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In veterinary medicine, vaccines are classified as core vaccines (those recommended for all dogs) versus non-core vaccines (those that may be recommended for an individual based on lifestyle and risk of exposure). This article seeks to explain the difference based on AVMA guidelines, and provide pet parents with a basic understanding of the vaccines that help keep their pups safe and healthy.
Core vaccines for dogs
Core vaccines are recommended for ALL puppies and dogs.
Rabies is a viral disease that affects the central nervous system of mammals, leading to neurological symptoms and death. Rabies is transmitted through the bite of an infected animal (such as skunks, bats, foxes, raccoons, dogs, and cats), and is fatal once symptoms appear. The vaccine is legally required in most states and is given at 3-4 months of age with regular boosters every 1-3 years.
DAPP combo vaccine
This vaccine, usually known as DAPP or DHPP, protects against several common infectious diseases. Typically, this vaccine is administered in a series starting at 6-8 weeks of age, with boosters every 3-4 weeks until your pup is at least 16 weeks of age. After the initial series is complete, a booster is generally needed in 1 year and then every 3 years thereafter.
Canine Distemper is a contagious viral illness that affects the respiratory, gastrointestinal, and nervous systems. Symptoms include fever, nasal discharge, coughing, lethargy, loss of appetite, and more severe neurological symptoms. Prevention through proper vaccination and responsible management of infected animals is crucial, as treatment can be challenging and the disease is often fatal.
Infectious Canine Hepatitis is a serious viral disease that primarily affects the liver. Symptoms vary but can include fever, abdominal pain, and jaundice.
Canine Parvovirus causes severe gastrointestinal distress, including vomiting and bloody diarrhea. It’s highly contagious and often fatal, particularly in puppies.
The last P in the DAPP vaccine stands for parainfluenza, a contributor to kennel cough. Parainfluenza leads to mild respiratory symptoms. While not technically considered a core vaccine, it is often included in the combo shot to help decrease spread.
Non-core vaccines for dogs
Non-core vaccines are recommended for puppies and dogs depending on their lifestyle and risk of exposure.
Kennel Cough is an upper respiratory infection that is treatable but highly contagious among dogs. It is characterized by a persistent, dry, hacking cough, sometimes followed by retching or gagging. Other symptoms often include nasal discharge, sneezing, lethargy, and loss of appetite. It is caused by a combination of several different infectious agents, both viral and bacterial, the most common being Bordetella bronchiseptica.
Regular vaccination is recommended for dogs in close contact with others, such as those who frequent kennels, the groomer, or dog parks. This vaccine may be given intranasally, by mouth, or as an injection under the skin, and may include Bordetella bronchiseptica alone or in conjunction with canine parainfluenza virus.
A tick-borne illness caused by Borrelia burgdorferi, Lyme disease can cause fever, lameness, swelling in joints, and kidney damage. In tick-prone regions, yearly vaccination helps mitigate the risk. Appropriate tick prevention and regular tick checks are also important.
This bacterial infection can lead to severe kidney and liver disease, fever, muscle pain, and more. It’s contracted through the urine of infected animals (often wildlife) and standing water. This condition is also zoonotic, meaning it can be spread to people in some cases. Vaccination is particularly vital for dogs with outdoor lifestyles.
Also known as Dog Flu, Canine Influenza is a viral respiratory disease that causes coughing, nasal discharge, and fever. While rarely fatal, it can lead to more severe conditions like pneumonia. Vaccination is based on risk and exposure.
Crotalus atrox (Western diamondback rattlesnake)
For dogs that live in or frequently visit areas where venomous rattlesnakes are common, the rattlesnake vaccine can be a valuable preventative measure. This vaccine helps reduce the severity of symptoms if a dog is bitten by a rattlesnake, giving owners more time to seek emergency veterinary care.
The canine vaccination schedule is designed to provide immunity against various diseases at the right stages of a dog’s life. This usually involves an initial vaccine, followed by booster shots. Puppies, in particular, have unique needs due to their developing immune systems and antibodies from their mother’s milk that provide temporary immunity, but eventually wane over time.
Not all dogs require the same vaccination schedule. Factors such as breed, age, health, lifestyle, previous vaccine reactions, and geographic location all play a role in determining the right schedule for your pup. Collaboration with a veterinarian is essential to tailor a vaccination plan to each dog’s specific needs.
Vaccines are vital in protecting dogs from various dangerous and potentially deadly diseases. However, like all medical interventions, they can sometimes cause side effects. These are typically mild and rare. If you have any concerns about possible vaccine reactions, your veterinarian will be happy to discuss them. Additionally, always inform your veterinarian if your dog has had a vaccine reaction in the past. Vets agree – in almost all cases, the benefits and need for vaccines outweigh any potential risk.
- Mild Reactions: These are the most common side effects and are usually short-lived. They may include swelling and pain at the injection site, mild fever, lethargy, and decreased appetite. Sneezing, coughing, or nasal discharge may also be seen after an intranasal vaccine. These side effects should resolve after 1-2 days.
- Allergic Reactions: These are less common but more serious and require veterinary attention. Possible symptoms include vomiting, hives or skin rash, and anaphylactic reaction. If you notice difficulty breathing or facial swelling, seek emergency veterinary care.
- Rare Side Effects: Very rarely, vaccines can cause more serious issues, such as immune-mediated reactions and tumors at the injection site.