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Dog Vaccinations

By: Gary Wynn Kelly

Many people have not owned a dog or cat before, and are not aware of the vaccinations that should be given to every puppy and dog during its life. We get asked about what shots should be given to a dog. The following is one possible program that will protect your dog. Your own veterinarian may have a different program. This particular program attempts to balance protecting the dog with reducing the stress on the dog’s immune system. Too many vaccinations can stress the immune system, and there have been reports of dogs having immune system failures that may be linked to over-vaccination. While this remains unproven, it is still a valid concern of any dog owner.

Remember! Many states have laws stating that a puppy must be at least 8 weeks old before it may be sold. When you adopt a puppy, ask about what vaccinations, have been given before you adopt it. Typically, at least one vaccination should have been given. This is desirable, as puppies can get parvo and die very quickly. Many breeders will give the second vaccination as the pup is being adopted. Get proof that the pup did get vaccinated, and know what vaccine was given. Your vet will want that information.

Most good breeders give the first vaccination at 5 weeks, and a second at 8 weeks. These are 6 in 1 or 7 in 1 vaccines. It is a DHLPP/C booster. DHLPP/C means Distemper, Hepatitis, Leptospira, Parainfluenza, canine Parvo, and corona virus vaccines.

The next shot is due at 12 weeks. This is because puppies are well protected from disease by the immune system for the mother until a few weeks after birth. As that immunity decreases with time, it is essential to protect the pup against disease by boosting its own immune system. The vaccines given at short intervals help to do this.

This shot is repeated at 16 weeks, without the canine corona vaccine. It is simply a DHLPP.

The DHLPP/C is repeated at 20 weeks when a rabies shot may be given. Rabies injections cannot be given before this time, and the first rabies shot is only a 1 year vaccine. It must be repeated the next year along with the DHLPP/C. The DHLPP/C must be repeated every year for the life of the dog for best protection. There are schools that question this, as the DHLPP has been shown to last 3 to 5 years in a few studies. While optimal protection will come with an annual vaccination, some vets may choose to skip a year, or even 2 years in an older dog–especially if that older dog has other health issues, and has had an excellent vaccination record in younger years.

Bordetella is given to prevent kennel cough. It is best given again at 20 weeks, and repeated at least annually. It may be given as a nasal inhalant rather than a shot. The Bordetella is *very important*, and most often skipped by too many people. It helps to protect your dog against Kennel Cough.

DHLPP/C, and Bordetella can be purchased at many feed stores, pet stores, and ordered by mail from pet supply firms. They can be given by anyone able to manage giving shots. Rabies shots can only be given by a vet, because rabies vaccines are a live vaccine.

These vaccinations are also given at low cost vaccine clinics. These are best used by people with dogs that have an established vaccination history. Sometimes, although not often, a dog can have an allergic reaction to the vaccination and require emergency treatment. We recommend that young dogs get their shots when your vet is available to see your dog should there be an unusual reaction to the vaccination. For older dogs–2 years and older who have had at least one annual booster previously, it is unlikely for the dog to have an allergic reaction.

Rabies vaccinations come in 1 year to 3 year dosages. If your dog is1 year old or less, or has an unknown vaccination history, your veterinarian will probably give a 1 year vaccination the first time. Older dogs who have had a vaccination previously will generally get a 3 year vaccination.

A rabies vaccination is required for a dog license. Be sure you get a certificate of rabies vaccination for your dog, and keep it with your dog’s important records! The rabies certification and the spay-neuter certification will be required when you license your dog, or you will have to see your bet again to obtain them. Most areas do license dogs. If you do not know about a dog license, call your county/city Animal Control Office to find out how to license your dog, and what copies of certifications they will require with the fee for the license.

Remember! *A rabies tag is insufficient proof of a rabies vaccination*. Anyone can put a rabies tag on a dog, and it may be difficult to prove that the dog wearing the tag had the vaccination. The paperwork is the actual legal proof of your dog having had a current rabies vaccination.

Animal Control does not care if your dog has a DHLPP or Bordetella, but you should. One of the most tragic events that can occur in your family is to have your dog become deathly ill with any of the illnesses these injections prevent. Bordetella is not usually deadly, except to pups and older dogs; there is a chance of a complication with pneumonia for any dog having kennel cough, which Bordetella inhibits.

If your dog is being boarded with other dogs, or is around other dogs in public, as when going to the dog park or beach, or when being groomed in a public dog grooming establishment, you should consider administering Bordetella at intervals of 12 months.

We have often seen vaccination clinic lines where the person giving the vaccinations is asking people if their dog is ever boarded. Most answer no, and do not realize that the question was being asked to see if the dog needed a Bordetella vaccination. We object to that practice, as the public generally does not understand the issues. It is best for the public if Bordetella vaccinations were given to all dogs, even if they are not currently expected to be boarded. Kennel cough can be spread through public encounters with other dogs, and not just at a dog pound.

Dog vaccinations are regulated by the United States Department of Agriculture–not the Food and Drug Administration, which regulates human medications. The importance of this is that there has never been a federal requirement for the manufacturers of these vaccines to demonstrate how long a vaccination provides protection. It is likely that young dogs, like young children, need vaccinations according to this recommended schedule, but a dog that has had all vaccinations for the first 3 or 4 years may be protected up to 3 years by a DHLPP. Before skipping shots, consult your own veterinarian, and determine what is best for your dog in your situation. We have seen through experiences in Rescue, that Bordetella does only last a year or so. Some strains of kennel cough can even effect a vaccinated dog.

Most dogs tolerate shots well if they are kept calm and are used to being handled. It is important to socialize your dog to accept examination by you and other people, so it will tolerate treatment and vaccinations when necessary. Sometimes combining an outing with a visit to the vet is a good idea. Taking your dog to the vet, and then on a short outing to a pet store, the beach, or some other dog friendly place can help your dog accept the idea of a vet visit more readily.

We have also found that if you have 2 dogs, that taking both to the vet even when only one needs treatment is a good idea. The dog not treated gets a vet visit that has no negative events to bring back memories later, and will often be more calm at the vet’s office when it is his/her turn another time.

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