What vaccines does my dog really need?

William, a puppy

The Schwarzman Animal Medical Center has been an accredited member of the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) since 1976. The AAHA’s mission is to “simplify the journey towards excellence for veterinary practices.” One method of doing so is by developing evidence-based guidelines to help veterinarians practice high quality medicine. AAHA recently convened a task force to update its guidelines on canine vaccination. I will highlight some important features of the revised guidelines below.

Core and Non-Core

The 2022 Canine Vaccination Task Force continued the designations core and non-core vaccines used in previous guidelines. Core vaccines are required for every dog and include: canine distemper virus, canine adenovirus type 2, canine parvovirus type 2, and rabies. Non-core vaccines are recommended for only some dogs and the recommendation is based on the dog’s lifestyle, geographic location, and risk of exposure. The word non-core does not imply less important. For example if you live in an area which Lyme disease is prevalent, that non-core vaccine is critical for your dog. In addition to Lyme vaccine, non-core vaccines include: canine leptospirosis vaccine, canine Bordetella vaccine, and canine influenza vaccine.

No Consensus on Leptospirosis Vaccination

Most task forces vote on their recommendations. The canine vaccination task force unanimously voted to continue the list of core vaccines from the previous recommendations. The task force was split on vaccination against leptospirosis. Some task force members felt this should be a core vaccine because most dogs in the United States are at risk of contracting leptospirosis. The incidence of leptospirosis is increasing and vaccinating dogs against this disease indirectly helps to protect people from contracting it. If infected with Leptospira sp., vaccinated dogs shed fewer organisms into the environment, decreasing the risk of human exposure.

In small breed dogs and puppies, the Leptospira vaccine is more likely to cause a vaccination reaction. For this reason, the Task Force suggests that the initial dose of the vaccine be administered at or after 12 weeks of age.

Parvovirus: Vaccinate Early and Often

Canine parvovirus vaccine is a core vaccine. The disease caused by parvovirus made news during the pandemic when there seemed to be a mini-outbreak of parvovirus here in New York City. Because not all puppies develop immunity to parvovirus until they are 16 weeks of age, the task force recommended a parvovirus vaccine every 2-4 weeks beginning at 6-8 weeks of age until at least 16 weeks of age.  In areas of high risk for canine parvovirus, the age for the final puppy parvovirus vaccine should be administered at 18-20 weeks.

Lyme Disease

Lyme disease is a tick-borne illness. Vaccination against Lyme disease falls into the non-core group of vaccines. If your geographic location doesn’t have the tick that carries Lyme disease, then your dog may not need a Lyme vaccine. Keep in mind if your travel with your dog to an area of high Lyme disease prevalence, you should talk to your veterinarian about vaccinating your dog. In a recent large dataset, states with ≥5% seroprevalence in tested dogs included (in order of highest to lowest prevalence) Connecticut (15.5% seroprevalence), Massachusetts, Vermont, Maine, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, West Virginia, Minnesota, Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, Wisconsin, and District of Columbia. Dogs living in these geographic locations would be a high risk for contracting Lyme disease.

Calculate Your Dog’s Lifestyle and Vaccination Recommendation

AAHA has created an online tool to help you understand your dog’s risk of contracting a disease your veterinarian can prevent with vaccination. Based on your dog’s age, the calculator creates a recommended vaccination schedule.  Of course, your dog’s veterinarian is the final word on vaccinations for your dog, but this tool will help you to understand their recommendation.

Tags:
dogs, leptospirosis, lyme disease, parvovirus, pets, vaccine,

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