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Dog vaccines: What you need to know to protect your puppy

New to puppyhood? Be a responsible dog owner that knows that having a puppy/dog comes with a series of responsibilities. One of the most important ones is getting your new furry family member vaccinated. If you want to make sure that your puppy/dog will live a long, happy, and healthy life, you should stick to the vaccination schedule recommended by your veterinarian. Not all vaccines are necessary, especially if you know that your floof has virtually no chance of getting that particular disease. However, the core vaccines are critical and can prevent life-threatening conditions. But why should you vaccinate your puppy? What dog vaccines are mandatory, and which ones aren’t?

Core dog vaccines

As a dog owner, you should know that puppy vaccination is important for your puppy and dog. The vaccination plan begins at six or eight weeks because puppies whose mother was vaccinated are protected for a short amount of time. Newborn animals (just like human babies) receive maternal antibodies, but these don’t last long. This is called passive immunity, and it can be transmitted through the colostrum (the mother’s first milk) or placenta during gestation. In any case, it is merely temporary, and it usually disappears after the puppy gets to 12 weeks of age. So your new bundle of joy would have at least the first round of vaccinations once you pick him/her up from a REPUTABLE breeder at no earlier than 8 weeks of age.

However, not all vaccines are created equal. Several puppy vaccinations are essential (core) because not getting those vaccinations against these diseases can endanger your new bundle of joy life. And did you know that there are diseases that can be passed on to humans by dogs? One of them is rabies, but there are many others, too. And you can vaccinate your dog against these zoonotic diseases. Here is a list of necessary core vaccines.

Canine distemper virus

Canine distemper is one of the most severe and contagious diseases of dogs, ut not just dogs-it can affect other animals, ranging from raccoons to skunks. It is transmitted through sneezing and contaminated food and water bowls (or wildlife exposure through contaminated water like puddles and lakes). It is hazardous for puppies, especially since they don’t have the body resources that are necessary to put up with the abuse caused by the virus. Clinically, dogs infected with the Canine distemper virus show discharges from the nose and eyes, diarrhea, vomiting, twitching, seizures, paralysis, and even death. To date, there is no treatment for this disease. That is what makes the vaccine even more essential.

Canine parvovirus

Parvovirus is very contagious, too, and while it does affect dogs of all ages, it is especially deadly in puppies. All dogs younger than four months are at a higher risk of developing a more severe form. This virus attacks the digestive tract. Clinically, dogs infected with parvovirus show vomiting, profuse and bloody diarrhea, fever, and lethargy. Most dogs die because they get severely dehydrated since they lose so many body fluids and have no time to replenish them.

As is the case with Canine distemper, this disease also has no specific treatment. Repeated vaccination guarantees immunity against it.

Canine adenovirus-2

Canine adenovirus-2 causes infectious hepatitis, a viral disease that affects the kidneys, liver, lungs, spleen, and even the dog’s eyes. Even though the virus has nothing in common with the same pathogen that causes hepatitis in humans, some of the symptoms are similar. A dog with infectious hepatitis will show vomiting, jaundice, pain around the liver, and an extended abdomen, in general. To date, there is no treatment available, so once again, the vaccine can prevent this potentially deadly condition.

Rabies virus

Rabies needs no introduction. Most people know that it is zoonotic, meaning that it can be transmitted from animals to humans. While the chances of your dog catching rabies from another pooch or even a wild animal nowadays are very slim, you could still run into problems if you choose to skip this vaccination. If you want to avoid any legal problems, in case your dog ends up biting someone, you should vaccinate your dog against rabies.

Optional vaccinations

Not every dog has to be vaccinated against every disease that exists. Some canine vaccinations can be administered depending on a set of factors, such as the dog’s age, medical history, travel habits, lifestyle, or the environment where they live. For example, if you ever want to travel and you’re looking to take your furry family member to a boarding facility, you should make sure that your dog is vaccinated against bordetella (kennel cough).

Here is a list of optional vaccines. It doesn’t hurt to consider them, even if you think that your dog has little to no chance of being exposed to any of the pathogens.

👉Leptospira species (anual)

👉Lyme disease (anual)

👉Bordetella bronchiseptica aka Kennel cough (anual)

👉Canine parainfluenza

👉Canine infuenza

👉Canine Coronavirus 

While these infections can, of course, affect your dog, some of them are even dangerous for humans. Leptospirosis, which is most often transmitted from infected wildlife to dogs via urine-contaminated soil and or water, is a somewhat rare bacterial infection that can be transmitted from animals to humans. In humans, it causes coughing, chills, fever, headaches, diarrhea, jaundice, rashes, and irritated eyes. Severe leptospirosis can lead to renal and hepatic failure, but also meningitis. As you can see, while the vaccination against this disease in dogs is optional, it doesn’t hurt to consider it if you are a fan of hiking, camping, hunting, often taking your dog to the cottage or living in a rural community or on a homestead/farm.

Canine Coronavirus is very different than the novel Coronavirus which causes COVID-19, a respiratory infection that can be fatal for humans. Canine Coronavirus or CCoV is a highly-infections intestinal infection that’s especially dangerous for puppies.

Puppy shot schedule

First vaccination  6 to 8 weeks -DHP

Second vaccination: 9 to 11 weeks -DHP

Third vaccination: 12 to 15 weeks -DHP

Fourth vaccination: 16 to 20 weeks - Rabies (with a booster 12 months later, then a booster every 1-3 years)

These vaccinations are annual with recommended vaccination starting at 8-12 weeks. Recommended for social dogs (day camp, dog parks, boarding, grooming, dog shows) - Bordetella, Parainfluenza, and Canine Influenza

These vaccinations are annual with recommended vaccination starting at 6 months of age or older. May be recommended by your veterinarian if you live in or travel with your dog to an area where these are endemic - Lyme and Leptospirosis

Side effects of vaccines

Now that we have established that some vaccines are necessary to prevent potentially deadly diseases let’s look at what adverse reactions they could cause. Most dogs experience light fever over the first 24 to 48 hours following the shot, but this happens in humans, too, so it is a common side effect.

Some dogs are allergic to the ingredients in the vaccine, but it’s almost impossible to know whether your canine family member will have this problem unless you have tested him for a variety of allergens. Here are some most common side effects after vaccination:

👉Sluggishness and lethargy

👉Vomiting or diarrhea

👉Loss of appetite

👉Swelling or pain around the injection site

The following adverse reactions are rare but life-threatening:

👉Facial or paw swelling (allergic reaction)



‼️Most mild symptoms go away naturally in less than two days. If you think that your dog might be suffering from a more severe reaction, get in touch with your veterinarian as soon as possible‼️

👉Dangerous substances in vaccines👈

Vaccines have done wonders for animals and humans alike, and they have helped prevent dangerous or deadly diseases over time. However, not all vaccines are great, especially in terms of their ingredients. I’ve already mentioned swelling at the injection site as a side effect, and this can happen both because of the way the shot was performed but also because of some substances in the vaccine itself.

The most dangerous substances that some vaccines contain are thimerosal, aluminum, formaldehyde, and mercury. Thimerosal is neurotoxic, and aluminum is a carcinogenic substance. These ingredients have serious side effects, some of which might not be visible right after the vaccination, but they can affect the dog’s health in the long run. It would be a good idea to talk with your vet and tell them your concerns so that they can choose an appropriate and safe vaccine.

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