Dog Vaccinations

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Dog vaccinations against certain diseases can protect your pet and other animals that come in to contact with your dog. When you get a puppy, your veterinarian will most likely recommend a series of three sets of vaccinations, generally given at four-week intervals starting at eight weeks of age.


The first dog vaccination will probably be referred to as “distemper” and is usually a combination shot that protects your dog against distemper, hepatitis, parainfluenza, leptospirosis, and coronavirus. The distemper combination vaccine is given annually after the first series.

  • Distemper is a highly contagious disease caused by a virus similar to measles in humans. It can affect dogs of all ages but is most often seen in unvaccinated puppies. It affects the gastrointestinal, respiratory, and nervous systems. Symptoms include cough, nasal and eye discharge, lethargy, vomiting, and diarrhea. In advanced stages, dogs may show neurological problems such as lack of coordination, weakness, and seizures. Treatment includes fluids and antibiotics. In about half of the cases, distemper is fatal.
  • Hepatitis affects the liver, pancreas, kidneys, and lining of blood vessels. It causes fever, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and lethargy. Treatment includes administration of fluids and antibiotics, but in serious cases a blood transfusion may be necessary. The severity of the disease varies, but young puppies often die from hepatitis.
  • Parainfluenza is caused by a virus and is mild in comparison with other infectious diseases. Symptoms include sneezing, discharge from the eyes and nose, and coughing. Treatment varies; in many cases, no treatment is required.
  • Leptospirosis is transmitted by contact with water contaminated with infected urine. This disease affects the urinary tract, kidneys, and liver. Symptoms include vomiting, lethargy, and abdominal pain. In advanced stages of the disease, dogs may become very thirsty and have a low temperature. Treatment includes antibiotics and fluid therapy.Be aware that some dogs are allergic to the leptospirosis vaccine, so check with your veterinarian if you have questions or concerns. Often the leptospirosis vaccine is not part of puppy shots and will be administered annually starting the next year your dog is due for vaccination.
  • Coronavirus causes inflammation of the intestines and diarrhea. This disease most often affects puppies. Symptoms include decreased appetite, orange or yellow diarrhea, lethargy, and fever. Treatment includes fluid administration and antibiotics. Prognosis is usually good.

Kennel Cough Dog Vaccination

At your second visit (or at age 12 weeks), your dog will probably receive a vaccination for Bordetella Bronchiseptica, which is most often referred to asKennel Cough. This highly infectious disease is usually transmitted when many dogs are together, such as in boarding facilities, doggy day care, and dog parks.

If your dog becomes infected, you will notice a dry cough. Infected dogs are usually treated with antibiotics. This vaccine comes in both intranasal and indictable form. The intranasal form is dribbled into your dog’s nostrils. Your dog may need a booster of the Bordetella vaccination at his 16-week visit and annually afterwards.

Even though most places that take in multiple dogs require immunization to Bordetella, no vaccine is 100% effective, so your dog may still catch this disease.

Rabies Dog Vaccination

At 16 weeks of age, your dog can be vaccinated for rabies. Laws in many state require rabies vaccination. Check with your veterinarian on how often this immunization is required, as protocols vary.

Rabies is usually transmitted to dogs through saliva, usually from a bite by an infected animal. Rabies affects all warm-blooded animals but is most often found in bats, skunks, and raccoons. If your dog becomes infected with rabies, you may notice subtle behavioral changes at first, which may be accompanied by fever, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Dog vaccinations are not without controversy, and vaccine protocols are changing, so the best thing is to always understand what your vet recommends and why. If you want to read more about the vaccination controversy, see Stop the Shots! : Are Vaccinations Killing Our Pets?

Updated: November 11, 2012 — 2:36 am

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