Cards on the table
What’s in your dog’s health card?
Almost every dog gets a health card (or diary) on their first visit to the veterinarian. This card has the basics like the parent’s/ ward’s name and contact info and the dog’s breed and identification marks. It also has a record of the dog’s vaccination and deworming.
The veterinarian enters the vaccination or dewormer details as applicable and then signs off on it. They may even put a sticker of the vaccine/ dewormer given for future reference. Many parents choose to administer dewormers at home after consulting the vet. They can use this card to see when the next dose is due.
There are three core vaccines that dogs receive. Other vaccines may be administered basis health requirements or local regulations. These vaccines protect our dogs from transmittable and deadly, but easily preventable diseases and infections. The frequency of boosters depends on the level of exposure of your dog to the respective diseases.
The DHLPP shot is a combination vaccine shot and is the first one administered to a puppy. It contains modified live viruses and helps develop immunity against Distemper, Hepatitis (Adenovirus), Leptospirosis, Parvovirus and Parainfluenza (DHLPP). Depending upon your pet’s location, the vet may use vaccines that provide immunity against Lyme disease. Since Lyme disease is uncommon in India, this component is omitted in the combination shot.
If the puppy has been on the mother’s milk until one month of age, the first DHLPP dose is given at one and a half months. Otherwise, the first dose is recommended as early as possible. The first booster is given about a month after the first dose, following which all booster doses are given at one year’s gap.
Distemper and Parvovirus are the two most contagious and deadly infections a dog can get. Unfortunately, these are common and entail a long treatment, with bleak chances of success in puppies with more progressive disease. Distemper presents with symptoms that are similar to the flu. It progresses into severe neurological issues and ultimately death. Parvovirus is airborne and spreads through cough, sneezing and even stools. It is difficult to kill with simple cleaning agents, so if you have a dog with Parvo at home, please do not get another dog home.
Leptospirosis is a bacterial infection that is common in areas with standing water. Canine Hepatitis is a contagious disease transmitted from the ingestion of urine, faeces, or saliva of infected dogs. Recovered dogs shed the virus in their urine for more than six months. Symptoms vary from a slight fever and congestion to depression, severe deficiency of disease-fighting cells in the blood, and issues with coagulation. Parainfluenza in dogs is caused by the Canine Parainfluenza Virus (CPIV) and is a contagious respiratory disease. It is one of the many viruses that cause Kennel Cough and is transmitted when dogs are close to each other.
Rabies is caused by viruses belonging to the genus Lyssavirus. It affects virtually all mammals, including dogs and humans, and is transmitted through bites or scratches from an infected animal. Upon infection, the virus progresses quickly through the body, eventually causing death by paralysis and respiratory failure. Since there is no test to confirm an infection, and time is crucial for treatment, any animal with a bite or wound sustained from an infected animal (even suspected) should immediately be vaccinated and quarantined. Certain places even recommend euthanising these animals.
Rabies vaccines are intramuscular vaccines given to prevent rabies infection. These contain inactivated rabies virus and help prepare the body to build antibodies against it. They are usually given before exposure to prepare the body to fight infections but can also be given after an unvaccinated dog is bitten by a suspected rabies carrier. The vaccination schedule varies depending upon whether it is being administered pre-exposure or post-exposure.
The first dose is given at a minimum of 3 months of age. Although the rabies vaccine provides immunity of 3 years (some sources say 5 years), Rabies booster shots are given every year. Since there are many unvaccinated dogs, especially in India, it is assumed that the maximum immunity from a booster only lasts for one year. Your veterinarian may decide to give the first booster earlier than one year if your dog seems to be at a higher risk of infection (Bailey got hers 6 months after her first dose). In many places around the world, annual Rabies vaccinations are legally required for all dogs, whether in a home or a shelter.
Canine Coronavirus vaccination:
Canine Coronavirus vaccination is first given at 3.5 months of age with one booster a month later and subsequent annual boosters. It helps build immunity to Canine Coronavirus.
The virus causes Canine Coronavirus Disease — a highly contagious intestinal infection in dogs, especially in puppies. It is transmitted when a dog eats faecal matter from an infected dog, eats from a contaminated bowl, or comes in direct contact with an infected dog. Transmission usually happens when dogs are kept in crowded, unsanitary conditions.
The infection usually does not present any clinical signs. In severe cases, especially in puppies, sudden onset of diarrhoea, accompanied by lethargy and loss of appetite may be indicators. The stool may be orange-tinted, with blood or mucus mixed in it. The infection causes intense abdominal discomfort in dogs and can allow secondary infections to latch on. Since the symptoms are similar to Parvovirus, you should immediately get your dog checked by a veterinarian if you notice them.
Canine coronavirus is not the same virus as SARS-CoV-2 that causes the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). Therefore, you do not need to worry about your dog giving you COVID-19.
Kennel cough vaccination:
The Bordetella vaccine is given to prevent Kennel Cough in dogs. It is often considered an optional vaccine since the DHLPP already contains the Parainfluenza vaccine. Many vets (including the ones I have been to since Bailey was little) suggest that the vaccine be used post-exposure instead of pre-exposure. It may be injected or given as a nasal spray.
Kennel cough happens when your dog contracts Bordetella bronchiseptica, which causes inflammation in the dog’s upper respiratory system. It can be cured with veterinary intervention, supplemented with home remedies such as raw honey, and mutton and spinach soup (please refer to the resources at the end of this article for more on home remedies).
You can give your dog this vaccine if she often shares closed spaces with many other dogs, such as at a doggie daycare/ boarding, training centre, etc.
Veterinarians may recommend you vaccinate your dogs more frequently than required if they believe that the dogs are at an increased risk of exposure to pathogens. Sometimes, this may lead to over-vaccination and may be an issue for dogs whose bodies react poorly to vaccines.
Titer tests determine the number of antibodies your dog has after previous vaccinations. Many parents use this as a reference for future vaccinations, especially for senior dogs. Several vets advise parents of older dogs to stop vaccinations altogether after a certain age. This decision, of course, should be taken by you in consultation with your vet since it will take your dog’s particular case into account.
Titer tests do not apply to short-term vaccines such as the Bordetella vaccine but give accurate results for long term vaccines such as the Rabies vaccine. However, places that legally require annual vaccinations do not accept titer tests as proof of vaccination.
These tests are expensive, and it is often cheaper to follow the annual vaccination schedule. If you want to get them done for your dog, the frequency of these tests will be decided by your veterinarian. Beyond determining the need for annual vaccinations, titer tests can be helpful to understand the vaccination status of a rescue dog and in relocating dogs between countries.
Several parasites can make your dog’s body their host. The fact that dogs, particularly puppies, will eat or lick anything that catches their fancy makes it easier for these parasites to enter the body. Diarrhoea, vomiting, coughing, licking/ irritation under the tail and weight loss are symptoms of a parasitic infection. The treatment depends upon the type of parasite and the location of the infestation.
Most worms — hookworms, roundworms, tapeworms and whipworms — are found in your dog’s intestines. The presence of these can be confirmed by checking your dog’s stool sample for worms or worm eggs. Heartworms are transmitted from one dog’s blood to another by mosquitoes, and they can grow to be a foot long. They live in your dog’s blood vessels, lungs, and, as the name suggests, heart and can cause severe illness and even death.
Worms can pass on from the mother to the puppy through milk. Therefore, the first deworming is recommended at 2–3 weeks of age, and every two weeks after that until they are 3 months old, then monthly until they are six months old. Such frequent deworming kills not just any adult worms but also the ones that may hatch from their eggs later. Beyond six months of age, deworming is recommended every 3 months. If your dog is due for deworming and vaccination, deworm the dog at least 7 days before the vaccination.
Most deworming is done via pills, but in severe cases, the vet may administer a dewormer shot. Depending upon the severity of the infestation, the treatment may be longer than just one dose of medicine. For heartworms, the treatment is more complicated and involves X-rays and blood tests, along with strong, heartworm-specific medicine. Heartworms break into chunks as they die, and these chunks can cause blockages in blood flow, so your dog needs to avoid activity and rest during treatment, which can last for about 6 months.
In the text above, I’ve listed a general frequency of vaccines as per my experience in India. I’ve also tried to elaborate on the diseases countered by the vaccines. However, I am not a veterinarian or even a medical professional, and my understanding of vaccines is rudimentary. Please rely on the information given by your vet, should you find it contradictory to what is written above. Always make decisions regarding administering or forgoing vaccines/ dewormers in consultation with a veterinarian.
There are a few resources below, in case you would like to read more about the vaccines or the diseases they prevent. Unfortunately, I could not find great Indian sources on the same, so the Indian context of my blog is from experience.
Vaccinating and deworming your dog helps prevent several issues that can arise from infectious diseases and parasitic infestations. Furthermore, your dog’s vaccination and deworming records are necessary for boarding your dog, allowing your dog into spaces where they may come in contact with other dogs, and even for travel. It is, therefore, necessary to keep medical records up to date and keep a digital copy of the updated card as a backup at all times.
We’re extremely lucky to be dog parents at a time where keeping our dogs safe is so simple and easy. Please be a responsible dog parent and get your dogs vaccinated when they’re due.
Rabies Vaccination in Dogs | Today’s Veterinary Practice | https://todaysveterinarypractice.com/rabies-vaccination-in-dogs/
DHLPP & FVRCP — What it means, and why it can save your pet’s life | Bayside Pet Resort | https://www.baysidepetresort.com/dhlpp-fvrcp-what-it-means-and-why-it-can-save-your-pets-life/
Your Complete Guide to First-Year Puppy Vaccinations | American Kennel Club |https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/health/puppy-shots-complete-guide/
Canine Coronavirus Disease | VCA Hospitals | https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/coronavirus-disease-in-dogs
Titer Testing For Dogs: What Is It, And What Does It Mean For Yearly Vaccinations? | DogTime.com | https://dogtime.com/dog-health/51773-titer-testing-dogs
Puppy Worming Schedule |VitaPet | https://vitapet.com/au/vitapet-central/articles/puppy-worming-schedule/
Kennel Cough is a highly contagious… | Georgina’s Kitchen | https://www.instagram.com/p/CPZ_lEYM6h_/ (Georgina also has a stellar series of posts on Natural Dewormers on her feed, in case you are interested).