If you have just welcomed a new dog into your life, keeping up with their vaccinations is vital to ensuring they stay healthy and live a long and happy life.
Vaccinations: What, Why, and When
If you are new to owning a dog, vaccinations can seem a bit overwhelming, but they are an essential part of keeping your new best friend safe from life-threatening illnesses as well as to prevent spreading diseases to other dogs.
Vaccines work by giving your dog a small amount of the bacteria or virus, which is completely harmless, this exposes their immune system to the virus or bacteria and trains their system to fight it. This means, should they be exposed to it in the future their immune system will be able to fight it off, keeping them safe and healthy.
Dogs are vaccinated against these main diseases:
Parvo mainly affects puppies between six weeks and six months of age, but can also affect older dogs which are unvaccinated or have not had regular boosters. The most common symptoms are lethargy, severe vomiting, and diarrhoea which is often bloody. It is unfortunately common that parvovirus is fatal to young puppies.
Canine distemper virus
Dogs of all ages can be affected by distemper and there is, unfortunately, no available treatment. Symptoms vary from fever and depression to coughing, vomiting and diarrhoea, as well as discharge from their eyes and mouth. It is one of the most difficult illnesses to diagnose and is therefore usually far along when it is detected. While dogs with mild symptoms can recover, they risk having neurological problems later in life.
The main source of Lepto infection is via infected urine or contaminated water, so dogs are at risk if they swim or drink from stagnant water and canals. Symptoms include fever, lethargy, increased thirst, vomiting, bloody diarrhoea and jaundice. Unfortunately, in severe cases, the dogs develop kidney or liver failure and will pass away.
Infectious canine hepatitis ICH (Also known as canine adenovirus)
While ICH can be fatal, most dogs will luckily recover with early detection and the proper treatment. The virus, which is transmitted by contact with the saliva, urine, faeces, blood or nasal discharge of infected dogs, can survive in the environment for many months and the urine of an infected dog can be contagious for up to a year. There are two versions of this virus. One causes a kennel cough type of infection and the other causes hepatitis. The symptoms are very similar to those of parvovirus.
Canine parainfluenza virus (CPi)
CPi is a highly contagious respiratory virus and is one of the most common pathogens of canine cough. The virus is common in shelters where large numbers of dogs are kept in close quarters. Symptoms of CPi include coughing, fever, loss of appetite, lethargy, and a runny nose.
Rabies is one of the most devastating viral diseases affecting dogs, it is transmitted through being bitten by another animal infected by the virus. Symptoms include fearfulness, aggression, excessive drooling, difficulty swallowing, staggering, paralysis and seizures. Unfortunately, there is no treatment for a dog with rabies. If rabies is suspected, your dog has to be kept in isolation and prevented from escaping or injuring someone.
Your puppy will need to be vaccinated at eight weeks old, they should then receive their second set of vaccinations at 12 weeks, and their third at 16 weeks.
It is essential that you do not expose your puppy to any of the diseases until at least two weeks after their second vaccination. This means that they will need to stay within the confines of your home and not be exposed to any unvaccinated dogs. While older dogs may be able to fight off many diseases, a puppy’s immune system is still very weak when they are young and may not be able to fight a serious illness.
While many people assume that once a dog has their vaccinations as a pup they are in the clear but they, unfortunately, need to have booster vaccinations.
Boosters for distemper, parvovirus and canine hepatitis are needed every three years, while boosters for leptospirosis and kennel cough are needed every year.
Keeping up with your dog’s vaccinations is extremely important.
Before welcoming your new dog home, you should ask the breeder or welfare organisation for their up-to-date vaccination record to ensure you are able to continue the plan. Setting up an appointment with your vet is also advised to get your dog's schedule in place to keep your new best friend happy, healthy, and free from preventable diseases.