There are many very serious and life-threatening diseases that we can prevent in our dogs and our pets with vaccinations. Some of these are: canine parvovirus - one of the most deadly diseases out there, spread almost on everything, since it’s spread in the feces, from mouth to feces. We can protect against this very deadly virus. Another very deadly virus is canine distemper virus. That is a respiratory virus spread a lot like the flu or COVID. Our vaccine for that is extremely effective. Another very significant disease that actually people can get is called leptospirosis. Not all clinics recommend vaccinating for that, but we do include it in our annual packages. It is a disease that is devastating for dogs. It specifically causes damage to the urinary system or kidneys and can even spread to people. Another vaccine that we commonly protect against is canine bordetella, another significant respiratory disease that dogs get. It’s the most contagious of all the canine viruses or diseases. It is not typically very fatal, but nobody wants to get the flu, so that’s another one that we protect against. There are others, but those are some of the names that you will be familiar with.
Vaccinations are not typically required by any city or state laws or federal laws except for one, and you probably know what that is: rabies vaccination. That is another deadly disease that we don't see too much, or hardly ever, in the United States anymore. It is all around us in our neighboring countries, but rabies is another one that we protect against with annual vaccinations, and that one is required by most city ordinances and even state laws.
Your dog’s lifestyle is critically important in the kind of diseases that they might be exposed to. But if your dog is inside 99% of the time, and just goes outside to its own backyard to go to the bathroom, then comes right back in, its exposure is very minimal, but it is not 0. We’ve even had dogs that are exposed and come down with deadly diseases who fit that particular description. If your dog however is very active and you are very active, and your dog is going to dog parks, or the groomers, or kennels, your dog’s exposure and your dog’s risk level is significantly higher. And we would just always recommend keeping that in mind, not to mention some of the parasite prevention.
The core dog vaccinations. Now this is a topic that not all veterinarians will agree on. I’ll just tell you what our policies and protocols are and which vaccinations we include as far as core vaccinations. Certainly rabies vaccinations, that is going to be agreed upon by all veterinarians. Parvo distemper is going to be agreed upon, that that should be part of core vaccinations. Leptospirosis, as I mentioned earlier, is not agreed on by all veterinarians but we strongly recommend that. I would suggest that if you were to check with 9/10 emergency clinics, they would strongly recommend leptospirosis be included in that as well, being that it can affect people. Bordetella vaccination is another one that we include as core, being that it is so tremendously contagious, not as deadly as many of the others, but again, nobody likes to get the flu, and those are the symptoms that it can cause. So again, to sum up, core vaccinations for our dogs are going to include rabies vaccination, distemper parvo vaccination, bordetella vaccination, and leptospirosis vaccinations.
There are many many vaccinations for dogs. I’ve gone over the core, which would be: rabies, distemper parvo, bordetella, and lepto. I would consider everything else as non-core vaccinations. Non-core vaccinations can include many many things such as rattlesnake vaccinations. If you live in certain parts of the country where your dog is likely to get bit by a rattlesnake, that might be one to consider. There are lyme disease vaccinations, that is one that we don’t strongly recommend. We don’t see that disease very commonly at all. I don’t remember the last time I saw it, so I would not include that. But if you live especially Northeast United States, where they have tremendous numbers of ticks on dogs all the time, that is one that they would probably include. But you can have everything from ringworm vaccinations to wart vaccinations to lots of other things.
That can vary a little bit. Certainly, as a rule, we are going to recommend yearly vaccinations for all dogs. Certainly if a dog has never been vaccinated, which typically includes our puppies, but even if an older dog has never had vaccinations, they are going to need a booster within 3-4 weeks after the initial. Puppies need a series of 3 or 4 vaccinations, or 2-3 boosters, just because their immune system is not quite mature enough to respond well enough to a single. As far as what we are going to recommend with some of our older dogs, that can be a bit of a judgment call for owners. Being that we deal with dogs in general, our first recommendation is going to be an annual vaccination for all dogs. If your dog is inside almost all the time, has had regular vaccinations, is not exposed to many dogs at all, then every-other-year vaccination is an option. However, it only takes one exposure to catch a very deadly disease. And older dogs’ immune systems are not going to be as strong as their immune system was as when they were a younger dog. That’s something to keep in mind. So again, a basic answer is going to be vaccinations once a year, but as they get older and their exposure and lifestyle has changed, that’s something to keep in mind and to speak to your veterinarians about.
Certainly that’s going to depend on what vaccinations they’ve had in the past and what their lifestyle is. Typically an adult dog is going to need vaccinations once a year. That’s it. If their lifestyle causes a dramatic increase in risk, for example, if your dog goes to kennels or the dog park regularly or even monthly, we are going to recommend some vaccinations be increased like bordetella which is very contagious. We want their immune system very strong against that. If their lifestyle causes a very low risk, they may not need vaccinations every year. Puppies, on the other hand, their immune systems are naive, immature, they’re not ready to respond, so puppies are going to need to start vaccinations as close to 6 weeks as possible (6 weeks or after), and then have a booster every 3-4 weeks after that, until 16 weeks or older. In other words, they would need their last booster at 16 weeks or later.
The answer to that is yes! Just like with children and people, we commonly give multiple vaccinations at the same time. The immune systems in both people and pets are fairly similar, they can respond to many different challenges at one time. After the immune system processes a vaccination, sometimes it will not respond well after it's in that pipeline for a couple weeks. But in answer to how many vax can we give at the same time: we commonly give all 4 of our core vaccinations at the same time, unless there is a reason not to. If a dog has had a concern or a certain sensitivity to one, we might spread them out a little bit. But in general, we typically give all 4 of our core vaccinations annually, at the same time.
That increases our risk. Now, to a large degree, our schedule for vaccinations is going to be aimed at minimizing our risk, maybe not to 0 but to a very low number. So, if we are asked: “What are the risks if my dog is 1 month late?” Well, that depends on your dog’s lifestyle and risk level. Our basic recommendation is going to be every year, when they’re due. If you are a little bit late, just being straight forward, that for most dogs is not a very high risk. We’re not going to recommend it. But if life happens and you're not able to get to it, I don't want to make it sound like we’re worried that your dog is at tremendous risk. But, the later we booster a dog’s vaccinations, the risk just climbs, not only your dog’s risk, but even if your dog were to get a minimal exposure or an exposure and got minimal disease, the lower your dog’s immune strength against that disease, the more your dog could potentially spread that disease even if your dog didn’t get sick itself.
I’m not really comfortable with the word “restart.” Sometimes that may communicate an idea. The basic recommendations, we say recommendations, not rules, are that we are going to recommend vaccinations for puppies every 3-4 weeks starting at or as soon after 6 weeks as we can, then giving the final vaccinations at 16 weeks or soon after that. That is the basic recommendation. If we have missed our 2nd vaccination, our booster, by more than 6 weeks, we would want to consider that as a non-boosted vaccination, if I can use those terms. However, again, the rule is, starting at 6 weeks or after, and the last vaccination at 16 weeks or soon after that. So if we have a puppy that was started at 6 weeks, but we missed every vaccination up until 12 weeks, we boosted the appropriate vaccinations at 12 weeks, and gave a vaccination at 16 weeks. The question might be: ”Do we need to do more after the 16 weeks?” and the answer is no. Just if we follow that rule, just to make sure we are protecting those very young dogs, and then their immune system is strong enough by 16 weeks for a booster at that time to take care of them for at least a year.
Well the basic recommendations for puppies is that we start vaccinations for puppies at 6 weeks or as soon after as possible and then booster every 3-4 weeks after that, our last puppy booster at 16 weeks or as soon after that as possible. Adults, we are going to recommend annual vaccinations as a rule after that, we can talk about certain exceptions to that rule, but in general, adult vaccinations are going to be every year. Let's take an example where we have a dog that got started with vaccinations at 4 months of age, for whatever reason. That dog, again, the rule is boosters up until 16 weeks or as soon after that as possible, so our initial vaccination is an initial and the next one is going to be a booster, so if a dog started at 4 months, it's going to have an initial, a booster in 3-4 weeks, and then we are set until its annual visit.
Of course there can be variations! If after a conversation with your trusted veterinarian or a technician, if your dog’s lifestyle results in a very low risk, or your dog is sensitive to vaccinations, which some dogs are, not many, but some dogs. In that case, your veterinarian might consider boosting the dog less than once a year. Or if in your judgment you can't make it into the veterinarian, if you need to booster less than once a year, that is your decision to make. But in general, we are going to advise clients that the longer they wait after their yearly scheduled booster, the risk levels start to climb up very slowly and that’s just a risk that you may choose to take or you might not.
As far as individual pets, it’s certainly a good idea to discuss that with your trusted veterinarian or veterinary technician. However, in our opinion, and with just a general incidence of disease around our areas, we are always going to recommend rabies which is state law, distemper parvo, because they’re the most deadly diseases that dogs are going to get. Leptospirosis. That is out there and can affect people. Bordetella: the most contagious of the dog diseases. Anything apart from that, I would consider non-core vaccinations. Like we discussed: rattlesnake vaccinations or ringworm vaccinations, lyme disease vaccinations. I would not be recommending those for the average dog in our areas that we serve. Just because it’s a balance, right, between what are the risks versus what are the advantages. Where we serve, lyme disease is very low risk, so in my estimation, no medication or even vaccination is with zero risk, so we wouldn’t recommend that one. How about rattlesnake vaccinations? Well if you live in sweetwater or West Texas, Jacksboro even (I worked there and saw a lot of snakebites), you might consider getting that one. But in general, in the cities, you’re not going to see many significant rattlesnake vaccinations. So, non-core vaccinations, we would not recommend those for your puppy with an average risk.
That is a definition. What is painful? If we consider a pinch, is that painful? Some people might say “nah, that’s not too painful,” and some might say “yeah, that’s kinda painful.” Some dogs are more sensitive than others, and again, we’re always going to talk about risk versus rewards. Our staff, and we have great staff at Low Cost Pet Vet, and even our vaccination clinics, right, we are skilled at distracting dogs a little bit when we give the vaccinations. It helps to distract owners a little bit too. Vaccinations typically feel like a bit of a pinch. And if we’re not expecting it, a lot of dogs can respond like they don’t even notice it. Some dogs are kind of expecting it and they can respond a little more. Vaccinations, I would say, don’t hurt. They’re kind of like a pinch, if a dog is paying attention. Some dogs are going to respond more, some people respond more to their dog about to get a vaccinations, and dogs pick up on the sensitivities of owners, right? So a lot of times, the more calm an owner is, the more calm your puppy is.
So with vaccinations, like any other medications, we want to have a judgment and reason through this, right? What’s the benefit versus the risks? The risks of the disease or risk of any medication, or the benefits. Our core vaccinations: minimal risk. At Low Cost Pet Vax, we use even a more purified vaccine than I'll say even than most veterinarians use. Because we do so many that I don’t want to have any reactions. So, our risk is extremely low of any reactions to vaccinations. What’s the benefit of getting vaccinations? Protecting your dog! Sometimes it’s life and death, so the risk:reward ratio with our vaccines I think is pretty great as far as low risk, high reward. Some dogs are sensitive to vaccinations, so that risk:reward can change. So again, if you have questions, have a discussion with your trusted veterinarian.
There are certainly ways to minimize risk. One of the ways is to use, again, the vaccine that we at Low Cost Pet Vet and Low Cost Pet Vax use. We use a more purified vaccine that’s a little bit more expensive for us (don’t worry, we keep your cost down), but that minimizes the risk of even just minor vaccination reactions, if a dog is sensitive. Sometimes if they’re sensitive enough, we can give medications to minimize their response to them and still get the benefit of the vaccination. So in general, there are ways, and if you are concerned about sensitivities with your dog or have experienced those in the past, again, have a discussion with your trusted veterinarian because there are ways to minimize any sensitivities to vaccinations.
Absolutely, it’s possible. Again, we want to follow that up with: how likely is that? I don't have exact research-based numbers on that, but we do so many vaccinations, I can give you a basic idea that we do a couple thousand vaccinations per weekend. Typically we don’t see any significant vaccinations over most weekends, and again, that is doing thousands. I know that because we have a lady who answers our phone, that clients can call, and typically they do call if they have any concerns. So, can sensitivities or vaccination reactions happen? Yes. And some dogs that have experienced those, we will give medications or take measures to minimize those. But in general, that is a very low risk thing. The risks of the diseases are much higher than any concerns about vaccination reactions.
Yes, certain dogs are at slightly higher risk. There’s no dog breed that I know of that are at significant risks, or at risks of vaccination reactions that might encourage us to change our recommended schedule of vaccinations for those breeds. Certainly some dogs, smaller breeds are at a slightly higher risk of vaccination reactions. Smaller breeds such as dachshunds come to mind, or some of the terriers may be at a slightly higher risk of vaccination reactions. But even those breed’s risks are so small that I would not even consider changing our recommended protocols for even those breeds.
Absolutely, that is so important. Puppies especially because puppies are, again, our biggest worries with puppies are things like parvovirus and distemper virus, both of those are very deadly. So we are always going to recommend that your puppy be kept from socializing, playing with, even being in the same environment that unknown dogs have been, or even known dogs where their vaccination status is unknown, or their health status is unknown. So that can be a bit inconvenient, but until your dog has been fully vaccinated, again, that is, until they have had their booster vaccination at 16 weeks or older, we’d recommend: err on the side of protection. And that is having your puppy or your dog only in an environment that you know is safe and has protected against exposure to unknown dogs or dogs with unknown vaccination status. So a puppy can go in its own backyard, as long as other dogs aren’t there, or sometimes that means on puppy pads up until they’re vaccinated. So again, if you have questions, speak to your veterinarian, but yes, protect your puppies until they’re fully vaccinated.
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