Dogs depend on people to protect them

By Dr. Beth Leermakers

Are your pets current on their vaccinations? I recently spoke with someone who was taking care of a young puppy for a few days. I immediately asked if the puppy had been vaccinated and, if so, how many times. Then I asked whether the family’s adult dogs were current on their vaccinations. The first answer was “I don’t know,” and the second, unfortunately, was “no.” As a dog rescuer, I’m far too familiar with the dangers of parvovirus in puppies. This deadly virus is highly contagious, expensive to treat (often $1,000 or more), and can live in the soil for one year or more, jeopardizing the health of other dogs. Distemper (a contagious and serious disease caused by a virus that attacks the respiratory, gastrointestinal and nervous systems) is also deadly and very expensive (and heart-breaking) to treat. 

Please don’t ever let your dog’s rabies vaccination expire.
Photo courtesy of the Animal Foundation

Inexpensive vaccines protect your dog from these horrible illnesses. If your dogs and cats aren’t current on their vaccinations, please make it a top priority to remedy that ASAP. Low-cost vaccination clinics are held regularly at local vet clinics. 

Here’s a rundown of required and recommended canine vaccinations. 

Canine Core Vaccines:

Core vaccines are recommended for all puppies and dogs with an unknown vaccination history. The diseases involved can be life-threatening and, in general, vaccination results in relatively good protection from disease. These include vaccines for parvovirus, distemper virus, adenovirus, rabies, and leptospirosis. 

DHPP (for puppies < 16 weeks; Distemper, Hepatitis, Parvo, Parainfluenza): One dose of the vaccine is recommended every 3-4 weeks starting at 6-8 weeks of age, with the final booster being given no sooner than 16 weeks of age. Puppies should receive a total of three vaccines. 

Puppies should be NPOG (“no paws on the ground”) until they’ve received all three DHPP vaccinations. This means that puppies shouldn’t be allowed to walk in the grass or on the ground (in your yard, dog park, or any public location such as a pet store or vet clinic). Puppies should be carried when they’re outside or in public places so they don’t pick up viruses or bacteria. 

DA2PP (for dogs > 16 weeks; aka DAPP – Distemper, Adenovirus, Parvo, Parainfluenza): Two doses of the vaccine, given 3-4 weeks apart, are recommended initially. After a booster at six months to one year, revaccination is recommended every three years thereafter. 

Rabies (all dogs > 16 weeks): By state law, all dogs and cats in Texas must be vaccinated for rabies by 16 weeks of age by or under the direct supervision of a licensed veterinarian using a vaccine licensed by the USDA. Animals should be re-vaccinated every one or three years, according to the recommended interval established by the manufacturer. 

Please don’t ever let your rabies vaccination expire. If your dog ever bites someone, the consequences are much worse if the rabies isn’t current. Several years ago my 10-year-old dog, who had never shown any aggression, bit my neighbor and broke the skin. My neighbor went to his doctor, who didn’t report the dog bite incident because my dog’s rabies vaccination/certificate was current. Otherwise, my dog would have been quarantined, and that usually happens at an animal shelter that quarantines sick dogs. 

Leptospirosis (all dogs > 12 weeks): Commonly called “Lepto,” this flu-like disease caused by bacteria can be potentially fatal if not treated. Exposure to slow-moving or stagnant water is a major risk factor for lepto. 

Vaccines prevent lepto and protect dogs for 12 months, so the vaccine should be given annually. The DA2PP-L includes lepto. 

Non-Core Vaccine:

Bordetella: This vaccine protects dogs against the contagious canine infectious respiratory disease complex (CIRDC) or “kennel cough.” Bordetella is required and/or recommended for dogs that go to boarding, doggie daycare, and/or the dog park. 

Please consult your veterinarian regarding these and other vaccinations, as well as an annual heartworm test and year-round heartworm preventatives. 

Your dog is counting on you to keep him healthy!