BRYAN-COLLEGE STATION, March 16, 2023 — Warmer spring weather marks the time for more outdoor adventures, especially for dogs who tend to be curious while outside. It also signals a time when owners should start thinking about protecting their dogs from external dangers by vaccinating them.
Dr. Lori Teller, a clinical associate professor at the Texas A&M School of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, says there are vaccines dogs need regardless of the outing.
Vaccines against parvovirus and distemper
These include vaccines against parvovirus – a viral disease that causes vomiting, bloody diarrhea and loss of the lining of the intestinal tract – and distemper – a viral disease that can lead to disorders affecting the nervous system and sometimes even death.
“Parvovirus and distemper can be vaccinated with a vaccine that also includes protection against canine adenovirus, which is a cause of hepatitis in dogs,” Teller said. “When parvovirus is caught early enough, vets can potentially save the dog’s life, but it can be difficult and expensive to treat. This is definitely a case where an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure.
Teller explained that vaccinations against parvovirus, distemper and adenovirus should initially be given by vets when puppies are 6-8 weeks old, followed by boosters until they are 16-20 weeks old. For pets that have been adopted as adults, Teller advises owners to visit their veterinarians as soon as possible so their dog can get any missed vaccinations.
In addition, dogs should be vaccinated against rabies, which is required by law, and given preventives to protect against diseases spread by fleas, ticks and mosquitoes.
“Rabies is almost always fatal, and dogs can get it from wild animals, such as bats, raccoons, skunks and coyotes,” Teller said. “Also, keep your pets on year-round preventatives that kill fleas and ticks and prevent heartworm disease from developing. Heartworms are spread by mosquitoes, so get your pet tested for heartworms every 12 months.
There are also activity-dependent diseases that owners should consider vaccinating their dogs against this spring.
Leptospirosis, the silent killer
For pets that spend time outdoors, Teller advises owners to get them vaccinated against leptospirosis, a bacterial disease that can lead to liver and kidney failure. Our pet dog Izzy contracted lepto from our backyard and went unnoticed for weeks. Once she was diagnosed, excellent veterinary care, including IV antibiotics, fluids, and a special diet, gave us another year with her. However, lepto is deadly and can also be transmitted to humans. We urge all dog owners to have their dogs vaccinated for leptospirosis.
“Leptospira is a bacteria that is spread in the urine of mice, rats, raccoons, deer and many other animals that inhabit urban, suburban and rural areas,” said Teller. “Bacteria can live for a long time in dirt, as well as in lakes and ponds, so dogs throughout Texas, both those living in the middle of a city and those roaming open fields, are susceptible to the disease.”
Teller also recommends certain vaccinations for dogs traveling with their owners.
“Owners who travel with their dogs to areas where Lyme disease-carrying ticks are common may want to get vaccinated against this disease,” Teller said. “Also, owners who take their dogs to areas where rattlesnakes are common should talk to their veterinarian about rattlesnake vaccine, which can reduce the impacts of rattlesnake venom and can lead to increased chance of recovery”.
Teller explained that the vaccines for Lyme disease and rattlesnake venom are initially given in series followed by annual boosters.
If owners place their furry companions in daycare or visit dog parks, Teller suggests vaccinating their dogs against parainfluenza and the Bordetella bacteria, which are the main causes of kennel cough, a common respiratory infection that rarely occurs. it is fatal but which often makes dogs sick.
“It’s a good idea to vaccinate dogs against kennel cough if they go to areas where dogs congregate,” Teller said. “Kennel cough vaccinations should ideally be given a week before your dog is boarded or visiting a dog park and then repeated annually.”
Canine flu vaccine
Finally, Teller advises owners to discuss with their veterinarian their dog’s need for a flu shot, given recent outbreaks of canine flu, a respiratory virus, in Texas and elsewhere in the country.
Ultimately, Teller encourages owners to discuss their pet’s age, current health status, and lifestyle with their veterinarian to determine what vaccinations a pet needs, since vaccinating pets appropriately it can protect both pets and their owners.
“Some of the diseases we vaccinate our pets against are diseases that are also contagious to humans, such as rabies and leptospirosis,” Teller said. “So by protecting our pets, we’re also protecting public health.”
Before you and your dog set off on your next adventure, be sure to visit your veterinarian to determine the best vaccinations for your pet. Protecting your furry friend from illness can keep you both healthy and ready for your next spring activity.
Pet Talk is a service of the School of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University. The stories can be viewed on the web at vetmed.tamu.edu/news/pet-talk. Suggestions for future topics can be directed to [email protected].