Vaccinations and your puppy

  Vaccinations have been quite possibly the most controversial subject of the last couple of years.  The Covid pandemic has provided an important, but highly volatile backdrop for the discussion of the important topic of proper immunization.  We'll take that opportunity here and discuss the appropriate protocols and practices that will help you and your puppy lead the happiest, healthiest life possible.  

HOW VACCINES WORK

  This will be a very quick and general overview, as vaccines, especially vaccine technology and delivery, is a rapidly evolving field.  Basically, vaccines help prepare the body's immune system for invasion, whether it be viral or bacterial, by  a contagion that would cause disease.  Vaccines contain "antigens" that train the body to recognize disease, but can't actually cause the disease themselves.  These antigens may be pieces of inactivated bacteria or virus, whole virus that has been altered or killed, or as the some of the new Covid vaccines have taught us, DNA or mRNA sequences of the contagion.  The body's exposure to the antigen stimulates the body to respond and produce cells that will help fight off the illness should the canine be exposed in the future. 

WHY VACCINATE?

A quick look at a vaccination schedule, even for one specifically for a canine, may be a bit confusing and daunting.  The repeated annual or even more frequent veterinary visits may seem like an unnecessary, inconvenient, and costly task.  Many of the common infective illnesses that occur in dogs in the United States are vaccine preventable, however, and as the old adage says, "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."  Discuss the risks of vaccination with your veterinarian, but know that vaccines do work, and do prevent illness.

  However, as you'll notice below, even between significant dog organizations such as AAHA and AKC, there are notable differences in recommendations.

THE IMPORTANCE OF YOUR VETERINARIAN 

  Always discuss the need for immunizations for your puppy with your veterinarian. Just because a disease exists, doesn't mean that your dog is at risk.  An established, trusting relationship with a like-minded veterinarian will provide a location and disease specific understanding of what your furry loved one will need.  They will be able to help you determine what specific protocols will lead to your shepherds best life, aiding you in selecting only the needed vaccinations, and preventing unnecessary vaccines that could expose your pup to unneeded risk.

THE USE OF EVIDENCE BASED MEDICINE

  In our technologically advanced age, access to opinion is easier than ever.  Opinions aren't always based on fact, however, and the need to evaluate any information you find against known and provable evidence has never been higher. For that reason, discuss any new information with your veterinarian, ask the tough questions, and make sure all parties are using evidence, rather than opinion, to guide your decisions. 
  2003 marked a significant year in the canine world in regard to vaccination practices.  The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) came out with new guidelines suggesting that there were four core vaccines that all U.S. dog owners should get for their dogs: Parvovirus, Adenovirus, Distemper, and of course, Rabies. Notably, there were three diseases placed in a "non-core" group: Lyme disease, Bordetella, and Parainfluenza.  To make matters more confusing, AAHA recommended some vaccines not even be administered.  This group includes Leptospirosis, Coronavirus (not Covid-19), and Giardia vaccines.  These diseases weren't considered severe enough to warrant vaccination or the vaccines weren't considered effective enough.  
  Discuss this with your veterinarian, and when in doubt, ask for the studies or evidence to back up their suggestions.  An informed patient or pet owner is always the best kind!

We've listed a common canine dosing schedule below, as provided by AKC.org.  

Puppy’s Age Recommended Vaccinations Optional Vaccinations
6 — 8 weeks Distemper, parvovirus Bordetella
10 — 12 weeks DHPP (vaccines for distemper, adenovirus [hepatitis], parainfluenza, and parvovirus) Influenza, Leptospirosis, Bordetella, Lyme disease per lifestyle as recommended by veterinarian
16 — 18 weeks DHPP, rabies Influenza, Lyme disease, Leptospirosis, Bordetella per lifestyle
12 — 16 months DHPP, rabies Coronavirus, Leptospirosis, Bordetella, Lyme disease
Every 1 — 2 years DHPP Influenza, Coronavirus, Leptospirosis, Bordetella, Lyme disease per lifestyle
Every 1 — 3 years Rabies (as required by law) none