Disclaimer: I will be writing this series based on my years in the veterinary industry, and from my experience as an Registered Veterinary Technician. I am NOT a veterinarian, nor should any of my writings or advice be used in place of a veterinarian. Please contact your local veterinarian as every clinic and hospital and veterinarian does things different. It’s always good to do a second point of view, but the ‘Internet’ and ‘Dr. Google’ is not a replacement for your veterinarian. If you find something on the Internet that you feel is pertinent to your pet, it is always good to check your sources and above all, CHECK WITH YOUR OWN VETERINARIAN. This series is meant to be educational to teach folks more about their pets veterinary needs, but always check with your vet before starting or changing any form of treatment. Thanks!
Vaccines… Are they Really Necessary? Part One
This is a very common question that I hear from clients. Some are concerned about pumping chemicals into their pet, while others are financially limited. Some vaccines are referred to as ‘core’ vaccines, meaning they are important for all pets regardless of lifestyle. Others will depend on their lifestyle and risk of exposure.
A lot of vaccine information can be obtained from your vet, and there are a lot of websites that can tell you more detailed information, such as pets.webmd.com, or peteducation.com. However always check with your veterinarian. So I will just be going over the basics and explain why they are important. These are the vaccines that I use in my region, which is the Western United States.
DAPP – A Core vaccine that is recommended for all dogs, regardless of lifestyle. It stands for Distemper, Adeno-virus, Parainfluenza, and Parvovirus. Some clinics give DHPP, which is same thing. Also some vaccines will be labeled DALPP or DAPP-C. In this case “L” stands for Leptosporosis, and “C” stands for Coronavirus, we’ll get to them later.
All the viruses in the DAPP vaccine, are really nasty viruses… seriously… Some of them are transmitted through infected stool or other bodily fluids, while others are airborne. And like all viruses, once they present themselves, most of the time all you can do is hospitalize the pet and give supportive care. Supportive care involves IV fluids, medical injections to control the symptoms. It’s a long, tedious process. And these pets are also contagious, so they need to be isolated. So now pet owners are going to have to go to a 24/7 hospital and pay for hospitalization, and all the other supportive care… for at least a few days; which I guarantee will be a very expensive vet bill totally in the thousands. And there is a slim chance the puppy won’t make it anyway.
Best way to prevent your puppy from getting these is to isolate your pet from any contact with environments where there are other dogs or even where other dogs have been. Parvovirus can exist outside the host for an ENTIRE YEAR, also any dog that survives Parvovirus will shed it in its stool for an ENTIRE YEAR. So all you have to do is walk your puppy through these areas and the virus gets on their paws and soon they lick themselves and suddenly they are infected.
This vaccine should be given to puppies at 6-8 weeks, and then repeated every 3-4 weeks until the pet receives at least two more boosters. Adult dogs should receive it every 1-3 years.
Now some breeders will give the first vaccine as early as 4-6 weeks, which is a gray area depending on who you talk to. Remember the puppy gets antibodies from the mom through nursing, but those antibodies will only last for so long. Usually around 8-12 weeks of age is when the maternal immunity wears off. Which is why most vet hospitals will recommend at least 1-2 more boosters until the puppy is at least 16 weeks of age to ensure full protection. So if you buy a puppy at 8 weeks and the person says they have had all their shots; you still need to take it to the vet.
And just because they’ve gotten their first or second booster does not mean they are fully protected. The vaccine causes a mild immune response in the body so antibodies can form. However, it’s such a small level that if the puppy is exposed to the virus, they can easily be overcome by the virus and the puppy gets sick anyway. I have seen a few cases where a young puppy, despite receiving vaccines still get sick with Distemper or Parvovirus. So, in between vaccines, it still is recommended that you isolate the pet until they are fully vaccinated.
So is it necessary? Unless you want a vet bills that is in the thousands, it’s better to splurge the $20-30 each time to make sure your puppy is protected. Even with your adult dog, failing to vaccinate will eventually leave them vulnerable to these viruses.
Bordetella – Also a Core vaccine recommended for all dogs, regardless of lifestyle. Vaccinates for Bordetella Bronseptica aka Kennel Cough. Transmitted through nasal secretions and airborne. It’s basically an upper respiratory infection. Relatively easy to treat with antibiotics, but with all the coughing, the dog will need to be isolated at home. It can develop into a more serious form, but usually can be treated by your vet.
Very commonly transmitted in shelters, kennels, doggy daycare, dog parks, basically anywhere your dog can be exposed to other dogs. It is highly contagious, so again any puppies should be isolated until they are vaccinated. Most of the time it’s given either via Intra-nasal drops, or Injectable form. Usually good for a year, but some boarding facilities or doggy day care will require it to be boosted every 6 months.
So it is necessary? Even if your pet doesn’t have contact with other dogs, considering it’s highly contagious, it’s better to splurge the $20 just to be on the safe side.
Rabies – A core vaccine… and I really don’t think I need to argue that this is necessary, since this vaccine is required by law.
While films like Cujo or Old Yeller can give you a stylized idea of what happens; it’s not too far from the truth. I will go into what happens if a pet is NOT vaccinated for rabies in another article.
So is it necessary? You really have to ask?
Leptosporosis – This is NOT a core vaccine, and is limited by a pet’s risk of exposure. Lepto is usually spread though the infected urine of wild animals, so deer, raccoons, rats, skunks, etc… Lepto IS treatable, but can really mess up the liver and kidneys if not caught in time. Boosted once in 3-4 weeks and every year.
So is it necessary? If your pet is going to be hiking or camping or anywhere where there is wildlife, it’s probably a good idea to ask your vet.
Lyme – Also not a core vaccine and is limited by exposure. Transmitted through tick bites, and while it is treatable can mess up the kidneys. So it’s highly recommended again with hiking/camping or anywhere your pet can pick up ticks.
So is it necessary? Again if your pet will be going anywhere where they can get ticks, it’s a good idea to get this along with Lepto. Besides your pet should already be on a flea and tick prevention product like Frontline or Revolution.
Coronavirus – Not usually a core vaccine, but this one varies on location. It’s similar to Parvovirus, and is transmitted through infected stool. It’s nasty and also requires hospitalization to isolate the pet and give supportive care. But this will vary by location. I learned about this is school, however, I have not seen any hospital that I’ve worked for use it. However I know it is given elsewhere.
So is it necessary? – Depends on your location. If your vet recommends it, I would listen and get it to be safe.
So concludes my first article for VTV. I will cover Cat vaccines in my next one. Please leave a comment as to how you liked this, and how I can improve it.