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  • Writer's pictureJulia Bianchi

Canine Vaccinations 101

Updated: Jan 25, 2021

Each year you take your pet to the vet clinic and they get specific vaccinations boostered but do you actually know why your pet gets those vaccinations and what each disease can cause if your pet contracts it? Today we will go over the most common vaccinations administered to your dog and what they protect against.

-Rabies- This is a viral disease that can be spread to both animals and humans through being bitten or scratched by a rabid animal. Wildlife is the most common carrier of the disease and in Texas we see top carriers being skunks, bats, coyotes and foxes. This virus effects the central nervous system and can easily lead to death if not appropriately treated. Once a dog has been infected by the virus symptoms show between 21-80 days. Once symptoms appear it is likely impossible to treat. Common symptoms seen are a change in personality, changes in the voice, weakness and paralysis of the larynx causing the animal to not be able to swallow. This disease is very serious and if you think your pet may have been in a confrontation with a wild animal or another dog it is best to contact your veterinarian to figure out what steps need to be taken. Vaccinating your dog against rabies is not only important to their safety but is a human health concern. Protecting your dog, protects you! Most human rabies cases come from dog bites each year. This is also the only state required vaccination for dogs. All dogs should receive their first vaccination as a puppy once they are 12 weeks old and then boostered again a year later. The second vaccination will either be an annual vaccine going forward or every three years depending on your veterinarians protocols. For more detailed information on Rabies visit:

-Distemper- Distemper is a virus that is spread from dog to dog generally through inhaling the secretions after an infected dog has coughed. This disease is more commonly seen in puppies and young animals that have not yet been properly vaccinated or have poor immune systems as that takes time to build up when they are young. Most common symptoms of Distemper are discharge from the nose and eyes, coughing, poor appetite and fever. Symptoms can worsen and lead to pneumonia, weakness, vomiting, callusing of the foot pads and nose, seizures, and tremors. A dog that has symptoms of Distemper needs immediate medical attention as all these symptoms can lead to death. Dogs should receive this vaccination as a puppy starting between 6-8 weeks old and should be boostered every 3-4 weeks until they are 16 weeks old or based on your veterinarians recommendation and then boostered again a year later. Once the pet is vaccinated as an adult this vaccine may be given annually or every 3 years depending on your veterinarians protocols. For more detailed information on Distemper visit:

-Parvovirus- Parvo is a hardy virus that most commonly effects puppy's and young dogs. This virus is shed through fecal matter and can last in the environment for months. This is why you frequently hear your veterinarian recommending keeping your puppy away from parks, unknown dogs, dog stores and other places where you don't know what dogs have potentially exposed the area to this virus. It's always safest to wait until your dog has been fully vaccinated before exposing them to this potential risk. This virus is spread from a dog directly consuming infected fecal matter, grooming their paws after walking through an area that has been infected or eating something off the ground that has been infected. After the dog becomes infected their immune system is attacked and the GI tract is most severely affected. Common symptoms of parvovirus are diarrhea and vomiting. The dog is unable to stay hydrated and becomes very weak and the GI tract becomes heavily infected with a bacterial overgrowth. All these symptoms can lead to death and if symptoms are seen medical attention is necessary in order for the best outcome for survival. Dogs should receive this vaccination starting between 6-8 weeks of age and should be boostered every 3-4 weeks until they are 16 weeks old or based on your veterinarians recommendation and then boostered a year later. Once vaccinated as an adult this vaccine will be administered annually or every 3 years depending on your veterinarians protocol. For more detailed information on Parvovirus visit:

-Bordetella (Kennel Cough)- Kennel cough is an infectious respiratory disease spread from dog to dog through nose to nose contact. This happens when respiratory secretions are aerosolized and your pet inhales them in. The most common symptom seen with kennel cough is a cough. This cough generally sounds as if the dog is trying to cough something up but usually doesn't actually bring anything up. It can also be described as a "hacking" cough or sometimes as if they are gagging. This can resolve on its own or may need medical attention. Although it isn't as common for it to become life threatening it can be severed enough to cause pneumonia which can lead to death, especially if not treated. This is commonly seen in all ages of dogs as it can be so easily spread. Daycare and boarding facilities, grooming facilities, dog shelters, dog parks and other places that have higher numbers of dogs coming and going are most common for infection to occur. This vaccination can be given as early as 6 weeks of age and can be boostered every 6 months or annually depending on your veterinarians protocols or what is required by your groomer/boarding facility. The vaccination only protects against a few variations which means your pet could still contract the disease but often times with lesser symptoms and tend to recover more easily if vaccinated. For more information on Bordetella (kennel cough) visit:

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