Dog Vaccines: what are the obligations and how they work – A good pet owner has a lot of love in return, but he also has duties. Let’s learn everything there is to know about dog vaccines.
The best way to protect and prevent infectious diseases – some even potentially fatal – in our dog is to vaccinate him. But some dog vaccines are mandatory, some are recommended, others are essential … what a mess! And above all, when should we vaccinate a dog? We try to clarify all these potential questions, to have a complete guide on the vaccinations of our furry, according to the Italian regulations and according to the advice of the experts on the health of our four-legged friend.
Why dog vaccines are essential
Avoiding dwelling on the controversies and criticisms regarding some problems that have occurred over time on vaccines (high cost, numerous calls sometimes considered superfluous, side effects considered excessive, and more), vaccination has often been the subject of even excessive fear, almost more than the diseases themselves.
In any case, we must never forget that it is only thanks to the rigorous vaccination plans developed and perfected over the years that we have managed to keep under control and also to eradicate very dangerous infectious diseases. Thanks to carpet vaccines, the risk of infection with highly contagious bacteria and viruses has drastically reduced, and related death cases too.
Every dog that is vaccinated helps to reduce the spread of epidemics, to prevent them from spreading both in themselves and in others. When we vaccinate our dog, we not only protect his life, but also that of other animals. For this reason, it must be considered not only a legal obligation, but also a moral one.
The diseases against which to vaccinate the dog
Vaccines remain the safest and most reliable protection that can be offered to a dog. Our furry friend will be protected from life-threatening diseases such as distemper, parvovirus, leptospirosis, infectious tracheobronchitis, infectious hepatitis babesiosis, anger and borreliosis. WSAVA, the world association of veterinarians, has distinguished the vaccines from those recommended and those only recommended for those most at risk.
The recommended vaccines are those to which every dog, of any age, should have already been subjected. They protect it from potentially fatal pathogens, which could not only harm our dog, but also us owners. For this, it is essential that our four-legged friends are vaccinated with these vaccines. In many countries, it is mandatory for an animal to be vaccinated for these diseases, or it will not be able to enter that state.
This is the calendar of basic (mandatory) vaccines for dogs in Italy, which we will develop better later in the article.
- 6 weeks: first dose of vaccine or first vaccination.
- 8 weeks: multipurpose.
- 12 weeks: multipurpose recall.
- 16 weeks: anger.
- Annual: multipurpose recall and anger.
The recommended vaccines, on the other hand, are not as essential, although they remain important and recommended – precisely – in the pot of specific situations. The need for these dog vaccines depends on various factors: age, constitution, the territory in which it is located. Therefore, the veterinarian must examine the dog, in order to analyze the individual case, and decide according to the benefits and risks of the recommended vaccines, whether to proceed or not.
Recommended vaccines (mandatory)
Infectious hepatitis (CAV, Canine AdenoVirus)
Infectious hepatitis is caused in dogs by Adenovirus, which is mainly contracted through contact with water, food or urine of already infected dogs and usually causes fever, nephritis and eye inflammation. When the virus hits the liver the symptoms are fatigue, vomiting and diarrhea. This disease can be fatal, especially for young or weaker dogs.
Cimurro (CDV, Canine Distemper Virus)
The distemper is a highly contagious viral disease, which can lead to very serious problems of the gastrointestinal tract, respiratory tract (strong cough, nasal and ocular secretions) or nervous system disorders, which usually lead to fatal seizures and paralysis.
Parvovirus (CPV-2, Canine ParvoVirus type 2)
Canine Parvovirus Type 2, a particularly resistant and highly contagious virus, causes Parvovirus. Affected dogs, especially if young, can die from dehydration or intoxication, caused by diarrhea (even with blood loss), vomiting, high fever (even up to 41.5 ° C). In the event – possible – that the dog manages to overcome the disease, he could still risk dying due to the long-term consequences of Parvovirus, such as heart problems or weakened immune system.
Optional / recommended vaccines
Leptospirosis, or canine typhus, or Stuttgart disease, is transmitted by a bacterium, called Leptospira, usually from contaminated land or water. It is a very contagious disease that can cause serious organ damage – especially in younger or weaker dogs – and even death. In recent years, it has spread widely, and as it is also transmissible to humans and dangerous, the vaccine is highly recommended.
How leptospirosis can be transmitted to humans. Such diseases are called zoonoses, that is, those infectious diseases that can be transmitted from animals to humans. And always like leptospirosis, cases of anger must be reported obligatorily. Rabies is transmitted by the Lyssavirus virus, and its symptoms are a sharp increase in salivation and aggression. It is an always fatal disease.
Usually caused by tick bite, this bacterial disease does not usually develop obvious symptoms, but, depending on the variety of the pathogenic bacterium, it can lead to neurological disorders such as spasms and paralysis, and ultimately to dog death. Animals affected by this pathology become apathetic and refuse food. A pesticide can prevent this disease.
Infectious tracheobronchitis (kennel cough)
This disease most easily affects dogs that live in kennels (hence its name). This viral disease, or parainfluenza, is very contagious, leading to serious respiratory problems which cough (acute and dry) and can also lead to pneumonia, especially in people with weaker immune systems. It can be fatal in some cases.
Babesiosis, or piroplasmosis, is also transmitted by the bite of ticks. This infectious disease is very aggressive, and presents with a high fever. If not treated properly, it will lead to the destruction of red blood cells in a few days, resulting in the dog’s death. In countries where the ticks that carry this disease are widespread, the vaccine is recommended as a prevention in addition to traditional measures such as inspection of the dog in search of tick bites (for example after an outdoor walk).
When to vaccinate the dog
Veterinarians recommend primary immunization of puppies. When the lactation period ends, the protection of maternal antibodies (transmitted in the first weeks of life through milk) ends, therefore it is recommended to start the first cycle of dog vaccines at around eight weeks of life.
The functioning of the dog’s vaccines is the same as that of humans: with the vaccine, inactive bacteria / viruses or part of them are introduced, to which the body reacts, producing the antibodies necessary to cope with a possible infection. Total immunity from the diseases against which the vaccine is made usually comes with the second or third booster. The first vaccine (which must be performed between eight and twelve weeks of life) initially does nothing but activate the immune system.
At the third booster (usually performed at 16 weeks or 15 months, depending on the type of vaccine), primary immunization ends. Over time, however, the strength of these immune responses decreases, therefore vaccinations must be repeated at certain intervals. Until a few years ago, the practice was to have an annual vaccine booster, though nowadays most vets have gone through a booster every three years for major vaccines. In some vaccines, the protection is even effective for six or seven years. In the case of kennel cough and leptospirosis, however, the call is indispensably annual.
The recommended vaccines
To always have a complete immunization from the diseases we have said so far, we must scrupulously follow the vaccination plan chosen by our veterinarian. A generic scheme for usually recommended dog vaccines is as follows:
- Cimurro: primary immunization for 8 – 12 – 16 weeks; 15-month recall, to be done every 3 years.
- Infectious hepatitis: primary immunization from 8 – 12 – 16 weeks; 15-month recall, to be done every 3 years.
- Parvovirus: primary immunization for 8 – 12 – 16 weeks; 15-month recall, to be done every 3 years.
- Leptospirosis: primary immunization for 8-12 weeks; 15-month recall, to be done annually.
- Rabies: primary immunization for 12 – 16 weeks; 15-month recall, to be done every 3 years.
In the case of sick or at risk dogs
The advice given so far should be considered for those dogs that are not at risk of infections and enjoy a normal health condition. In the case of puppies (or adult dogs) at high risk of infections – for example for dogs suffering from kennel cough – it may be better to consider a more complete vaccine. The best thing is to decide together with our veterinarian which recommended vaccines are good for our animal.
Sick dogs, on the other hand, cannot be absolutely vaccinated: to maintain the lowest possible risk of side effects, a dog at the time of vaccination must be healthy, free of parasites and wormed. In case of fever, diarrhea or any symptoms of illness, before proceeding with vaccinations it is necessary to completely treat your conditions.
The possible side effects
In general, vaccines are well tolerated by dogs. To ensure that it reacts correctly to the vaccine (and the substances contained in it) it is essential that the puppy is healthy (as mentioned above) that he has reached the minimum recommended age, eight weeks. This will minimize the chances of serious side effects occurring.
Possible side effects include fever, fatigue, loss of appetite and painful swelling where the injection was performed. These effects usually last for two or three days, or disappear within a week anyway. If they show up, you should call the vet.
The costs of dog vaccines
In general, veterinarians do not administer a single vaccine, but a combination of vaccines of various diseases in one injection (for example: distemper, parvovirus, leptospirosis, hepatitis and kennel cough). The costs of these vaccines are usually around 50 – 70 €, but obviously they can vary according to the veterinarian and the health of our dog. It is best to inquire in advance with our vet about the costs and methodology to be applied.
The most common combined vaccines are the trivalent, the tetravalent or the polyvalent. The trivalent vaccine usually contains canine distemper vaccines, infectious canine hepatitis and leptospirosis. The tetravalent vaccine is the same as the trivalent vaccine, to which the canine parvovirus vaccine is added. The most basic polyvalent vaccine is the same as the other two, to which canine and canine coronavirus vaccines are added.
The most commonly used polyvalent vaccines are:
- Pentavalent that immunizes against distemper, adenovirus 1 and 2 (hepatitis and canine cough), parvovirus and parainfluenza.
- Hexavalent that immunizes against distemper, adenovirus 1 and 2 (hepatitis and canine cough), 2 strains that cause leptospirosis and parvovirus.
- Heptavalent that immunizes against distemper, adenovirus 1 and 2 (hepatitis and canine cough), 2 strains that cause leptospirosis, parvovirus, parainfluenza and coronavirus.
Obviously, it goes without saying that the health of our dog is our top priority and that the costs of a vaccine, in any case, remain much lower than those we would have to face to treat a dangerous infection if the dog is not vaccinated and gets infected with one of the indicated diseases.