Vaccines: the big, the bad, the ever changing topic. There’s enough information to write about this for a whole week, but for now I’m going to keep it to a few posts. This week, I’m doing a 2 part series on dog vaccinations. Today, I’m going to summarize the most current vaccine recommendations for canines.
Tomorrow, I’ll share some of the tidbits I got at the Western Veterinary Conference that give us some additional insight about how to use these to optimum benefit. Here’s to our dogs’ health!
Reacting to Reactions
One of the most terrifying experiences of my early career involves a vaccine. I was administering a distemper vaccination to a one year old poodle with no history of vaccine reactions.
“Since this is a smaller dog,” I said to the owner, “I’d like to wait to do rabies for another couple of weeks. I know this is an added visit for you, but I like to minimize the risk of vaccine reactions.” She agreed.
I gave the dog her vaccine, then went into the back area to get some heartworm medication. The technician followed me out. “Poor thing,” she said. “She’s so nervous.”
I went back in and watched the puppy start to drool. “Oh, she gets motion sickness,” said the owner. I lifted her gums, observing their slightly pale color.
“I’d like to take her into the back,” I said to the owner, who was just starting to realize my concern. “I think she’s having a reaction.”
Then she fell over. About 4 minutes after giving the vaccine, the dog was entering anaphylactic shock.
“Ah ha!” the vaccine naysayers are now saying to themselves. “I knew vaccines were a bad idea.” Hold on there, partner.
Vaccine reactions, while not uncommon, are not ubiquitous either. An uncomfortable and scary but temporary swelling of the face is the most common reaction. Life threatening shock symptoms are much less common, thank goodness. I have seen two in my career, and I’ve given a lot of vaccines. (Both did just fine with treatment, thank goodness.)
In contrast, how many distemper cases have I seen? About 10. How many parvo cases? I’ve lost count.
Vaccines are NOT one size fits all
Vaccines, when done properly, are a lifesaver. Too much of a good thing and you have an allergic reaction. Too little, and you have a horrible disease. The art of disease prevention is figuring out what your pet needs, and how often.
So what, exactly, does your dog need?
That’s the thing. I don’t know. I don’t know you or your dog well enough to say. Vaccines in companion animals are NOT a one-size fits all approach, and anyone who says otherwise is really off the mark with where this field is going. Your vet should discuss the risk factors for your pet based on age, lifestyle, geography, and health, and make recommendations based on that.
So how do I choose what is right for us?
I use the American Animal Hospital Association guidelines to help guide clients and their dogs. I find their recommendations to be the most current. The latest guidelines are summarized here, though there will be an updated version out this year. If you want the long version, it’s here.
Here is the down and dirty:
1. Core vaccines: Barring medical problems, all dogs should have these
- DAP (distemper, adenovirus, and parvovirus)
This is the “standard” 3-way puppy vaccine most people are familiar with. Give at 3-4 week intervals to puppies until at least 16 weeks of age, though the newest recommendation is to give it to 18-20 weeks in shelter dogs where the exact date of birth is unknown. Boost one year later, then every 3 years.
The requirements vary by region, but generally speaking is given at 3-6 months of age, one year later, and then at 1 to 3 year intervals.
2. Non-core: Dogs with sufficient risk should have these
This is the “kennel cough” vaccine, though it doesn’t cover all the causative pathogens. The intranasal vaccine is preferable to the injectable in efficacy. In low risk populations, yearly is sufficient, though those that board frequently may consider getting it every 6 months.
A rather nasty kidney bug that is potentially transmissible to you. For those who elect to vaccinate, it’s a two vaccine series to start, followed by yearly boosters.
Although it is recommended in area where Lyme is endemic, its efficacy is a great source of debate. Tick prevention is still the number one way to prevent Lyme disease. The initial series is a set of two, followed by yearly boosters.
3. The ‘Maybe’ pile- Vaccines that are newer in the field.
- Canine influenza, porphyromonas, and rattlesnake vaccine fall into this category. I’m not against these, but owners should be aware of the limitations and ask their vet what the likely benefit is to their own dog.
- I expect the upcoming 2011 guidelines will have some updated information on these now that they have been out for a bit.
Anything not on this list, I don’t bother with.
Photo credit: Owen, by robswatski on Flickr (he’s up for adoption!)
Tabitha W says
What do cats receive? None of my adults cats have had any vaccs (that i know of since i got them as adults and dont know their full history).
Dr. V says
That will be another topic!
As always, well done, Dr. V! It never ceases to amaze me when I see news articles detailing canine parvovirus outbreaks or even canine distemper outbreaks (one Mississippi shelter recently euthanized over 100 dogs to stop the spread of distemper) and still many people question the need for vaccines. As the Managing Editor for the Veterinary News Network, I see these types of stories continually cross the news wires.
My new favorite quotation is from Dr. Chris Duke in Mississippi, who writes for their local paper: “Hear me now, vaccines, especially puppy vaccines, are as important as ever”!
Keep up the great work!
Barbara and Daisy says
Just in time for our “annual” on Tuesday. And thanks to your previous posts I’ll take Daisy in with a full bladder!
I went to the tech Continuing Ed at VSH last month, when the topic was rattlesnake bites. The speaker said there is no evidence that the rattlesnake vaccine works at all.
Jane B Accardo says
Lepto vaccine killed my 5 yr old greyhound, so I would only recommend it if there is a definite outbreak or if the dog lived on farmland. Benefit did NOT outweigh the risk for my baby as there were only 15 reported cases all in rural Oregon. I never should have had it given as recommended.
Awesome post, Dr. V. So many have questions about vaccines. I always talk with my vet about the risk factors to my pets, and we decide together what they need.
I’m glad that you did a breakdown of the vaccines and are going to continue this topic into more posts. I am always wary about the information I find on the internet about vaccines because it is so easy to fall into the web of “all vaccines are dangerous! Deadly! Will kill!” Plus, anytime I try to have an actual discussion with Prudence’s vet about what vaccines are on the market, and which ones do what, how often they should be administered, etc, she gets very huffy as if I’m stepping on her toes when really I’m trying to be informed (one of the many reasons why I am currently looking for a new vet). So thank you, Dr. V.
Jana Rade says
Yes, vaccines are a source of great controversy. We switched to 3 year rabies vaccine (since it is accepted here) and we titer for the dap. We do vaccinate against Leptospirosis, as the risk with Jasmine’s lifestyle is high.
I will never forget my experience with a bad vaccine reaction. I was in high school and working at a local vet clinic. I man dropped off his cat for boarding, and while she was there, he asked us to give her the annual vaccinations. Shortly after the vet gave the shots, it was an all-hands-on-deck emergency. Unfortunately, we lost her. Her owner came back to the clinic devastated. I just can’t imagine – dropping your cat off for what you perceive as something totally innocuous, and suddenly she’s gone. From that point on, I have always, always discussed with my veterinarian my pet’s vaccination needs. They know my preferences, and we can make an informed decision together.
Thanks so much for spending time, spreading the word.