Annie here again, you recently read about my head to tail exam and in that blog I mentioned the importance of my annual vaccines. The doctor and my family discussed my risk factors that come from my active life style and therefore I received my DHLPP, Bordetella, Rabies, and Lyme boosters. The vaccines that you and your doctor may choose are right for your pet may be different than the ones I required. Now I would like to turn the floor over to Dr. Blakenship and he will try to help you better understand the most common vaccines that are available to your pet.
You got that card in the mail again. “Sparky is due for his annual exam and appropriate vaccinations.” Time to schedule that appointment! You might ask yourself though – what are all these vaccines actually doing? To help answer this question here’s a brief description of the types of vaccines we offer and the relevance to your pet.
Starting with the classic DHLPP vaccine:
Distemper is a viral infection causing severe neurologic and respiratory symptoms in unvaccinated puppies. It is difficult to diagnose and even harder to treat, but thankfully effective vaccine strategies have reduced it from a raging epidemic in the 1950s to a rare disease today. Outbreaks are still seen in kennel situations, so the vaccine’s importance persists.
This virus causes a life-threatening liver disease in unvaccinated dogs. If identified early, most dogs will recover with supportive care. Nevertheless, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
A vaccine of some controversy (due to allergic reactions in sensitive breeds), Lepto is one of the most important parts of any dog’s vaccine protocol. This is an infection which is prevalent in the wild animal populations (such as raccoons and rats), and causes life-threatening liver and kidney damage in unvaccinated dogs. Worse yet, your dog may be infected and pass the disease to the family, without showing any symptoms. If identified quickly, treatment is often successful. Given the zoonotic nature of this disease however, vaccination is extremely important. A modified version of the DHLPP vaccine (DHPP) is available without the Lepto fraction for dogs who are known to react adversely to the vaccine.
This is a viral infection that we unfortunately still see too frequently. Parvo was an epidemic in the late ’70s and early ’80s resulting in countless canine losses. The disease causes a severely life-threatening gastrointestinal infection frequently resulting in profound vomiting and bloody painful diarrhea. Even with aggressive treatment, many dogs are still lost to this horrible disease. Thankfully with today’s effective vaccines, protected dogs need not worry!
(P)arainfluenza Virus This viral infection is a common cause of infectious coughing among dogs, frequently acquired in shelter situations or other crowded quarters such as “puppy mills.”
Rabies is a virus which can be carried by any mammal and is almost universally fatal in infected animals. We are fortunate in this part of the country that cases are somewhat rare, but vaccination is still critically importance due to the severity of the disease and the health risk it presents to humans. Most cities require this vaccine by law, and stiff penalties can be handed out to owners of unvaccinated dogs.
Folks often refer to this as the “kennel cough” vaccine and this is usually a prerequisite to boarding facilities, many groomers, and several dog parks. While many agents can induce “kennel cough” in dogs, the Bordetella bacteria tends to be the worst (and one of the most common) forms frequently resulting in pneumonia. Infected dogs require extensive antibiotic therapy and in rare cases hospitalization may be required.
Not to be confused with the “parainfluenza” portion of the DHLPP vaccine, this is a separate viral infection (influenza H3N8) which can cause severe respiratory symptoms in affected dogs. This disease is still rare in our area so it is not considered a required vaccine. The prevalence is likely to increase however, so this recommendation may change. Thankfully humans cannot be infected by the H3N8 flu strain.
Lyme Disease (Borreliosis)
This is an infection carried by ticks that most often affects hunting and other sporting dogs. The disease can cause joint pain and kidney infections. We are fortunate in northeast Ohio that we do not see much of this disease. The vaccine is still recommended for high risk dogs, especially those travelling outside of Ohio. Pennsylvania and New England are hotbeds for Lyme in particular, but the CDC shows that the disease is creeping into Ohio more and more each year.
Annie & Jeremy Blankenship, DVM
Stow Kent Animal Hospital