The Pros and Cons of Pet Vaccines

The American Veterinary Medical Association has made recommendations on which vaccines are considered CORE and which vaccinations are considered Non Core and are considered for only certain types of dogs.

The CORE vaccines are:

  • Parvovirus
  • Canine Distemper
  • Hepatitis
  • Rabies

The Non Core vaccines are:

  • Adenovirus
  • Parainfluenza
  • Bordatella
  • Leptospirosis
  • Coronavirus
  • Lyme

Let’s talk about the CORE vaccines first. When you adopt or buy a puppy or even an older dog, you are required by law to get the dog vaccinated for Rabies. In New York State, a municipality cannot issue a dog license without proof of a rabies vaccine for instance. Even though the risk in the United States is low, there are still areas of the country where there is enough wildlife such as raccoons, bats and coyotes around that necessitate a rabies vaccine.   When dogs are first adopted a one year vaccine is given, and after the first vaccine a 3 year vaccine is given. If the animal is seen by a vet and a vaccine is not administered, the vet can get in trouble with state authorities if there records are audited.

Other vaccines that are very important for your dog are the Distemper and Parvovirus vaccines.  These are 2 diseases that are very deadly, especially for puppies.   It is especially prevalent in warm climates so you see alot of this down south. Some vets give the shot as DHLPP. This stands for Distemper, Hepatitis (CAV-2), Leptospirosis, Parainfluenza, Parvovirus (combined canine vaccine). This is also given as a 3 year vaccine. I don’t, however, recommend this combination shot, and I will explain why.

Earlier I mentioned that there are vaccines that are considered CORE and NON CORE. Two that are considered NON CORE are Hepatitis and Leptospirosis. The Hepatitis vaccine is only important if your dog is going to be close quarters with other dogs in a shelter environment or in a crowded kennel environment. Leptospirosis vaccine prevents the disease that can be transmitted from infected raccoons, rats and mice when your dog picks up something from the street that has the urine of one of these animals on it. It’s very important to train your dog with the Leave It command and to pay close attention when you take them out in the street for a walk. Also, don’t allow them to roam unsupervised in the woods where they can eat leaves and sticks that have been exposed to these animals. Some dogs can be allergic or suffer very bad side effects from the lepto vaccine, such as vomiting and diarrhea, so give this vaccine with caution.   Instead, follow the guidelines I previously mentioned so your dog doesn’t have to suffer the ill effects of this vaccine.

Another vaccine that should be avoided is the Adenovirus since this vaccine is still under study. This virus is related to Hepatitis in dogs and can be spread under crowded and dirty shelter conditions. Since you are providing a sanitary environment for your dog in your home, there really is no reason to subject him to this vaccine. Again, only give this vaccine to your dog if he will be in close and prolonged contact with other dogs in places such as doggy daycare and dog parks.

The Parainfluenza vaccine is recommended if you intend to show your dog or if your dog is in daily doggy daycare. Some vets pair this vaccine with the Parvovirus and Distemper vaccines just to be on the safe side. It is also given as a 3 year vaccine.

The Bordatella vaccine is one that you should use with discretion. This vaccine is used to prevent kennel cough in dogs and is given as a live vaccine. Some dogs may exhibit a mild case of the sniffles for a couple of days after the vaccine is given intranasal. The thing to be careful of with this vaccine is if your dog has issues with breathing. There is a condition prevalent among smaller breed dogs called collapsing trachea. Usually the dog is born with the condition and it doesn’t become evident until the dog gets older and the cartilage starts to soften in the trachea. When this happens the dog finds it harder to breathe and often this will call inflammation and infection in the bronchial tubes. Under no condition should a dog with collapsing trachea be given the Bordatella vaccine. The vaccine is live and can cause the dog to get sick.   If the dog lives with other dogs, none of the other dogs should be given this live vaccine either. Some boarding facilities require that your dog be current on this vaccine or they will not allow him to be boarded…so if you have to go out of town, the better alternative is to seek the services of an in home pet sitter instead.

Some grooming facilities also require an up to date Bordatella vaccine, so if your dog cannot be vaccinated, the alternative might be to have a mobile groomer come to your house and groom your dog. Always better safe than sorry.

Another Non Core vaccine is the Coronavirus. This is another virus that is mostly prevalent in a crowded shelter environment and is not needed for a pet in a private home.

Lastly, I want to mention the Lyme vaccine. First, let’s talk about the cause of Lyme disease for a moment. In certain parts of the country, the tick problem is more prevalent than in other parts of the country. In the northeast for example, the deer tick is responsible for spreading lyme disease.   If this is the case in your area, the smart thing is to not allow your dog to roam in the woods. When you are walking your dog, keep your dog away from dense bushes. It’s also a good practice to surround your lawn with mulch, as ticks tend to not cross a mulch barrier. If your dog does get a tick, be careful to remove the tick completely and not leave the pinchers in the skin as the dog can get a bad infection. You must remove the tick within 48 hours to prevent Lyme disease. It’s also a good practice to put the tick into a vial of alcohol and bring it to your vet to get it analyzed, just in case.   The Lyme vaccine is does not prevent Lyme disease; it only prevents the bacteria from entering the dog’s body, so the dog can get the disease anyway if the tick has been on the dog more than 48 hours. I don’t really support the use of this vaccine for this reason. I feel that prevention is much more effective and following what I said earlier will help prevent your dog from getting the disease.  It is much more important to prevent Lyme disease as treating it is a very expensive and prolonged process.

In conclusion, know what vaccines your pets are getting and why, and discuss it with your vet so that you can know whether the vaccines are required or optional. Your pet’s health is in your hands!

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