Vaccination is a very important part of our on-going commitment to preventative health care. We strive to provide the most up to date vaccines and vaccine protocols to our patients and will gladly discuss the pros and cons of vaccines in general, and any individual variation from typical recommendations.
“Core Vaccines” are those that are generally recommended for all dogs regardless of their lifestyle. In all cases this includes vaccination against Rabies. Rabies vaccination in domestic pets is required by law. The other core vaccine for dogs is against 4 viral diseases; Distemper, Adenovirus, Parvo Virus and Parainfluenza, often abbreviated DAPP.
Typically puppies are given a DAPP vaccine at 8, 12 and 16 weeks.
Why do we give this vaccine to puppies 3 times? The answer is that in order for the body to produce the type of immune response that will provide long term protection, the immune system has to be tricked into thinking that the threat of the illness is recurrent in a short time frame. In other words, the first vaccine is taken somewhat lightly by the immune system, but by re-exposing it to the same vaccine 3-5 weeks later, the immune system mounts the type of response that ensures long term protection.
One thing that can lead the immune system to essentially ignoring a vaccine entirely is the presence in the blood stream of antibodies that the puppy obtained from it’s mother. These maternal antibodies only circulate for a limited time after birth and are usually gone by 2-3 months of age. We give 3 vaccines to puppies so that we are confident that we will get 2 of them back to back at a time when the maternal antibodies will not interfere, but at the same time not leave any patient vulnerable to infection should their maternal antibodies wear off early.
Rabies vaccination is done once in puppies, typically at the 16 week visit. The immune system will generate a good protection from rabies after only one vaccine.
The circulating antibodies (the memory) generated by vaccines does wear off over time, and our schedule for boosters in adult dogs is set by what we know about the typical duration of immunity any given vaccine provides. Currently we boost both DAPP and Rabies at the first set of “adult” vaccines, typically at 16 months of age. After that we rotate the core canine vaccines on a three year schedule, one year giving a Rabies vaccine, the next a Parvo Virus vaccine and the following a Distemper/Adenovirus/Parainfluenza vaccine and so on.
For most dogs we also recommend giving a yearly vaccine against Bordetella or “Kennel Cough”.
Depending on a dogs lifestyle we may also recommend a vaccine against the bacterial disease Leptospirosis. This illness is carried by a few wild mammals such as Raccoons, Skunks and Possums. These carrier animals shed the bacteria in their urine, contaminating puddles and moist areas on the ground.