Core Dog Vaccinations

These are vaccines that every dog should have as part of a healthy preventative plan. These dog vaccinations are started as a puppy and continued throughout the life of the pet.


  • This is a fatal disease that affects carnivores and bats, though any mammal can be affected.
  • At this time this virus is found worldwide with the exception of a few island countries due to their rigorous quarantine regulations.
  • Sources of rabies in the wild, in the United States, are raccoon, foxes, skunk, and bats.
  • The virus is spread from saliva into the tissue from a bite wound; cats, dogs, and ferrets may spread the virus in the saliva several days prior to showing clinical signs.
  • Rabies has been isolated in the musk (spray) of a skunk.
  • The incubation period is variable. On average clinical signs will begin 21-80 days after exposure.
  • Clinical signs are varied. Signs that can be seen across all species are acute behavioral change (aggression, anorexia, hyper-excitability) and progressive paralysis.
  • Three phases are noted (prodromal, acute excitative, and paralytic or end stage) and two forms, the Furious (aggressive behavior) and the Paralytic (comatose and docile).
  • There is no definitive diagnostic test to be run while the pet is alive; the diagnosis is made from testing the brain tissue post-mortem.
  • Due to the fatal nature, and the risk to humans, all bite injuries must be reported and if needed quarantine is established.
  • Prevention is accomplished through dog vaccinations. Every pet must have two vaccines 1 year apart before they can consider moving to a three year schedule.
  • Titers are available but have limitations such as cost and the legalities of coverage when dealing with an exposure case.

Canine Distemper Virus (CDV)

  • This is a highly contagious systemic virus found worldwide. It is found in many species such as, but not limited to, Canine (dogs, fox, and wolves), Mustelidae (ferret, mink, otter, and badger), Procyonidae (raccoon), Bear, large cats.
  • Clinical signs can be biphasic: a fever and lethargy followed by a rest and improvement, then severe ocular-nasal discharge, secondary bacterial infections, an anorexia (loss of appetite) will occur.
  • Thickening of the nose and the foot pads (hyperkeratosis) is a classic clinic sign.
  • Neurologic signs may develop as well: twitching, head tilt, seizures, convulsive chewing motion.
  • Neurologic signs are caused by breakdown of the myelin sheaths around the nerves (jackets that the nerves wear) and can occur days to weeks after initial infection.
  • Treatment is symptomatic for clinical signs, addressing dehydration, secondary bacterial infections, and anticonvulsants.
  • There is a high rate of mortality with acute neurologic infections despite treatment.
  • Prevention is obtained through vaccinations using a Modified Live Virus (MLV).
  • There are vaccines for ferrets, and some wildlife, that uses a recombinant canary-pox vector which carries a safer route of administration to these animals.
  • Vaccines should be started at 6 weeks of age and be given every 3-4 weeks until 16 weeks.
  • Vaccines are administered annually or every 3 years depending upon the vaccine and the prevalence of the distemper virus in the environment.
  • Vaccine Titer blood work can be done yearly to adjust vaccination protocol to meet the individual pet’s needs.

Canine Parvo Virus (CPV)

  • This virus causes an acute gastrointestinal infection in young or immunocompromised animals.
  • There are several breeds that are at increased risk of contracting the virus: Rottweilers, Doberman Pinchers, American Pit Bull Terriers, English Springer Spaniels, and German Shepherds.
  • The virus attacks and destroys the intestinal epithelium and the cells that generate white blood cells in the bone marrow. These two effects make the disease morbidity high and allows secondary bacterial infections to create high mortality
  • The virus can be isolated from the back of the throat, bone marrow, and the intestinal mucosa.
  • Diagnosis is made through testing of the intestinal tract, through a colonic cytology, a complete blood cell panel, and a chemistry panel.
  • Clinical signs typically start 5-7 days after exposure and may start non-specific (fever and lethargy) but will progress to vomiting and hemorrhagic diarrhea.
  • Treatment is titrated to the clinical signs and often involves intensive care with intravenous fluid therapy, nutritional support, and intravenous medications. Some cases even require transfusions for proteins and blood plasma.
  • Parvo virus can be fatal if the dehydration and secondary infections are not controlled.
  • Prevention is multi-focal though reduced exposure and vaccinations
  • Dog vaccinations should be started at 6-8 weeks of age and given every 3 weeks until 16 weeks of age
  • Dog vaccinations should be administered at a 1 or 3 year interval depending upon the breed and the risk of the pet’s exposure to the virus (dog parks and camping).
  • For healthy adults, vaccine titers can be run yearly to ensure proper immunity coverage of that individual.
  • The virus is hardy and can withstand a variety of temperature and pH as well as moisture; it is resistant to many typical household cleaners
  • This virus is highly contagious and can be passed through footwear and contaminated laundry as well as food bowls. Isolation of all infected animals is very important and sequestering all exposed items is necessary.

Canine Adenovirus (CAV-1): Canine Hepatitis

  • This is a worldwide virus that affects canines, but has been seen in bears, large cats, and pinnipeds (seals and sea lions).
  • Clinical signs are variable. Some have subclinical (no outward signs) disease, other show only lethargy and fever, while severe cases progress to congestion of the gums and clotting disorders.
  • Though a hardy virus, being able to survive outside a host for weeks to months, it can be killed with household bleach.
  • Transmission of the virus is through the ingestion of contaminated feces, urine, or saliva. Infected animals can shed the virus for up to 6 months and sometimes longer.
  • Canine “Blue eye” is caused by an immune reaction, after recovery, and is inflammation of the corneal tissue.
  • Mortality rates are high in young animals; estimating 10-30% of infected puppies die regardless of treatment.
  • Clinical signs can be biphasic with very high fevers and lethargy followed by conjunctivitis, nasal discharge, vomiting and abdominal pain.
  • The liver can be affected which can cause clotting/bleeding disorders as well as neurologic dysfunction.
  • The definitive diagnosis is made by running a PCR test, which is often cost prohibitive, so treatment is often initiated based upon history, risk of exposure, and clinical signs.
  • Treatment is symptomatic and supportive for the clinical signs. The goal of treatment is to maintain hydration and provide nutritional support.
  • Prevention is through the use of vaccines. Using an attenuated CAV-2 allows for cross protection with less risk of corneal edema post vaccination, starting at 9 weeks and giving every 3 weeks until 16 weeks of age.
  • Vaccines should be given every 1-3 years based upon the pet’s exposure risks.
  • Titers can be done, but are not done routinely, often the protective immune response will mirror that of Canine Distemper, which is tested more frequently.

Canine Adenovirus (CAV-2): Canine Infectious Tracheobronchitis

  • This virus is NOT the only cause of Canine infectious tracheobronchitis; other factors include canine parainfluenza (not canine flu), and the distemper virus.
  • The virus works with bacteria, the primary pathogen is Bordatella bronchiseptica, to create clinical illness, often called Kennel Cough.
  • This virus, as well as the other pathogens, are highly contagious and spread through respiratory secretions in the air.
  • Clinical signs include a dry, harsh cough, retching/gagging post coughing, and a sensitive trachea. These signs can develop 5-10 days after exposure and last 10-20 days.
  • Some pets can be severely affected with fevers, anorexia and nasal discharge; these pets are at a high risk of developing life-threatening pneumonias.
  • Treatment is supportive through antibiotics and respiratory support when needed.
  • Prevention is done through several vaccines, which should be administered by our doctors at 6-8 weeks and again at 8-11 week and then yearly.

Canine Parainfluenza: Canine Infectious Tracheobronchitis

  • This is NOT canine influenza, but instead, one of the contributors to canine Kennel Cough
  • The virus allows for bacteria, the primary pathogen is Bordetella bronchiseptica, to create clinical illness, and is often called Kennel Cough.
  • Injectable inoculations are sub-par for creating proper immunity—therefore it is paired with the Bordetella injections. Parainfluenza is a CORE vaccine.
  • This virus, as well as the other pathogens, are highly contagious and spread through respiratory secretions in the air.
  • Clinical signs are a dry, harsh cough, retching/gagging post coughing and a sensitive trachea. Signs can develop 5-10 days after exposure and last for 10-20 days.
  • Some pets can be severely affected with fevers, anorexia and nasal discharge; these pets are at a high risk of developing life-threatening pneumonias.
  • Treatment is typically through the administration of antibiotics and providing respiratory support.
  • Prevention is accomplished through dog vaccinations. The dog vaccinations should be administered at 6-8 weeks and again at 8-11 week, then yearly for preventative care.

Non-Core Dog Vaccinations

These vaccines are ones that are recommended based upon the individual pet and the life-style the pet lives. Geography, travel activity, grooming and boarding will all be contributing factors as to which additional vaccine are recommended for a pet. Many of the non-core dog vaccinations are still strongly recommended to be given annual to help avoid the severity of infection in the face of exposure.

Bordetella Bronchiseptica

  • This is a BACTERIA, not a virus, which is highly contagious and has been isolated from many species including, but not limited, to cats, dogs and rabbits.
  • At our clinic we consider this a core vaccination, it is paired with parainfluenza.
  • Bordetella is transmitted through direct contact of nasal secretions, air borne (coughing or sneezing), or through contaminated materials (fomites).
  • Transmission is not species dependent and can be passed from cat and dogs and other species.
  • Clinical signs include a dry, harsh cough, retching/gagging post coughing, and a sensitive trachea. Signs can develop 5-10 days after exposure and last for 10-20 days.
  • Some pets can be severely affected with fevers, anorexia and nasal discharge; these pets are at a high risk of developing life-threatening pneumonias.
  • Treatment is symptomatic and includes antibiotics and respiratory support (cough suppressants, bronchodilators and sometimes oxygen support).
  • Prevention is through vaccinations, which should be administered at 6-8 weeks and again at 8-11 week then every 6 months to yearly based upon the pet’s exposure risk.
  • Pets that are a high risk are those that board at kennels, participate in competitions, get groomed frequently, and live in multi-pet homes. These are the pets that should get the vaccination every 6 months.
  • This is a bacteria that humans can contract and resembles whooping cough.


  • This a BACTERIA that can cause significant disease in the kidneys and intestinal tract.
  • There are many different serovars of leptospirosis (over 250) and affect a vast array of species throughout the world.
  • Disease is endemic in the warm, moist, tropical climates, but can be seasonal in temperate zones.
  • Transmission occurs through contact of infected urine, placental fluids or milk; it is not hardy in the environment and can be killed easily through freezing, dehydration, and direct sunlight.
  • The bacteria enters the body through exposed mucous membranes (gums, reproductive tissue, eyes) and damaged skin; it will incubate from 4-10 days, replication will then occur for 7-10 day in the kidneys, liver, intestines, brain and blood.
  • Some animals are resistant host and are able to carry the infection with no illness. These animals can shed the bacteria for months to years after the initial infection; especially raccoons in central Florida.
  • Clinical signs will depend upon the animal (species, age, and health status) but is typically classified as biphasic with a short period of high fever and lethargy, then significant renal damage occurs resulting in anorexia, vomiting, diarrhea, occasional blindness, bleeding disorders and muscle pain.
  • Diagnosing the infection is based upon history, clinical signs, and initial blood testing; there are test for leptospirosis able to be run on tissue, blood, or urine.
  • Treatment is supportive and symptomatic with a graver prognosis of recovery to those diagnosed in later stages of the disease.
  • This is a disease that humans can get though pets grooming behaviors (licking), cleaning the eyes, or cleaning the urine.
  • Prevention is through dog vaccinations with the understanding that the vaccines are given yearly after the initial two vaccine series 2-3 weeks apart.
  • The current dog vaccinations do not cover for ALL the serovars. Typically only 5-7 servovars are included in the vaccine depending upon the manufacture.
  • Controversy surrounds this vaccine due to the history of severe vaccine reactions; recently the vaccines have been reformulated to help reduce vaccine related reactions.
  • Prevention also includes limiting exposure and risk; not allowing pets to drink standing water, reduce grass eating behaviors, and avoid dog parks and wildlife if possible.

Lyme disease (Borrelia burgdorferi)

  • This is a tick-borne bacterial infection that affects, dogs, horses, cats and people.
  • The Ixodess tick is infected by reservoir host (small mammals, rodents, birds, lizards) as a nymph, then transmits the infection to the definitive host as it matures
  • The tick must attach to the pet for 24 hours before the bacterial transmission starts.
  • Clinical signs associated with an infection include joint and limb pain, kidney, cardiac and neurologic dysfunction. Dogs will show intermittent lameness, fevers and cyclic anorexia.
  • Kidney involvement typically results in high mortality rates; Bernese Mountain Dogs and Labrador Retrievers are over represented for this complication.
  • Diagnosis is based upon history, clinical signs and supporting laboratory data.
  • Serologic testing can be run to detect the bacteria and antibodies.
  • Treatment includes antibiotic therapy for no less than 4 weeks and supportive care for secondary medical conditions and metabolic support.
  • Prevention is through strict tick control.
  • In areas with high risk of disease, a vaccine can be given; the first administration of the vaccine should be followed with another 2-3 weeks later, then every 6 months for 2 doses, then annually
  • This infection is not transmitted to people through direct contact, but through the exposure of infected ticks

Canine Influenza

  • Influenza is a highly virulent virus. This means that it can mutate and adapt to a new host species.
  • There are many different species and serovars.
  • In regard to pets, there were two Influenzas that have caused significant morbidity.
  • In 2004 there was an influenza (H3N8) outbreak in Florida starting with racing Greyhounds, which prompted the need to the Canine Influenza Vaccine (released in 2009). This is the vaccine that we currently require to board.
  • Chicago suffered from an influenza (H3N2) outbreak in the spring of 2015. This outbreak affected a large number of pets, and was even isolated in cats. A new vaccine has been released for this strain.
  • These two outbreaks were not caused by the same virus.
  • The first influenza outbreak caused pulmonary hemorrhage and acute death, this was not seen with the second outbreak.
  • There is no vaccine, to date, that protects against both stains of influenza.
  • Clinical signs include a persistent cough (10-21 days), nasal discharge, ocular discharge, sneezing, and lethargy.
  • Pneumonias are caused by secondary bacterial infections and result in high fevers.
  • AAHA vaccine guidelines, published in 2011, and their up-date on influenza state that giving the flu vaccine is based upon pet’s exposure. Dogs that are subjected to high dog traffic (board frequently, groom every 2 weeks, or go to the dog park weekly) should be given BOTH influenza vaccines. The initial vaccine is a series of two injections two weeks apart. Immunity is not adequate until 3 days POST the second vaccine. The vaccine should then be given yearly with no more than a 30 day lapse.
  • It is recommended that cats in large catteries or shelters should be given the vaccine, OFF LABEL and with owners consent, for H3N2.
  • Canine influenza is not seasonally based and can cause clinical illness year round.

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