Ensuring the proper health of one’s pet is vital. Other than providing food, water, shelter, and love, anyone with the privilege of having an animal in their life should know the basic responsibility of vaccinations. Without them, there could be fatal or otherwise serious consequences. There are a series of recommended shots, some more important than others. The most important to get for one’s dog are the “core” vaccinations, which come in a series of three starting around six weeks old, then at twelve weeks, and again at sixteen weeks old. The combination and requirement of vaccinations differ from state to state and clinic to clinic. In most states, dogs are only legally required to be vaccinated against rabies, making the rabies vaccine the most socially important. The other core vaccines are part of a series called DHPP, which includes Distemper, Hepatitis, Parainfluenza, and the Parvovirus vaccines. Sometimes this will include a vaccine for Leptospirosis (DHLPP).
According to the World Health Organization, rabies in dogs is fatal 100% of the time once symptoms are diagnosable, and 99% of human transmission cases are from domestic canines. This is referred to as “dog-mediated rabies.” Therefore it is often required by state law for dogs to be vaccinated against it. This is the best way to not only prevent it in dogs but in humans. For full prevention against rabies, general information about proper ownership of animals as well as dog bite prevention and immediate medical care for potentially infected bites and scratches are pertinent. Symptoms of rabies are similar to the flu, but can include paralysis of the throat and jaw, as well as the commonly known foaming of the mouth. If anyone is bitten by a dog, or a wild animal, a doctor should be seen immediately before symptoms of rabies are allowed to set in. This also goes for dogs who have been bitten, or any other animal.
Beyond rabies, DHPP, or DHLPP, is commonly referred to as the “distemper” shot, though this is not all it vaccinates against. Distemper is related to the measles and rinderpest viruses and closely resembles rabies. Dogs that are not vaccinated and not treated during infection, if the result is not fatal, will more than likely endure permanent damage to the nervous system. Canine hepatitis, also known as adenovirus, is an extremely contagious viral infection of the kidneys, liver, lungs, eyes, and spleen. The virus can be found in feces and saliva. It is not related to human hepatitis. If severe, canine hepatitis could be deadly. Symptoms can be treated but there is no cure once it has been contracted. Luckily, rates of contraction have gone down due to vaccination.
Parvovirus & Parainfluenza
Parvovirus and Parainfluenza vaccination are next on the list in the DHPP series. Parvo is another virus transmitted by exposure to contaminated feces. It attacks the gastrointestinal system which causes vomiting and diarrhea and is highly contagious. It is mainly a disease of unvaccinated puppies but affects canines of all ages. Younger dogs, less than four months of age, are more at risk and likely to see fatal results than older dogs. There is no cure and immediate attention is needed if symptoms begin to show, as the virus can do its work in less than seventy-two hours. Parainfluenza is a virus of the respiratory system that can contribute to kennel cough. This is another that is highly contagious from dog to dog and often spreads in environments such as doggy daycare or the groomers. There are two forms of dog flu, one is mild and one severe. The mild version will resemble kennel cough, but the severe path will show a high fever and possible pneumonia. Antibiotics can be used for treatment, but the vaccination makes infection and subsequent treatment unlikely.
Leptospirosis, the “L” in the extended DHLPP, is a zoonotic disease. It has the ability to spread from non-human animal to human. It is a bacteria found in water and soil that has been contaminated by the urine of other animals. This could be as simple as a dog drinking out of a still pond that wildlife frequents. Humans and animals alike can get leptospirosis from coming into contact through common outdoor activities, though the disease is found more often in tropical areas. This bacterial infection is most prevalent in moist climates where there are areas of standing or slow-moving water. Because this is not always included in the shot series, yet is a serious disease, owners should be conscious of making sure their veterinarian does include the leptospirosis vaccine for a full DHLPP series.
Beyond these core vaccines, owners should make sure their pet is also treated for Bordetella, heartworm, and Lyme disease. Bordetella is the main cause of kennel cough and often needed if the dog will be at a boarding facility or with other dogs for an extended period of time. It is a bacteria that is highly contagious which causes symptoms of coughing, wheezing, vomiting, seizure, and sometimes death. The vaccine is both injectable and comes in an easy nasal spray. Heartworm is a silent killer, and should be prevented starting around twelve weeks old. It can go undetected but have serious consequences, with the worms invading the heart, the liver, and the kidneys. If left untreated, the worms can block and harm organs.
Though it is not required by state law, if a dog does not get the DHPP or DHLPP series starting around six weeks old, the likelihood of the dog making it to sixteen weeks old to receive the required rabies vaccine is not high. Almost all puppies will come into contact at least with the Parvovirus before sixteen weeks old, resulting in a probable fatality. Though the rabies vaccine is treated as the most important, likely because of its impact on human life, it is just one of the several vaccines needed for a happy, healthy, and long life for your canine. Always remember to discuss vaccination options with your veterinarian in Lake City.