and seizure. In some cases, the dog may develop pneumonia and for small dogs that may recover from the canine distemper disease will have serious tooth enamel damage.

For diagnosis, there are a series of procedures that can be used to test distemper in dogs and puppies. By using the dog’s urine, a polymerase chain reaction can be used, or a skin biopsies can be conducted to detect traces of the virus in body tissues.

Treatment and prevention — currently, there is no treatment for canine distemper though therapy can be supportive. So as to prevent dehydration intravenous fluids can be administered. All in all the best way to combat this disease is through vaccination. Canine distemper vaccines have been used for a very long time, and also they played a key role in the reduction of the frequency of the disease.

Over the last years, the human measles vaccine was used as a distemper vaccine but due to advancements in technology excellent vaccines have been developed. Unlike the previous set of vaccines, the new set were more effective and had very minimal side effects. We have a piece on questions on canine distemper to give you more insight on this diseases.

Health risks linked with vaccinations

It is a known fact that any medical procedure usually carries some health risks. Though the amount and level of the risk may vary from one dog to another depending on the type of treatment and the response of the body to the treatment. With vaccination being one of the many medical procedures, it also carries with it, some amount of risk though the risk is usually much greater if the dog is not vaccinated.

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Because the health risk may vary from one dog to another, it is highly recommended for every dog owner to consult with the veterinary officer before having the vaccine administered. As a trained professional, the veterinary officer will look at various factors such as age, lifestyle and the risk of exposure to various diseases and then make a decision based on his assessment.

The tests usually conducted to determine as to whether a certain vaccine is necessary, is known to as the titer test. The titer test usually measures the amount of antibodies or disease causing agents present in your dog’s body.

Dog vaccine

From recent cases, very few dogs have shown allergic reactions to vaccines. Despite the fact that allergic reactions to vaccines are very rare, the very few cases reported, have all proven to be fatal. Allergic reactions to vaccines often result in a weaker immune system that can then be followed by disorders of the joints, skins, nervous system and blood. Hence, if you are suspecting that your dog may be having an allergic reaction to any of the vaccines administered, make a point of contacting the veterinary officer as soon as possible.

All in all, reactions to vaccines are very rare, and most of the cases will only include swelling or pain at the injection point. The usual pain or swelling usually appears almost immediately after the shot has been given, though it does not last for a very long time and this should not be an issue of concern.

Our article on  how to properly take care of your pooch is an eye-opener that you must read.

About the author
Wyatt Robinson
Wyatt Robinson

Wyatt Robinson had a great 25-years career as a veterinarian in United Kingdom. He used to be a member of British Veterinary Association and worked in 3 pet hospitals in London and Manchester. He is shining when he sees his pets healthy and full of energy and it is his duty to help other dog owners to keep their best friends full of life.

  • Michelle Drew

    Honestly, in our case our vet discouraged us from getting the non-core vaccines. Since he’s a family friend he knows our lifestyle, and we aren’t exposed to much that can potentially harm the dog so it was discouraged. The main philosophy our clinic goes by is that core vaccines should be given not too soon, but at the right time and supplemented at a routine. Meanwhile non core vaccines can be done without (since they should be boosted annually and that can really pile up on vet fees) if you won’t go hiking or if you have a mainly risk free lifestyle. It’s a good safeguard, yes but if there’s nothing to safe guard from then all’s good.

    • Wyatt Robinson

      On my case, I really encourage pet parents to have their dogs vaccinated because this is the best preventative method that you can get for now. Expensive, yes, but it actually saves a lot of money when evaluated in retrospect.

  • Lorrie Simmons

    My puppy got infected with Parvo, even if she was vaccinated. A trip to the vet and a review our records show this unusual incident. My vet told me that the manufacturer of the vaccine will shoulder the cost of treatments. Has anyone of you have similar experience with vaccine failure?

    • Wyatt Robinson

      Vaccine failure occurs in less than 1% across all vaccinations in dogs and cats. However, it can really be shouldered by the manufacturer but this process is usually tedious and time consuming.

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