All dogs should be vaccinated. Even if you’re adopting a dog and think he’s probably had his shots, play it safe and have him vaccinated again. It’s better to give an extra vaccine than none at all.
Booster vaccines should be given every three to four weeks until puppies are five months old; vaccinations of adult dogs should be discussed with your veterinarian during their annual physical exams. Here is a guide to the diseases for which your pup will need vaccines:
Distemper is a contagious viral disease that affects the respiratory and nervous system of dogs. Distemper does not cause “bad temper.” It is a serious illness that is almost always fatal.
Hepatitis is a viral infectious disease that affects the liver and eyes and may cause reproductive problems. Hepatitis is not contagious to people.
Leptospirosis is a bacterial infectious disease that causes severe liver and kidney damage and may also affect humans.
Parainfluenza is a highly contagious viral respiratory disease that may spread quickly from dog to dog.
One of the most serious contagious diseases for puppies, parvovirus causes severe vomiting and diarrhea while suppressing the immune system and may be fatal even if treated. After the initial vaccination series, a blood test can be done to ensure adequate protection. Rottweilers, Doberman pinschers and pit bulls seem to be more susceptible than other breeds.
Rabies is a serious public health concern because the virus is carried by mammals including raccoons, skunks, foxes, bats, dogs and cats and can be transmitted to humans. The virus is spread through wounds, via the saliva of a rabid animal, and causes symptoms such as: overly vicious or timid behavior, lack of coordination and difficulty swallowing. Once these symptoms appear, the disease is fatal. While there is an effective post-exposure treatment for humans, there is none for animals.
An unvaccinated dog that is exposed to rabies must be destroyed or quarantined for six months under strict guidelines. A vaccinated dog is well protected from contracting rabies but should be quarantined for a brief time if exposed to rabies. Laws in most states require rabies immunization in dogs and cats.
Puppies should have their first rabies vaccine at 3 to 4 months of age, with boosters 9 to 12 months later and then every year or 3 years as required by law. Contact your veterinarian for requirements in your state.
Bordetella is one of the bacterial causes of “kennel cough.” If your dog is to be boarded frequently, the kennel may require this vaccination.