All About Puppy Vaccinations Why should I get my puppy vaccinated? Your puppy is an object of love and source of joy for all the family. You’d definitely want to keep it safe from disease. But you may have questions about vaccinations. Surely your puppy isn’t at risk in your clean, safe home? Unfortunately, however much you protect your pet, you can’t keep it safe from the risk of disease without vaccinations. Veterinarians agree that if your puppy isn’t vaccinated, it risks developing a number of severe and possibly fatal diseases. Vaccination is the only safe way to provide immunity against these diseases. Be sure to get your puppy the vaccinations it needs. This article gives you the key information about puppy vaccinations and shows which ones to get and when. What’s the first vaccination I should get my puppy? The first vaccination your puppy needs is called DHPP. This is a combination shot of four different vaccines that protects against four specific viruses - Distemper, Hepatitis, Para-influenza, and Parvovirus. Distemper is a respiratory disease which can also affect the central nervous system. If left untreated, distemper can lead to encephalitis, epilepsy, and chorea (muscle spasms). Encephalitis can cause seizures, blindness, behavior changes, depression and circling. It can also cause imbalance, head tilt, tremors and facial paralysis. Hepatitis is a systemic infection of the liver which can be fatal. Para-influenza, like distemper, is a respiratory infection and exhibits symptoms such as nasal discharge and a harsh cough. Finally, Parvovirus is the most serious of these four diseases. It affects the intestinal tract, resulting in severe vomiting and diarrhea. Parvovirus is also extremely contagious and can kill your puppy. But parvovirus can be easily prevented with the proper vaccinations. Puppies who do not receive the proper vaccinations are highly susceptible to all four of these viruses. The DHPP shot needs to be first given at 6-7 weeks of age. This is the time when most puppies are weaned and lose the protection of the antiviruses in their mother’s milk. The course of shots can be started a week or so later - ask your veterinarian. Booster shots should be given every three weeks until the puppy is 16 weeks old. Ideally, your puppy should get at least two booster shots between the ages of 6-16 weeks to help build enough antibodies to resist the DHPP viruses. This time frame is regarded by veterinarians as critical for your puppy to develop its own immunity. One shot should be given at 9-10 weeks and another at 12-13 weeks. Following its final DHPP shot at 16 weeks, your puppy should receive its first adult DHPP vaccination one
year later. Finally, after this first adult shot, veterinarians recommend vaccinating your dog every three years for DHPP. Deworming The Centers for Disease Control, together with the American Association of Veterinary Parasitologists, suggest routine and repeated deworming of all puppies to help prevent the spread of internal parasites from our pets to our families. This is true even if the bowel movements look normal and no worms are seen. These parasites can cause vision impairment, skin rashes, abdominal pain and possibly birth defects to the unborn babies of exposed pregnant women. A pet used for breeding should be dewormed before and after the pregnancy. Along with its DHPP shots your puppy should be dewormed at 6-7weeks and at 9-10 weeks. Finally, at 12-13 weeks, your puppy should have a fecal exam from a veterinarian. Adult pets should be given deworming medications at least 4 times a year. Bordetella Infectious trachea-bronchitis or canine cough is an infection of trachea (windpipe) and bronchi and is caused by one or more of bordetella bacteria, para-influenza virus, and adenovirus type 2. Bordetella is a highly contagious infection spread much like the common cold and is prevalent in kennels. Clinical signs include a continual gagging cough, swelling in the neck, and fever which, if left untreated, can lead to pneumonia. Veterinarians recommend annual vaccination for canine cough for any dog who will be kenneled, groomed, or hospitalized for any length of time. The first vaccination can be given at 12-13 weeks. Thereafter annual boosters are advised. Spay or Neuter surgery Unless you own a purebred puppy for breeding, you are recommended to have it spayed or neutered to prevent the birth of unwanted litters. Spaying or neutering may also improve the behavior and longevity of your pet. Spaying a female dog involves surgical removal of the uterus and ovaries. It reduces the risk of uterine infection, reproductive tumors, false pregnancies, and conditions related to hormone imbalances. Neutering a male dog involves surgical removal of the testicles. It reduces the risk of some types of reproductive tumors and prostate diseases. Spaying or neutering usually follows a 5-step procedure: 1. A pre-anesthesia blood test. This alerts your veterinarian to the presence of any abnormalities in a puppy that might otherwise appear to be healthy. 2. Pre-anesthesia medication
3. Administration of IV catheter and support fluids. Having IV catheter and fluid support during surgery helps maintain your puppy’s organ functions and also allows your veterinarian to administer any necessary medications 4. Post-operative anti-inflammatory medication for pain prevention 5. Overnight stay for monitoring. It’s very important for your puppy to remain as inactive as possible overnight. An overnight stay provides a calm and quiet environment for recovery. Your veterinarian will examine your puppy first thing next morning to ensure it is comfortable and any pain is relieved. Veterinarians will carry out spaying/neutering from 4 months of age. If you have any questions or concerns regarding this procedure, don’t hesitate to discuss them with your veterinarian. Rabies Rabies is a serious almost always fatal disease of the muscles and brain. It is transmittable to all land mammals, including humans, through bite wounds from infected animals. The most common carriers and transmitters of rabies are bats, raccoons, skunks and foxes. Vaccination is usually administered on your puppy's last office visit at or around the age of 16 weeks. Rabies vaccinations are effective for between 1-3 years depending on the vaccine used by the veterinarian. Puppies which have not been previously vaccinated against rabies need to be given a shot once, followed one year later by a booster. The law about rabies vaccinations varies from state to state. In California all imported puppies older than 4 months must be vaccinated against rabies prior to entry. A certified health certificate is not required for entry, although puppies must be in good health. Check with your local city or county animal control agency for licensing and vaccination requirements. Canine Heartworm Disease Canine heartworm disease, known scientifically as dirofilariasis, is a serious disease that is potentially fatal to your puppy. Veterinarians consider it the number one infectious health threat among puppies. Heartworms are transmitted by mosquitoes during warm weather. Large white worms, ranging in length from 6 to 14 inches, migrate into the right side of a dog's heart and adjacent blood vessels. The worms cause congestion and impede the flow of blood and can eventually lead to death. Heartworm disease is treatable if diagnosed in time, but the treatment can be very expensive. The disease is easily prevented using any one of a number of heartworm preventatives available from veterinarians.
Testing for Canine Heartworm Disease A puppy should be tested for heartworm disease at age 6 months. Even so, puppies under seven months of age can be started on heartworm preventives without first being tested. The reason is that it can take up to six and one half months after being bitten by infected mosquitoes before a puppy will test positive. The puppy should be tested four to seven months after starting heartworm preventive to detect any infection acquired during the first few months of life. The most commonly used test is an antigen test, which requires a blood sample. Your veterinarian will advise on the right testing schedule for your puppy, perhaps monthly. The American Heartworm Society states that every dog should be tested annually and receive a monthly preventative shot June through November. Flea and tick treatment External parasites commonly affect puppies. These parasites live off your puppy’s blood, skin and fur. The most common external parasites that might affect your puppy are fleas, ticks, mites and lice. All of these cause reactions such as itching and inflamed skin, a dull coat, and bald spots, and in bad cases anemia. In addition, many parasites convey other parasites such as tapeworm. Ticks can cause serious problems like Lyme’s disease. Fleas are the most common external parasite affecting puppies. A puppy with a flea infestation will scratch almost constantly, often at the ears, the base of the tail, the belly, and the stifle (the webbing of soft skin between the thigh and the abdomen). The puppy may thus develop areas of sore, inflamed, flaking, bleeding, and infected skin. Fleas on your puppy can be detected from what looks like ground pepper on the skin. If you groom the puppy with a flea comb red blotches may show up when you wipe it on a paper towel. Your veterinarian can prescribe a broad-spectrum treatment to kill the fleas on your puppy and in your home (including outside). Off-the-shelf treatments are not recommended because different puppies require different strengths depending on their size, age and activity level. Also veterinarians no longer recommend flea collars as they are highly toxic. Most prescribed flea treatments are also designed to prevent other parasites such as mites, tics and heartworm. Intestinal parasites Intestinal parasites, as the name suggests, are worms that live in the intestines of dogs. Your puppy may have intestinal parasites without you knowing. These parasites rob your pet of essential nutrients. The most common intestinal parasites are roundworms, tapeworms, hookworms, and whipworms. The eggs of these worms, and even adult worms, are excreted in your
puppy’s stool. The worms and eggs can then be ingested by other animals and can even be transmitted to humans. Some eggs have been shown to live for up to 20 years. Transmission of worms can be prevented by picking up your pet's stool every day. Intestinal parasites are invisible to the naked eye. The best way to detect them is to have your pet’s stool examined under a microscope. Veterinarians recommend testing all puppies twice during their scheduled visits. It is best to collect a fresh sample of your puppy’ s stool and take it along. Testing should take place annually during your dog’s adult life. Boosters There has recently been discussion in the media about whether annual vaccinations are really necessary. It’s true that some vaccinations last for 3 years. But others last for only one year, leaving your pet vulnerable. The yearly booster is also an opportunity for you to have the veterinary surgeon fully examine your pet and discuss with you any concerns or problems you may have. Conclusion The risks to your puppy’s health, and the signs of infestation by parasites, may not always be apparent but they are a real and significant threat to your puppy and sometimes to your family’s health as well. As a responsible owner you need to be vigilant and seek veterinary advice from the first 6 to 8 weeks of your puppy’s life. Most diseases and infestations affecting puppies can be easily prevented or cured, while some, if left untreated, can kill. A scheduled program of vaccinations and booster shots can do much to ensure your puppy lives a long and healthy life. It can also save you considerable expense. Further advice can be obtained from organizations such as the American Animal Hospital Association or any veterinarian. By Michael Collins