Vaccinations and Why Dogs Need Them

During a recent conversation, someone asked me what Distemper was. I was slightly embarrassed because I completely drew a blank. It got me thinking. I require 4 designated vaccinations for each of the dogs worked with. Being that they are required, I need to learn a little more about these diseases and why I require them.

As pet parents, we all know we should vaccinate but sometimes we do not necessarily know why it is so important. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, 12 Dog Diseases You Can Combat with Vaccination and Deworming include:

1) Rabies (this can be spread to people) **Required
2) Canine parvovirus infection (“parvo”) **Required
3) Canine distemper **Required
4) Leptospirosis
5) Canine adenovirus-2
6) Canine parainfluenza
7) Canine enteric coronavirus
8) Canine influenza
9) Lyme disease
10) Bordetellosis (“kennel cough”) **Required for Public Class
11) Heartworm disease
12) Intestinal worms (roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, tapeworms, etc., some of which can also infect people)

The diseases we will focus on are generally included in the DHPP combo vaccinations given by most veterinarians and low-cost vaccination clinics. The first 3 are considered “core” vaccinations. They are considered “core” because it is recommended for every dog. These are vaccines that are “based on risk of exposure, severity of disease or transmissibility to humans.” (


Rabies is a viral disease that is transmitted through a bite of an infected animal. The virus may affect the brain and spinal cord of all mammals, including cats, dogs and humans. Because it can be spread through wildlife and spread to humans, it is generally required by city ordinances to have your pets vaccinated for rabies. According to the Texas Department of State Health Services, “If your city or county requires animals to be vaccinated against rabies on an annual basis, area pet owners must comply with that requirement. Contact your city or county animal control agency for information on local rabies ordinances.” Due to the seriousness of the possibility to rabies after a dog bite, there is generally a 10 day quarantine required for dogs and possibly humans if the pet owner does not have proof of current vaccinations.

There is a lengthy incubation period but some of the many signs of rabies in dogs include:
– Changes in behavior
– Biting or snapping
– Attacking other animals
– Fever
– Foaming at the mouth
– Loss of Appetite

Please note, there is not cure for this disease.


Parvo is a highly contagious virus that affects the dog’s gastrointestinal tracts. It also attacks white blood cells and can damage the heart muscle. This virus can survive in the environment for long periods of time is resistant to the heat, cold, and humidity. It can be spread to any person, animal or object that comes in contact with an infected dog’s feces.

General symptoms of parvovirus include:
– Lethargy
– Vomiting
– Loss of appetite
– Bloody diarrhea that can lead to dehydration

Please note, there are currently no drugs available to kill the virus. The vaccine will help boost your dog’s immune system to help fight against it. Think of it as a flu shot to humans. If a dog becomes infected, there are treatment options but treatment is not always successful.


Distemper is a contagious viral illness that effects dogs and some wildlife. This illness is closely related to the measles (humans) and rinderpest (cattle) viruses. It can be spread through airborne exposure, placenta, or direct contact with an infected animal or object.

Some of the symptoms of distemper include:
– High fever
– Reddened eyes
– Watery discharge from nose and eyes
– Lethargy
– Vomiting
– Diarrhea
– Change in respiratory rate
– Difficult breathing
– Seizures
– Paralysis

Please note, there is no cure for this viral illness but treatment is based on alleviating the symptoms.


This is required for all public class participants. This is not a core vaccination but highly recommended based on exposure.

Bordetella is the vaccine that protects against kennel cough. Kennel cough is highly contagious respiratory infection that can be both viral and bacterial. It is very similar to a chest cold in humans. It can be spread through the air, directly from dog to dog, or germs on contaminated objects and can be spread in places like daycares, dog parks, boarding kennels, animal shelters, etc.

Some of the symptoms of kennel cough include:
– Persistent cough
– Coughing up white foamy phlegm
– Fever
– Nasal Discharge

Please note, there is no cure for this viral illness but treatment is based on alleviating the symptoms.

Vaccinating your dog truly helps protect them. As always, be sure to consult with your vet for further information, vaccination schedules, and any risks associated with vaccinating your dog. If you do not have a regular veterinarian, there are multiple options for low cost vaccinations through local animal shelters, animal care services, and local mobile vet clinics.

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