So for a serious/informational post:

Alright, so how important are vaccines, really? And which ones do my pets really need? I think they are confusing and it’s my job! So we’ll start with the basics:

Rabies: everyone’s heard of this one, right? Rabies is a virus that affects the nervous system.  It is found in the saliva of infected animals.  Bats get the most publicity, but raccoons, feral cats and any other mammal can spread it.  It is contagious to people and 99.9% fatal (I think there have been 1 or 2 people ever who have survived infection).  Because of this, Rabies is a vaccine that is legally required for all dogs and cats.  If they are not vaccinated, you can be fined quite a large sum from your county!  Rabies vaccine comes in both a 1 year and 3 year vaccine.

DA2PP (Distemper, Adenovirus type 2, Parvovirus, Parainfluenza): This vaccine, also called a “distemper vaccine” or a “5-in-1 vaccine” is recommended for all dogs once every 3 years.  Even though most brands of vaccines are labelled for annual use, research has shown that vaccination provides protection from disease for at least 5 years (provided your dog went through its normal puppy boosters).  The diseases in this vaccine are several different viruses that can cause serious, potentially life-threatening disease.  Additionally, most of these diseases are still seen in unvaccinated dogs, so the risk of infection is still there.

Bordetella and Influenza: These two vaccines are recommended for the same groups of dogs, so I’ll talk about them together.  Both of these vaccines protect against contagious upper respiratory diseases (basically doggy colds).  Dogs that go to kennels, groomers, dog parks, or dog shows should be vaccinated with these vaccines.  In fact, most of these places actually require these vaccines.  Unfortunately there are many other causes of colds out there that we don’t have vaccines for, so many dogs still end up sneezing and coughing after exposure to other dogs.  These vaccines are given once every 6 months to annually, as required by your boarding/grooming facility.

Lyme: Lyme disease is spread by ticks.  It is found mostly in the northeastern US, but the disease is spreading.  If you are in an area that you know has Lyme disease, or if you travel to at-risk areas, then your dog should be vaccinated.  If you do not think you are in a high-risk area, but your dog gets lots of ticks, you may still want to consider vaccination.  Lyme disease can be serious and infection is often life-long.  This vaccine is recommended yearly for at-risk dogs.

Leptospirosis: Lepto is often included in the DA2PP vaccine (DA2PPL).  It is a bacteria found often in standing water or areas with high wildlife exposure.  It is shed in the urine of infected animals, and can be contagious to people.  Vaccination is recommended yearly for at-risk dogs.

Those are the major vaccines out there for disease prevention for dogs.  It should be mentioned that more vaccines is not necessarily better.  As a veterinarian, I actually advise against vaccinating your dog for diseases that he is not at risk for.  If your dog never, ever leaves the house, then all he may need is Rabies and DA2PP.  Talk with your veterinarian about risk-based vaccination!

Until next time!