Canine Vaccines

and the immune system

Core Vaccines


Immunity is a condition that permits natural or acquired resistance to a disease. There are two different kinds of immunity, active and passive. Active immunity is where the animal is exposed to a pathogen, either through a vaccine or natural. Passive immunity is the transfer of antibodies, either through a plasma donation or the mother passing her antibodies down to her offspring through colostrum.

How vaccines protect or pets

There are two different types of vaccines that we give in the vet clinic, one is modified live and killed. Modified live vaccines use altered antigens created from pathogens and places a little bit of the actual disease in the animal. The pathogen is weakened and can still divide but not invoke clinical diseases. Killed vaccines use a killed pathogen and the animal must receive a booster. The pathogen cant divide but still has antigens that can invoke an immune response. Both of these vaccines expose dogs to a form of the disease so that they can build up an immunity to them.


This disease causes gooey eyes and nasal discharge, fever, poor appetite, vomiting, coughing and callusing of the nose and foot pads. It is spread from exposure to extremely fresh body secretions that are less than thirty minutes old. The only treatment care for distemper is supportive care and more than half of the dogs with this disease will die within the first two weeks. Those that survive typically will have permanent neurological defects.


This virus causes severe vomiting and bloody diarrhea, low white blood cell count, fever, and shock. It is typically seen in puppies under six months of age. The parvovirus is highly contagious and is spread through feces. The virus can live on fomites for up to five months and has an incubation time of 7-14 days. The treatment for this virus is supportive care, I.V. fluids and antibiotics, and anti-vomiting drugs.
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Adenovirus 2

Causes dry hacking cough, retching, bringing up white foam, inflammation of trachea and bronchi, and nasal discharge. It is spread through infected dogs coughing on another dog or from the discharge of an infected dog. Treatment for this disease is antitussive.


This disease is highly contagious and produces a mild upper respiratory infection. It is spread through coughing. We treat for this with antitussive and antibiotics.

Vaccine Schedule

For all four of the above diseases, the vaccine schedule is:

Given between 6-8 weeks then it is repeated every 3 weeks until 16 weeks of age. A booster is then given at one year and another booster at two years. From then on a booster is given every 3 years.


This is a fatal virus and has zoonotic potential. By law dogs must get this vaccination. The virus effects the dog's central nervous system and can cause the dog to be nervous, withdrawn, aggressive and or paralysis. Rabies is spread through the saliva from an infected animal. There is no treatment and euthanasia is highly recommended. The vaccine schedule for this virus is:

Given at 12 weeks of age and is repeated at one year then is given a booster every three years there after.

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Non- core canine vaccines

1. Bordetella- Causes dry cough and watery discharge. Treatment is antitussive and antibiotics. Vaccine is typically given intranasal or intravenous. This is a good vaccine to get if you plan on boarding your dog.

2. Leptospira- This is a zoonotic disease that is life threatening. It causes a fever, depression, joint pain, jaundice, renal failure and excessive failure. It is spread through infected urine or infected drinking water. It is treated with penicillin, tetracycline, supportive care and blood work. (penicillin and tetracycline cant be given at the same time)

3. Borrelia Burgdorferi- Causes joint pain, fever, kidney fail, anorexia, shifting lameness, and swollen lymph nodes. It is spread through ticks and the tick must be on the dog for 48 hours. It is treated with doxycycline and NSAIDs.