Keeping Your Dog Happy And Healthy

Vaccines to keep your dog healthy

Vaccines have saved the lives of millions and are the best way to prepare your pet’s immune system to stop disease when the “real” infection strikes.

Dog owners need to know about a number of infectious diseases that can be prevented with vaccines. These diseases fall into five general categories:

  • Gastrointestinal disease
  • Infectious diseases of the kidney and liver
  • Tick-borne disease
  • Respiratory disease
  • Nervous system disease

Is your canine pet at risk?

There are many ways for your dog to be exposed to these diseases. Even dogs that appear healthy can spread viruses and bacteria. You could unknowingly carry disease-causing organisms to your pet on your hands, clothing or shoes.

Your veterinarian will recommend a vaccine program that takes into consideration the health of your pet, where you live and your dog’s lifestyle.

Preventing canine infectious diseases

Gastrointestinal disease

Parvovirus (CPV)

This highly contagious and debilitating virus attacks the intestines causing high fever, depression, profuse diarrhea, vomiting and severe abdominal pain. Dogs often die from severe dehydration, despite intensive veterinary care.  It is not necessary to have direct contact with other dogs for the disease to be spread. It is a very hardy virus that can survive in the environment for months or years.

Canine parvovirus is a disease that affects dogs of all ages, but is more serious in young puppies.

Coronavirus (CCV)

This virus causes serious disease leading to death when it strikes in tandem with parvovirus.  Signs may include depression, anorexia, vomiting and diarrhea.

Puppies are particularly susceptible to severe symptoms.

Infectious diseases of the liver and kidneys

Leptospirosis (Lepto)

This is a deadly bacterial disease that is shed in the urine of infected animals. Carriers typically include livestock, raccoons, skunks, opossums, squirrels and rats.

Infection occurs when dogs wade through or drink from contaminated water sources. Urban dogs are even at risk in their own backyards and neighborhoods when they sniff damp grass where bacteria have been deposited by urban wildlife. The bacteria enter through a cut in the skin or in the mucous membranes, such as their eyes, nose or mouth.

Leptospirosis is highly contagious and can also be passed to humans, who may then suffer a persistent “flu-like” illness.

While many organs may be infected by the bacteria, the liver and/or kidneys are most frequently affected.  It is important to take your dog to the veterinarian as soon as possible if your pet appears ill.

Because carriers of leptospirosis reside in many locations, dogs living in urban, suburban and rural areas are at risk. If the disease has been diagnosed in your area, your canine companion should receive an annual leptospirosis booster to provide maximum protection.

Hepatitis (H or CAV)

Canine hepatitis is a viral disease that primarily affects the liver, is extremely contagious and often fatal.  During its acute phase, hepatitis is spread between dogs by contact with urine, feces and other secretions.

The result from exposure can range from mild infection to death. Vaccines continue to be the most effective means of protection. Dogs of any age are at risk.

Tick-borne disease

Lyme Disease

The bacteria which causes Lyme disease in dogs and humans is carried by a specific tick species. Infected ticks, as small as the head of a pin, may inhabit lawns and gardens, as well as fields and forests. Lyme disease can be difficult to diagnose because of the long incubation period and the vague, arthritic, flu-like symptoms. As the disease progresses, Lyme-causing bacteria damage many different organs including the liver, heart, nervous system and kidneys.

Canine Lyme disease is a growing concern, because the disease is increasing in incidence and expanding geographically. Assessing your dog’s risk of exposure is a combination of where you live, as well as your dog’s lifestyle and overall health.

Respiratory diseases

Adenovirus type 2 (CAV2)
Parainfluenza (CPi)
Bordetella bronchiseptica (Bb)

Several types of bacteria and viruses are known to cause infection and inflammation of the lungs and respiratory passages of dogs. The most prevalent are adenovirus type 2, parainfluenza and Bordetella bronchiseptica.

Symptoms may include a harsh, dry, hacking cough that can persist for weeks and is distressing for dogs and their owners.

Bordetella bronchiseptica is highly contagious to other pets and can also be spread to people.

Dogs exposed to high population situations such as daycare, shelters, breeding facilities, boarding or the show circuit are at increased risk because these environments increase both stress and exposure to disease.

Neurologic diseases

Rabies (R)

Rabies is a fatal viral disease of mammals including cats, dogs, livestock, wildlife and humans.

Symptoms of rabies may include foaming at the mouth, seizures and eventually results in death.

As rabies is a major human health concern, it is extremely important that your pet be vaccinated for it and in fact, in many provinces rabies vaccine is required by law.

Distemper (D)

Nearly every dog will be exposed to distemper in its lifetime. In its final stages, distemper may cause convulsions and death.

Vaccination against distemper virus is essential for all dogs.

When should your dog be vaccinated?

Puppies should be taken to the veterinarian for their initial course of 2 – 3 sets of vaccinations starting between 6 and 8 weeks of age.

Protective immune responses decline over time, so the vaccines your puppy receives will not protect your dog for the rest of its life.  As immunity weakens over time, your pet can again become susceptible to disease.

Some researchers are suggesting certain vaccines may protect animals for periods longer than one year, but this is not true for all vaccines and the scientific evidence remains inconclusive.

Your veterinarian will do an assessment of lifestyle and/or risk factors to determine your pet’s vaccination needs. This ensures that your canine companion only receives necessary vaccines.

For maximum protection, follow your veterinarian’s advice and make sure that your dog receives an annual wellness examination along with the required booster vaccines.

Post-vaccination Care

The great majority of pets respond well to vaccines and serious side effects are very rare.

Much like people experience after a tetanus or flu shot, your dog may develop a low-grade fever, lethargy or decreased appetite for a day or two.  Some may have slight swelling or tenderness around the injection site. These are part of a normal immune response and are usually short-lived, requiring no treatment.

If your dog experiences more severe symptoms of distress, or the above symptoms persist beyond 24 hours, please contact your veterinarian immediately.

Related Article

Leptospirosis Vaccination Guide Read Now

Lyme Disease Vaccination Guide Read Now

Keeping Your Cat Healthy Read Now

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