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Vaccinations (immunizations, "shots") have saved the lives of millions of dogs. Before the days of effective vaccines, dogs routinely died from distemper, hepatitis, leptospirosis, parvovirus and complications of upper respiratory infections. Current vaccination programs protect our dogs (and us) from the threat of rabies. Newer vaccines, including those administered through the nostrils, have been developed to protect against a variety of infections.

Our veterinarians believe that an annual exam is important as well as trying to avoid giving multiple vaccines at once. Therefore, we have started vaccinating on a rotating schedule. This is explained starting at the puppy age:

Puppies receive immunity against infectious disease in their mother's milk; however, this protection begins to disappear between 6 and 20 weeks of age. The exact sequence cannot be predicted without specialized blood tests. To protect puppies during this critical time, a well-researched approach is taken: a series of vaccines is given every 3-4 weeks until the chance of contracting an infectious disease is very low. The typical vaccine is a "combination" that protects against canine distemper virus, canine hepatitis (adenovirus) and canine parvovirus (the three viruses are commonly abbreviated DAP).

Rabies vaccines are recommended at or after 16 weeks of age. All vaccines require booster immunizations ("shots") that are given one year later. Then the rotating cycle begins and only one of either distemper, parvovirus or rabies and annual bordatella is given. The protective effect of vaccinations for bacterial infections like bordetella typically do not persist for more than a year making yearly booster vaccines advisable.

 If your adult dog has an adverse reaction to any vaccine (fever, vomiting, shaking, facial swelling or hives) make sure to discuss this with your veterinarian. Usually an injection of an antihistamine before the vaccines is all that is needed.

RECOMMENDATIONS

The foremost recommendation is to discuss the vaccination program with your veterinarian. Don't be hesitant to ask questions about the pros and cons of vaccinations.

  • Puppies 6 to 20 weeks of age: In puppies, a series of three vaccines is recommended. These should begin between 6 and 8 weeks of age and typically the last vaccination is given between 14 and 16 weeks of age. The vaccine should protect against canine distemper virus, canine adenovirus, and canine parvovirus. If the risk of kennel cough is great, a vaccine against bordetella and parainfluenza is recommended at the second visit. Rabies vaccine should be given at 16 weeks of age or the third vaccine visit.
  • Dogs at 1 year, 4 months: It is important to booster the puppy vaccines in young adult dogs to ensure adequate immunity against deadly viral diseases. We would "booster" your dog one year after the "puppy" vaccine series to protect against canine distemper virus, canine adenovirus, canine parvovirus and rabies. If the risk of kennel cough is great, a vaccine against bordetella is recommended.
  • Dogs older than 2 years: Annual revaccination of only bordatella and one of either distemper, parvovirus or rabies is recommended at our clinic.  This decreases the demand on your pet's immune system and reduces the risk of complications.

This is the policy at our clinic and it is not the same at all clinics.

The following is a list of Canine Diseases:

Canine Parvovirus

This virus is very resistant and the main source of infection is the feces of infected dogs; the virus can also be spread on shoes and clothing and on the coats and foot pads of dogs. Signs appear quickly and usually consist of depression, severe vomiting, profuse smelly, bloody diarrhea, dehydration and eventually death. The disease is still present in many areas but proper vaccination combined with hygene and sanitation provides the best control.

Canine Distemper

The main source of infection is by inhalation during close dog-to-dog contact; signs may take up to three weeks to appear. Dogs of any age are susceptible. The first signs are usually runny nose and eyes, with coughing and vomiting, followed by unusual tiredness, lack of appetite and diarrhea. After several weeks, there may also be a thickening of the pads and nervous signs (including twitching and convulsions). Dogs that survive may suffer from deformed teeth or permanent nervous signs.

Infectious Canine Hepatitis (Adenovirus)

Canine hepatitis is caused by an adenovirus, which mainly attacks the liver and can rapidly be fatal. Transmission is by close dog-to-dog contact; dogs recovering from the infection may be a source of infection for more than six months. Early signs include general discomfort and lack of appetite, very high temperature, pale gums, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain and jaundice.

Kennel Cough

Also known as Infectious Canine Tracheobronchitis, Bordatella and Canine Cough. It is a contagious upper respiratory disease usually occurring where dogs are in close contact (boarding kennels, shows, etc). Signs are usually a dry cough, which may cause retching, mild tiredness, loss of appetite, mild fever, and occasionally progressing to pneumonia. Treatment is usually successful but it may take several weeks. Most boarding kennels, puppy and obedience classes require this vaccine, and we recommend it even if your pet is just coming into nose-to-nose contact with other dogs on walks.

Rabies

The rabies virus attacks the nervous system of all mammals, including man, and is always fatal. It is primarily transmitted by bite but can also be transmitted in ways you may not think of like an infected bat becoming sick and falling to the ground where your pet may encounter it. In many areas rabies vaccines are required by law and mandatory if you travel to a foreign country with your pet.

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