Why Do I Need to Vaccinate my Puppy?

Why do I need to vaccinate my new puppy?

With all the controversy surrounding vaccines today, you might ask yourself – does my puppy and/or dog even need to be vaccinated?

The plain and simple answer is a strong YES. Nothing is more heartbreaking then seeing a puppy die from a horrible, yet 100% preventable disease like parvo virus.

We currently recommend puppies to be vaccinated every 3-4 weeks until they are 16 weeks of age. Why? Well puppies receive immunity or protection from their mother in the form of maternal antibodies. These maternal antibodies are stronger than any vaccination we give (moms= amazing!). Unfortunately they start to drop in numbers anywhere from 9-16 weeks. Once these maternal antibodies start dropping then the puppy becomes the most vulnerable to disease. Since there is such a variance in the time when they start to decline, we do a series of vaccines to make sure every puppy is protected as soon as their maternal antibodies start to decline.

So what happens if you have a puppy that is older than 16 weeks or an adult dog that has never been vaccinated? Our current recommendation is 2 vaccines 3-4 weeks apart. A good percentage of dogs will produce enough antibodies from the first vaccine to be protected but to make sure 100% of all dogs have produced enough antibodies to protect themselves we always give a booster.

Once your puppy or dog has its first set of vaccines finished, then most of our vaccines start to go on a 3 year rotation from there.

So we have covered the schedule for vaccines… but what do we even vaccinate puppies for?

Well there are core and non-core vaccines. Core vaccines are recommended for every dog, while non-core vaccines are offered based on their individual risk.

Here are the core vaccines:

Canine Distemper: A highly contagious virus that causes signs such as fever, anorexia, diarrhea, eye & nasal discharge, skin disease and even seizures. Our vaccines works so well for this virus that we rarely see an outbreak of this disease, however, I had the opportunity to do some veterinary work in Nunavut, where the dogs have little to no access to veterinary care. They see distemper outbreaks in their sled dogs every couple of years. Most of the affected dogs don`t recover or remain with lifelong sequelae.

Canine Adenovirus: There are two types of Adenovirus` in dogs. One cause’s serious liver disease but fortunately due to the use of the vaccine, it is pretty rare to see this virus anymore in dogs. We still see the second type that causes cold-like symptoms. Just one vaccine does both types

Canine Parainfluenza: Just like humans, pigs, chickens, etc. dogs have their own form of influenza virus. It causes upper respiratory infections that are generally self-limiting.

Canine Parvovirus: This is a potentially deadly virus that causes severe bloody diarrhea and vomiting. Puppies 6 weeks to 6 months are the most vulnerable to this disease, although a dog of any age can be affected. This virus is still very much prevalent in our area and all over North America. I recently saw a case in a 12 week old puppy who had not been vaccinated. The puppy was most likely exposed at a local dog park.

Rabies: Most people are familiar with this disease. In Canada, skunks, foxes, raccoons and bats pose an ongoing risk of rabies. Most municipalities have bylaws requiring rabies vaccination in cats and dogs. The last recorded rabies case in NB was in November 2013.
There are a few non-core vaccines as well.

Canine Leptospirosis (`Lepto`): This is a disease caused by a bacteria that can affect both animals and people. It causes serious kidney and liver damage that can be potentially fatal. Your dog can acquire the disease by drinking from puddles, ditches, streams, etc. For this reason we recommend this vaccine for any active dog that spends even a little time outside in parks, going for hikes, etc .

Bordetella or `Kennel Cough`: Bordetella bronchiseptica causes a severe cough, depression and fever. It is highly contagious and we recommend it for most dogs but especially for those dogs that go to the dog parks, stay in a kennel, etc.

Lyme Vaccine: This vaccine is currently only recommended for dogs that have a high exposure to ticks- such as hunting dogs. Lyme disease is spread via ticks and in dogs causes fever, swollen joints, lethargy and anorexia.

Remember: Your veterinarian is your best source of accurate information on the vaccinations needed in your area!