Vaccinations for Your Dog

One day when I was at the front desk I overheard a client ask one of the technicians “Are vaccinations really necessary?”

Vaccines were developed more than 200 hundred years ago when Edward Jenner’s created the world’s first vaccine for smallpox in the 1790s.  Yet still today there are people who reason that they, or their pets do not need vaccinated for viruses that can and do cause death.  I was even told by one gentleman that vaccinations were some kind of government conspiracy.

Not that long ago gasping breath and distinctive sounds of whooping cough, iron lungs, and braces designed for children paralyzed with polio as well as the devastating birth defects caused by rubella were commonplace in this country.  Infant mortality was a staggering twenty percent.
Why do we not have these maladies today? Why are they not prevalent today?  They are prevalent today; just not in the United States as well as other first world nations.

We have been able to contain these diseases with widespread distribution of safe, effective, and affordable vaccines. So why is it so difficult to understand the same principles apply to our pets?  Without vaccinations your dog has no protection from viruses (or bacterial infection) such as Distemper, Hepatitis, Leptospirosis, Parainfluenza, and Parvo.

Canine Distemper

Distemper is a highly contagious disease of dogs. It is caused by a virus that is easily spread through the air and by contaminated objects, much like the cold virus spreads in humans. Though the disease occurs more often in young dogs, those of any age may contract Distemper.

Signs range from a mild respiratory problem (runny eyes and nose), severe diarrhea, vomiting, and seizures. Many recovered dogs are left with uncontrollable muscle or limb jerking and/or periodic convulsions. This is a serious disease that is often fatal. Currently we have no drugs to destroy the virus. Treatment is aimed at supportive care.


Leptospirosis is a serious bacterial disease that infects dogs, people, and several other types of animals. This bacteria attacks the kidney, liver, and nervous system. Recovered animals may shed the organism in their urine for up to 1 year. Infected rats are a common source of leptospirosis.

Vaccination is the best prevention, and all dogs should be vaccinated yearly.Parainfluenza: This is an airborne virus that causes infections of the respiratory tract. Symptoms range from coughing, sneezing, and runny eyes and nose. Fatalities are rare, but a secondary bacterial infection may occur and contribute to a more severe disease, with occasional deaths. Vaccination is highly recommended.


Dogs become infected with the parvovirus through contact with the stool of an infected dog or a contaminated environment (a park, pet store, dog show, grooming facility, etc…). This virus is very hardy and remains infective in the environment for a long period of time. Puppies are most susceptible to parvovirus infections. Parvovirus causes severe and often bloody vomiting and diarrhea. Fatalities occur most often in puppies. Vaccinations and keeping the puppy or dog isolated from contact with unvaccinated puppies or dogs is the best preventative.


Bordetella or Kennel Cough is a contagious disease of the upper respiratory tract, which includes the trachea (windpipe) and bronchi (large air passages of the lungs). The most common sign of kennel cough is a harsh, dry cough that is often followed by gagging and coughing up foamy mucus. Otherwise, the dog appears alert and generally healthy. The disease is spread easily and rapidly from one dog to another. Vaccination is a good preventative and highly recommended for dogs being boarded, groomed, attending training classes, having a medical or surgical procedure done at a veterinarian, or if the dog comes in contact with unvaccinated dogs.


Rabies is a fatal disease caused by a virus. All warm-blooded animals are susceptible. The disease is often spread when an infected animal bites another animal. The bitten animal will not become infected unless the saliva of the sick animal contains the rabies virus at the time of the bite. The bat, skunk, and fox are the most commonly infected wild animals. Dogs and cats are the most commonly infected domestic animals.

Used with author’s permission

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