Vaccinations

There are many diseases that are fatal to dogs. Fortunately, we have the ability to prevent many of these by the use of very effective vaccines. In order to be effective, these vaccines must be given as a series of injections. Ideally, they are given at about 6-8, 12, and 16 weeks of age, but this schedule may vary somewhat depending on several factors.The routine vaccination schedule will protect your puppy from five diseases: distemper, hepatitis, parainfluenza virus, parvovirus, and rabies. The first four are included in one injection that is given at 6-8, 12, and 16 weeks old. Rabies vaccine is given at 16 weeks of age. There are two other optional vaccinations that are appropriate in certain situations. Your puppy should receive kennel cough vaccine (Intra Trac II) if a trip to a boarding kennel is likely or if it will be placed in a puppy training class. Lyme vaccine is given to dogs that are exposed to ticks because Lyme Disease is transmitted by ticks. Please advise us of these needs on your next visit.Why the Series of VaccinationsWhen the puppy nurses its mother, it receives a temporary form of immunity through its mother's milk. This immunity is in the form of proteins called antibodies. For about 24-48 hours after birth, the puppy's intestine allows absorption of these antibodies directly into the blood stream. This immunity is of benefit during the first few weeks of the puppy's life, but, at some point, this immunity fails and the puppy must be able to make its own long-lasting immunity. Vaccinations are used for this purpose. As long as the mother's antibodies are present, vaccinations do not have a chance to stimulate the puppy's immune system. The mother's antibodies interfere by neutralizing the vaccine.Many factors determine when the puppy will be able to respond to the vaccinations. These include the level of immunity in the mother dog, how much antibody has been absorbed, and the number of vaccines given to the puppy. Since we do not know when an individual puppy will lose the short-term immunity, we give a series of vaccinations. We hope that at least two of these will fall in the window of time when the puppy has lost immunity from its mother but has not yet been exposed to disease. A single vaccination, even if effective, is not likely to stimulate the long-term immunity that is so important.Rabies vaccine is an exception to this, since one injection given at the proper time is enough to produce long-term immunity.Intestinal WormsIntestinal parasites are common in puppies. Puppies can become infected with parasites before they are born or later through their mother's milk. The microscopic examination of a stool sample will usually help us to determine the presence of intestinal parasites. We recommend this exam for all puppies. If we can not get a stool sample, please bring one at your earliest convenience. Even if we do not get a stool sample, we recommend the use of Drontal, a deworming product that is safe and effective against several of the common worms of the dog. It is given now and repeated in about 3 weeks. Food should not be withheld before or after administering the tablet. It is important that it be repeated in about 3 weeks because the deworming medication only kills the adult worms. Within 3-4 weeks, the larval stages will have become adults and will need to be treated. Dogs remain susceptible to reinfection with hookworms and roundworms. Periodic deworming throughout the dog's life may be recommended for dogs that go outdoors.Tapeworms are the most common intestinal parasite of dogs. Puppies become infected with them when they swallow fleas; the eggs of the tapeworm live inside the flea. When the dog chews or licks its skin as a flea bites, the flea may be swallowed. The flea is digested within the dog's intestine; the tapeworm hatches and then anchors itself to the intestinal lining. Therefore, exposure to fleas may result in a new infection; this can occur in as little as two weeks.Dogs infected with tapeworms will pass small segments of the worms in their stool. The segments are white in color and look like grains of rice. They are about 1/8 inch (3 mm) long and may be seen crawling on the surface of the stool. They may also stick to the hair under the tail. If that occurs, they will dry out, shrink to about half their size, and become golden in color.Tapeworm segments do not pass every day or in every stool sample; therefore, inspection of several consecutive bowel movements may be needed to find them. We may examine a stool sample in our office and not find them, then you may find them the next day. If you find them at any time, please notify us so we may provide the appropriate drug for treatment.HeartwormsHeartworms are important parasites, especially in certain climates. They can live in your dog's heart and cause major damage to the heart and lungs. Heartworms are transmitted by mosquitoes so your dogs does not have to be in contact with another dog to be exposed. Fortunately, we have drugs that will protect your dog from heartworms. These drugs are very safe and very effective if given regularly. One product, Filarabits Plus, is a chewable tablet that your dog should eat like a treat; it is given daily. Two others, Heartgard and Interceptor, are tablets that are given only once monthly. We recommend the product that is most likely to be given on a regular basis, either daily or monthly. Be aware that having a long haircoat or staying primarily indoors does not protect a dog against heartworm infection.Heartworm preventatives are dosed according to your dog's weight. As the weight increases, the dosage should also increase. Please note the dosing instructions on the package. These products are very safe. You could overdose your dog by two or three times the recommended dose without causing harm. Therefore, it is always better to overdose rather than underdose