How does a vaccination for dogs work? In simplest terms, a vaccination stimulates the dog’s immune system to protect itself against disease. When the antigen or infectious agent enters the dog’s body, it is recognized as foreign and antibodies are produced to bind to it and destroy it. Even though the invader is gone, the cells that manufactured the antibodies “remember” it and will respond more quickly the next time the same agent is confronted.
Rabies (valid from 1 or 3 years, depending on vaccine) Rabies vaccination of dogs is required by government laws in the United States. Normally the one year vaccine is given to puppies. Once the dog is adult (around 1 y.o. depending on the breed) he can take a 3 year Rabies vaccine.
DHLPP (stands for Distemper, Hepatitis, Leptospirosis, Parvovirus and Parainfluenza)
Each of the disease conditions for DHLPP vaccine are broken out as follows:
Distemper (Annual Vaccination) A contagious and incurable viral disease that affects the respiratory, gastrointestinal and central nervous system. Airborne inhalants are the primary cause of transmission. It’s also shed from the infected animal through bodily fluids (watery discharge from eyes and nose), especially respiratory secretions. Contact with urine or fecal material of infected dogs can also result in infection. Boarding facilities used by infected dogs can harbor the canine distemper virus.
More than 50% of the adult dogs that contract the disease, die from it. Among puppies, the death rate from distemper often reaches 80%. Even if a dog doesn’t die from the disease, its health may be permanently impaired. It can leave a dog’s nervous system irreparably damaged, along with its sense of smell, hearing or sight. Partial or total paralysis is not uncommon, and other diseases, particularly pneumonia, frequently strike dogs already weakened by a distemper infection.
The signs of Distemper are not always noticeable. For this reason, treatment may be delayed or neglected. Frequently it may look like a severe cold with fever, congestion, nasal and eye discharge or discharge from other body openings, weight loss, coughing, vomiting, diarrhea, sudden viciousness or lethargy, abnormal lumps, limping, difficulty getting up or lying down, excessive head shaking, scratching, licking any part of the body, difficult, abnormal or uncontrolled waste elimination, dandruff and loss of hair, open sores, ragged or dull coat, foul breath or excessive tartar deposits on teeth.
Hepatitis (Annual Vaccination) – Also called Adenovirus 1 or abbreviated as CAV-1 or A1 Infectious canine hepatitis is an acute liver infection in dogs caused by canine adenovirus. The virus is spread in the feces, urine, blood, saliva and nasal discharge of infected dogs. The virus can be passed through the urine for periods of up to one year. Dogs of any age are susceptible to the disease. Mortality is about 10% and about 25% of the survivors develop a temporary corneal opacity (hepatitis blue eye). Annual vaccination with a modified live virus will give permanent prevention. The causative agent, an adenovirus, is not infectious to humans.
It is contracted through the mouth or nose, where it replicates in the tonsils. The virus then infects the liver and kidneys. The incubation period is 4 to 7 days. Symptoms include fever, depression, loss of appetite, coughing, and a tender abdomen. Corneal edema and signs of liver disease such as jaundice, vomiting and hepatic encephalopathy may occur. Severe causes will develop bleeding disorders which can cause hematomas to form in the mouth.
Death can occur secondary to this or the liver disease. However, most dogs recover after a brief illness, although chronic corneal edema and kidney lesions may persist. The disease can be confused with canine parvovirus because both will cause a low white blood cell count and bloody diarrhea in young, unvaccinated dogs.
Leptospirosis (Annual Vaccination) Leptospirosis is transmitted by the urine of an infected animal, and is contagious as long as it is still moist. Rats, mice and voles are important primary hosts, but a wide range of other mammals are also able to carry and transmit the disease. Dogs and humans become infected by leptospires (an infectious bacteria) when abraded skin, eyes or mucous membranes come into contact with infected urine, blood, food, soil or water that has been contaminated by infected animal urine. Also when dogs lick the urine of an infected animal off the grass or soil, or drink from an infected puddle.
There has been reports of “house dogs” contracting leptospirosis apparently from licking the urine of infected mice that entered the house. Leptospirosis is also transmitted by the semen of infected animals. In humans, though rarely, it may happen mostly with veterinarians, slaughter house workers, farmers and sewer workers. Symptoms include high fever, severe headache, chills, muscle aches, vomiting, and may include jaundice, red eyes, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and/or rash. In humans complications include meningitis, respiratory distress and renal interstitial tubular necrosis, which results in renal failure and often liver failure. Cardiovascular problems are also possible. Because of wide range of symptoms the infection is often wrongly diagnosed.
Parvovirus (Annual Vaccination) Canine Parvovirus is a contagious virus affecting dogs. The disease is highly infectious and is spread from dog to dog by physical contact and contact with feces. Most dogs (more than 80%) will show no symptoms of illness within 3 to 10 days. Symptoms include lethargy, vomiting fever and diarrhea (usually bloody). After a dog is infected, there is no cure, but dogs usually recover from the viral infection and symptoms with five days with aggressive treatment. However, diarrhea and vomiting result in dehydration and secondary infection can set in, causing death even in treated dogs. Risk factors for severe disease include young age, a stressful environment, and concurrent infections with bacteria, parasites, and canine coronavirus.
Due to dehydration, the dog’s electrolyte balance is destroyed. Because of destruction of the normal intestinal lining, blood and protein leak into the intestines leading to anemia and loss of protein, and endotoxins escape into the bloodstream, causing endotoxemia. The white blood cell level drops, further weakening the dog. Any or all of these factors can lead to shock and death. Survival rates depends on how quickly it is diagnosed and how aggressive the treatment is.
Direct contact with infected feces is not necessary for the disease to spread: viral particles on shoes, clothing, hair, and so on are all that is needed for the transmission. The disease is extremely hardy and has been found to be present in feces or other organic material (eg. soil) even after a year including extremely cold and hot temperatures. The only household disinfectant that kills the virus is a mixture of bleach and water, 1 part bleach and 30 parts of water. A dog that successfully recovers from Parvovirus is still contagious for up to 2 months. Neighbors and family members with dogs should be notified of infected animal so that they can ensure that their dogs are vaccinated and tested.
Parainfluenza, Bordetella, Adenovirus 2 (CAV-2), Kennel Cough (6 to 12 months vaccine protection) Parainfluenza, Adenovirus type 2, Bordetella and Distemper, are all members of the Kennel Cough complex. Kennel Cough is a highly contagious disease. It is known mostly as tracheobronchitis, Bordetella or Kennel Cough. It can be picked up by rabbits, guinea pigs, cats and dogs. It’s not contagious to humans though it is closely related to Bordetella pertussis, the agent of Whooping Cough. Among dogs it’s fairly contagious depending on stress level, vaccination status, and exposure to minor viruses. It causes inflammation of the upper respiratory system. It can be caused by viral infections such as canine distemper, adenovirus, parainfluenza virus, canine respiratory coronavirus or bacterial infections such as Bordetella bronchiseptica. It is so named because the infection can spread quickly among dogs, such as in the close quarters of a Kennel.
Both viral and bacterial causes of kennel cough are spread through the air by infected dogs sneezing and coughing. It can also spread through contact with contaminated surfaces and through direct contact. It is highly contagious. Exposure occurs in environments where there are other dogs in proximity, such as kennels, dog shows, and groomers. Symptoms begin usually 3 to 5 days after exposure.
It is a serious condition in very young puppies, especially those with a recent shipping history (i.e. pet store puppies) are especially prone to severe cases of infectious tracheobronchitis (frequently progressing to pneumonia). Symptoms can include a harsh, dry hacking/coughing, retching, sneezing, snorting or gagging; in response to light pressing of the trachea or after excitement or exercise. The presence of a fever varies from case to case. The disease can last from 10-20 days. Diagnosis is made by seeing these symptoms and having a history of exposure.
Vets recommend keeping all dogs current on Bordetella vaccinations as you never know when they be in an unexpected situation.
Adenovirus Type 2 serum also immunizes against Adenovirus Type 1, the agent of infectious hepatitis. Vaccination options: intranasal spray or injectable (a good choice for aggressive dogs who may bite if their muzzle is approached).
Corona (Optional annual vaccination) Coronavirus is a virus of the family Coronaviridae that causes a highly contagious intestinal disease. Canine coronavirus was originally thought to cause serious gastrointestinal disease, but now most cases are considered to be very mild or without symptoms. A more serious complication of canine coronavirus occurs when the dog is also infected with canine parvovirus. Coronavirus infection makes it more susceptible to parvovirus infection. This causes a much more severe disease than either virus can separately. However, fatal intestinal disease associated with canine coronavirus without the presence of canine parvovirus is still occasionally reported.
The signs of Coronavirus are similar to parvovirus, so the initial diagnostic tests will likely include a parvo test. The incubation period is only one to three days. The disease is highly contagious and is spread through the feces of infected dogs, which usually shed the virus for six to nine days, but sometimes for 6 months following infection.
Symptoms include diarrhea, vomiting, and anorexia. Treatment only requires medication for diarrhea, but more severely affected dogs may require intravenous fluids for dehydration. Fatalities are rare. The virus is destroyed by most available disinfectants. There is a vaccine available, and it is usually given to puppies, which are more susceptible to canine coronavirus, and to dogs that have a high risk of exposure such as show dogs.
Recently, a second type of canine coronavirus has been shown to cause respiratory disease in dogs. Dogs that recovered from Coronavirus develop some immunity, but the duration of immunity is unknown. Strict sanitation is required, especially if the household contains more than one dog. All animal waste should be disposed of daily, and feeding and watering utensils should be properly sanitized.
Lyme (Optional annual vaccination) Lyme disease is caused by bacteria called Borrelia burgdorferi, which is passed to dogs through a bite from the deer tick. The tick must remain attached to the animal’s skin for at least one day before the bacteria can be transmitted. Quick removal of the tick will also help prevent Lyme disease. Unfortunately, these ticks are very small and easily can go unnoticed. The ticks, called Ixodes or deer ticks, generally are found in specific regions of the United States, where Lyme disease is endemic, such as the northeastern states, the upper Mississippi region, California, and certain southern states.
Without treatment, Lyme disease causes problems in many parts of the dog’s body, including the heart, kidneys and joints. On rare occasions, it can lead to neurological disorders. Symptoms are high fever, swollen lymph nodes, lameness, loss of appetite, heart disease, inflamed joints, and kidney disease. Disorders of the nervous system, while uncommon, may occur as well.
To Vaccinate or not vaccinate – that is the question.
There is lack of scientific proof on this matter. When pet vaccinations began to take place, they were only recommendations – not based on scientific evidence. Because of for example a parvo virus epidemic in 1970 that killed thousands of dogs, mass vaccination against the disease was administered in the United States.
In 1988, rabies vaccination started to be mandatory for cats. In 1991, researchers noticed the increased number of tumors in cats. Soon, veterinary professionals began to suspect vaccination risks in various autoimmune diseases. They noticed that, in some animals, vaccines were stimulating the animal’s immune system against his or her own tissues, leading to potentially fatal diseases, such as auto-immune hemolytic anemia (AIHA) in dogs. They suspected vaccine reaction was causing chronic conditions such as thyroid disease, allergy, arthritis and seizures in cats and dogs. But in 1995 the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association concluded that there was “little scientific documentation that backs up label claims for annual administration of most vaccines”, and that the only vaccine tested routinely for duration is the rabies vaccine. Also, they suggested that some vaccines should be given annually, but others only every few years would be sufficient because of potential risks associated with them.
Some Vets prefer to vaccinate only when necessary. They give annual titers, or tests, to check the level of antibodies (disease fighting cells) in the blood, and only then it can be determined if booster vaccinations are necessary. Since vaccinations were recommended by the USDA for many decades, it made opinions very controversial.
Many Vets still believe that it’s too early to change the usual vaccination procedure. They believe that until more is known about the immunity conferred to some vaccines, it’s best to take the conservative approach. They emphasize that annual vaccinations have been effective in decimating the incidence of former potentially lethal viral diseases such as canine distemper, hepatitis and parvo virus. They claim that while the vaccination issue is a complicated one, non vaccination is a major error. In most cases, the threat to animals health from non vaccination is much greater than the usual vaccinations. The diseases are real, severe and common.
This debate could be settled by more research and information. But while vaccine companies are under no legal obligation to demonstrate duration of immunity, that question may remain unanswered for some time. And there are claims that the problem lies in financial and political issues. A study would have to be made in which viruses would be given to inoculated animals over a period of 5 to 10 years. These animals would have to be kept in a controlled environment for these tests and only drug companies have this kind of money. Some say that for the drug companies, the decision is based on priorities: either more products or immunity studies. Not both.