7 Vaccinations That Your Puppy Needs

Most breeders begin a series of vaccinations soon after puppies are weaned, and annual booster vaccinations should be continued throughout the dog's life. The following relates to contagious diseases that may be prevented by appropriate vaccinations.


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Canine Distemper:

In spite of available vaccines, canine distemper (dog plague or hard pad) continues to be a significant threat to young puppies. It is caused by a virus that attacks the dog's respiratory tract, intestinal tract and brain. Often resulting in twitching, convulsions, and death, the reservoir for canine distemper exists in stray dog populations and wild carnivores such as raccoons, foxes, and minks. Small puppies may suddenly die from canine distemper with few visible symptoms. Older dogs may show fever, loss of appetite, lethargy, dehydration, diarrhea, and vomiting. A yellow or green ocular discharge often accompanies canine distemper, and coughing is another common sign of this disease. A few dogs seem to respond to various treatments, only to die later from convulsions and paralysis. Hardened footpads, tooth enamel deficiencies, and permanent neurological signs such as blindness or twitching of extremities often affect those dogs that miraculously survive the disease.

Infectious Canine Hepatitis (ICH or CAV-1):

This disease is a contagious, incurable, systemic disease causing fatal damage to the liver. It is highly communicable among dogs, but is not contagious to humans. CAV-1 is an abbreviation for the causative organism, canine adenovirus type 1. Symptoms often mimic those of distemper, including sudden death in young pups. Vaccines are highly effective in preventing ICH and are usually combined with other immunizing agents at weaning time, with annual boosters required.


Usually shortened to Lepto, this disease causes a sometimes fatal kidney damage. The causative organism is a spirchete organism, similar to a bacterium. Highly contagious, the Lepto organism is transmitted by urine and can infect humans as well as other animals. Signs of Lepto infection include lethargy, lack of appetite, thirst, rusty-colored urine, diarrhea, and vomiting. Affected dogs sometimes walk with a peculiar stilted, roach-backed gait. Antibotic treatment may be effective, but permanent kidney damage often results from an infection. Leptospirosis vaccine is usually combined with CD and CAV-1 immunizing products at weaning time, and is repeated annually.

Parvo and Corona Viruses:

These two are among the more recently discovered viruses causing often fatal canine diseases. Both diseases typically produce severe diarrhea, vomiting, dehydration, and depression. Spread by saliva, feces, vomit, or one on one contact with affected dogs, these diseases are particularly devastating to young puppies. Humans are not susceptible to these viruses, but they may inadvertently transmit the causative virus on shoes and clothes. Vaccinations are usually given at weaning age and annual boosters required. Consult with your veterinarian about the use of these products.

Kennel Cough:

This syndrome is caused by a number of different viruses and bacteria. Parianfluenza virus and Bordetella bacteria produce the typical coughing, fever, loss of appetite, and depression. This syndrome affects dogs of all ages, is quite contagious, and is easily spread by aerosol (airborne droplets of saliva and nasal discharge from an affected dog's cough or sneeze). The bronchial tubes, trachea, and larynx are affected. Uncomplicated kennel cough may bother the dog and owner for two or three weeks if the dog is not stressed. It has a much lower fatality rate than some of the diseases discussed previously, but when complicated by pneumonia or other problems, it may be serious.

Upper respiratory disease vaccines include intranasal types that are often less predictable than injectable types, but their reliability is improving. Consult with your veterinarian about the best product to protect your dog.

Lyme Disease:

The carrier of this disease of dogs and humans is the deer tick. A few years ago, Lyme disease was more commonly reported in the northeastern and midwestern regions of the United States, but it has now spread nationwide, and is presently known to exist in at least 40 states. White-tailed deer and field mice are the principal reservoir hosts for the Lyme virus.

Lyme disease may cause lameness in an affected dog and is accompanied by heat, pain, and swelling of one or more leg joints. Body temperature is usually elevated and the dog is listless. Early treatment is important to be effective. The risk of Lyme disease is related to the length of time an infected tick is attached to the dog. When you are in an area where deer ticks have been seen, check your dog at least once daily for their presence. They are tiny (about 0.1 inch or .04 cm in diameter), black, or red and black, and resemble a small mole on the skin. As they suck blood, they grow much larger and grayer, with the female ticks sometimes reaching the size of a grape.

There is a Lyme disease vaccine available with newer vaccines being developed. A good tick-preventive program is essential in any case.


Rabies, a fatal viral disease of all warm-blooded animals including dogs and humans is spread primarily by contact with the saliva of an infected animal. It is usually associated with bite wounds.

Brain changes are the characteristic signs of rabies. The average time lapse between an infected bite and signs of the disease (incubation period) can be as short as two or three weeks but occasionally it is several months. The rabies virus travels from the site of the bite to the brain by way of nerve trunks; therefore, if the infecting bite occurs on a foot, it results in a longer incubation period. After reaching the brain, the rabies virus migrates to the salivary glands where it reproduces, causing typical signs.

The signs of rabies in a dog are varied. Sometimes the affected dog becomes aggressive and highly irritable. As the disease progresses, the dog may become partially paralyzed or vicious.

Immunization for this disease is usually administered later than other vaccines. Check with your veterinarian for local requirements. Many cities and counties have laws requiring rabies vaccinations when dogs reach three months of age, and the law usually stipulates that the vaccine must be administered by, or under the direction of, licensed and USDA-accredited veterinarians.

Reservoirs for rabies virus are found in wild animals such as skunks, foxes, raccoons, coyotes, bats, and other wildlife. Since this incurable and fatal disease can infect all warm-blooded animals, great emphasis is placed on rabies preventive programs.

Author: Lamar Dean

November 29, 2021