Vaccination for Dogs

Vaccination for Dogs


Vaccination has been a hot topic in human health recently and the debate is not new to the veterinary world either.  Some pet parents are concerned that their pets will experience dangerous side effects from the vaccines or that the vaccines may carry ingredients that will make their dogs sick.  While there has been some evidence that the carriers in vaccines can cause tumors at the injection site, the benefits of vaccination far outweigh the risks.  Vaccinations protect your dog from dangerous, painful and often deadly diseases.  When the dog’s body is introduced to a small amount of dead or weakened antigen, it trains the dog’s body to produce antibodies.  These antibodies are specific to various diseases so if the dog comes in contact with that type of antigen again, it is prepared to fight it off, giving your dog its best chance for optimal health.


The traditional canine vaccine that most veterinarians recommend is a “core” mixed vaccine that protects dog from distemper, parvovirus and hepatitis.  All dogs are legally required to be vaccinated for rabies, since it is a dangerous disease that affects people as well.  Additional optional vaccines include adenovirus-2, parainfluenza, bordetella, leptospirosis, coronavirus and lyme disease but they are typically only recommended for dogs that live in highly susceptible areas.



Highly contagious and deadly, the distemper virus has fortunately been controlled very well by responsible vaccination practices.  This virus causes lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, fever and becomes fatal very quickly.



Similar to distemper, this disease is extremely hardy and can live for 6 months to a year outside the host.  Common symptoms to look out for include lethargy, not eating, acute onset diarrhea, vomiting, high fever, neutropenia, and the ‘parvo smell’.  Your vet can do an in-house blood test to diagnose parvo.  Because this virus tends to affect puppies, it is a good idea to vaccinate puppies at an early age of about 5 weeks.


Hepatitis (Adenovirus 1)

Adenovirus 1 affects the liver and internal organs, while Adenovirus 2 tends to be more respiratory.  Initial symptoms can include fever, GI upset and abdominal pain and swelling.  Severe cases show signs of central nervous system problems, collapse of blood vessels and even death.


Adenovirus 2

This respiratory disease causes a terrible cough that can lead to retching and coughing up foamy discharge.  Conjunctivitis is also common in dogs with Adenovirus 2.



Rabies is a virus that can be transmitted to any mammal, including humans.  A bite from an infected animal deposits the virus into the bloodstream.  The brain and central nervous system are the main areas affected by rabies.  Symptoms include confusion, disorientation, erratic behavior (like nocturnal animals wondering about in the daytime), headache, fever, discomfort and production of frothy drool.  While the disease can potentially lay dormant for many months, once these advanced symptoms occur the animal typically only lives for a few days.



Also known as canine influenza, it is another respiratory virus.  Parainfluenza is highly contagious and is a major concern for areas where many dogs come together such as greyhound racetracks.  One of the major symptoms is a cough so it is commonly mistake for Kennel Cough (Bordetella), but additional symptoms include difficulty breathing, runny nose, runny eyes, lethargy and can turn into pneumonia.



This bacterial respiratory infection is best known for causing a persistent cough.  The bacteria is airborne and vaccines are recommended for dogs that spend time around other dogs such as in boarding facilities.



This bacteria is commonly found in standing water of infected areas and is passed through urine.  When spending time outside it is a good idea not to let your dog drink from puddles.  Symptoms include fever, loss of appetite, GI upset and lethargy.  Severe cases can develop jaundice and dogs that have had the disease can shed it for up to a year.



Coronavirus causes diarrhea, but it is only found in some areas so it is best to talk to your vet about whether this vaccine is necessary.


Lyme Disease

Spread by the bite of infected ticks, this bacteria causes arthritis, swollen joints, high fever, lethargy and kidney disease.  Symptoms usually do not show up for a few months after the dog has been infected.


Puppies receive antibodies from their mother’s milk which protect them as babies.  As the puppies grow and they stop nursing, these maternal antibodies will wear off.  It is important to wait until the puppies are at least 6 weeks old before you give their first core vaccines, otherwise the maternal antibodies will address the vaccine antigen and the puppy’s immune system will not learn to develop their own antibodies.  Boosters should be given at 9 weeks and then rabies vaccines are given at 12 weeks.  It is a good idea to booster the core vaccines again at 12 – 15 weeks.  Adult dogs typically only need to receive booster vaccines every 3 years, but rabies laws vary from state to state.  Talk to your vet about their recommendations for vaccine schedules because every vet has their own recommendations based on the prevalence of disease in your area.  In some cases, senior dogs who have received vaccines their whole life may have developed a strong immune system and vaccine schedules can be backed off in their geriatric years.






Dynamics of a morbillivirus at the domestic-wildlife interface: canine distemper virus in domestic dogs and lions.


First trials of oral vaccination with rabies SAG2 dog baits in Morocco.


Sylvatic rabies epidemic in Italy: implementation of a data management system to assess the level of application of preventative dog vaccination.


Neutralizing antibody response in dogs and cats inoculated with commercial inactivated rabies vaccines.


Humoral immune response in dogs and cats vaccinated against rabies in southeastern Brazil.


A new rabies vaccine based on a recombinant orf virus (parapoxvirus) expressing the rabies virus glycoprotein.