Q: I was recently at a shelter and adopted a new puppy. I know my new pup is going to need a lot of shots for his first visit with the veterinarian. What shots would you recommend?
A: Most everyone knows that their pets need shots, but most people may not fully understand why veterinarians recommend the vaccines that they do. There are two types of vaccines: core vaccines and lifestyle vaccines. The core vaccinations recommended for dogs by the American Veterinary Medical Association are the distemper/parvo vaccine (DHPP) and rabies. The DHPP vaccine protects them against four different viruses: Distemper, Hepatitis, Parvo and Parainfluenza. Probably the most important parts of this vaccine are the Distemper and the Parvo virus protection. Distemper is a virus that causes respiratory and neurologic signs which in the majority of dogs will cause death. Parvo is an intestinal virus that causes severe vomiting and bloody diarrhea. Parvo can be deadly and requires intensive treatment. The cases of Distemper virus are very few these days, primarily because of vaccination, but Parvo is still rampant and is very easy to contract if an unvaccinated (or not fully vaccinated) dog is exposed to a dog with Parvo. Rabies is a vaccination not only imperative to preventing an untreatable disease, but is required by law for the safety of humans and pets.
Lifestyle vaccines are ones that depend on what your pet does or where it goes. Some of the most common lifestyle vaccines for dogs are Bordetella, Influenza, Leptospirosis and Lyme. Bordetella is a bacteria that is part of the complex of organisms that cause kennel cough. This is recommended for dogs that are going to be around other dogs such as, dogs that board, go to doggy daycare or go to dog shows. Most boarding, daycare and grooming facilities require this vaccine due to the highly contagious nature of kennel cough. Influenza is another respiratory virus that, if contracted, can cause severe respiratory signs, coughing and potentially pneumonia. It, like the Bordetella vaccine, is recommended for dogs that commonly come into contact with other dogs. There have even been outbreaks recently of canine influenza which has many boarding facilities now requiring this vaccine along with the Bordetella vaccine. Leptospirosis is a bacteria that is most commonly found in wild water sources and can cause liver and kidney damage. The bacteria is spread through urine of infected animals including wild animals. Not only is this bacteria harmful to pets it can also infect people. This vaccine is recommended for dogs that go swimming in lakes or streams, have contact with wild animals, or frequent dog parks or nature trails. Lyme disease is caused by a spirochete bacteria called Borrelia burgdorferi and is transmitted through ticks. This bacteria typically causes fever and joint swelling, however, it can also cause kidney damage as well. Once contracted, the body never fully clears it so patients can have flare-ups throughout their life. This vaccine is recommended for dogs that have a high exposure to ticks, go hiking in the mountains or visit Lyme endemic areas such as the Northeastern United States.
Every pet is different and their lifestyles vary greatly. The best way to determine what vaccines are best for your pet is to speak with your veterinarian. Let them know where they go and what activities they participate in so together you can decide how to best protect your furry family member.
Dr. Schuler is a native of Georgia and grew up in the Gwinnett county area. She attended the University of Georgia for her BSA and Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degrees. In her spare time Dr. Schuler enjoys spending time with her husband Jordan and her young sons Jonathan and JP. She also enjoys playing golf, traveling and cheering on the Georgia Bulldogs. Her family also includes a dog named Mocha, two cats named Merlin and Noel.
Ask Henry at sugarhillanimalhospital.com.