Vaccines are injections that stimulate the immune system. If your dog or cat comes into contact with an infectious disease that is both treatable and preventable, the vaccine gives the immune system an advantage. Consequently, when the pet comes into contact with the infectious agent, the immune system can mount a much faster immune response. Sometimes, this can even prevent the dog from showing any symptoms.
The rabies vaccine is required by Texas state law. It is a yearly vaccine unless you get it done when the dog is an adult. Then, after a booster within a year, the rabies vaccine will turn into a three-year vaccine. But yes, the rabies vaccine is required by law.
I recommend starting puppy vaccines between seven and eight weeks of age. This is because the mother's maternal antibodies, obtained through the colostrum in her milk, start to decline around this time. Therefore, this is the optimal time to stimulate the puppy's immune system with a vaccine. When vaccines are given at a very early age, those maternal antibodies will latch on to the vaccine, effectively deactivating it.
Do I really need to avoid allowing my puppy to socialize with other dogs until they are fully vaccinated?
This is an important question because we want to protect our dogs, but we also want to hit that socialization window when a puppy is learning so we don’t have a nervous older dog. So we want to mitigate the risk. I like people to take their dog places, but I don’t want them in high dog traffic areas until they are fully vaccinated. Avoid places like PetSmart and dog parks. If you want to go for a walk, try to keep them on the concrete. If they will be meeting other dogs, ask the owner if their dogs are updated on vaccines so that your dog still has the necessary experiences, but we don’t want to throw an unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated dog into a dog park where your dog can end up with parvo a week later.
Yes, a dog's lifestyle definitely influences the recommended vaccinations. For instance, we don't do a lot of Lyme vaccines for dogs that are mainly indoor and are not often exposed to wooded environments, provided they are on flea and tick prevention. For dogs that are traveling to Colorado, going into the mountains, or going to dense flea and tick areas like up North in New York, the Lyme vaccine is much more important. Canine influenza is another example. If we’re not seeing an active wave of this disease, we don’t always recommend getting the vaccine. Some boarding facilities require it, but it does depend on where you live and what’s endemic to your area. Here, we have a lot of leptospirosis, which is a bacterium that attacks the liver and kidneys. It can also transmit to humans and can be found in standing water and in wildlife urine, and with all the rain we have, we’re a high-risk area. Therefore, I 100% recommend getting the lepto vaccine for all of my canine patients, even if they just go on leashed walks around the block because they are still getting exposed.
Typically, you want to vaccinate every three to four weeks up until 16 weeks of age and then it's once a year thereafter depending on your vaccine. As we said, with rabies, there are ways to get a three-year vaccine. Distemper-parvo can also turn into a three-year vaccine, so you can talk to your veterinarian about that. Although many people don’t believe in over-vaccinating, it is still important to vaccinate your dog for deadly diseases that are preventable. We have some dogs here that are extremely immunocompromised or are unable to get the vaccines, and they rely on herd immunity. This ensures the disease is less likely to spread to dogs that are unvaccinated.
The vaccines can prevent diseases such as Distemper, Parvo, Lepto, Parvovirus, Bordetella, Canine Influenza, Lyme. There are even vaccines for rattlesnakes. A vaccine helps you buy time. It’s not a prevention or a treatment for a rattlesnake bite, but it does allow you enough time to get to a veterinarian.
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