preventive care

What Vaccinations Does My Adult Dog Need?

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Dog Checkups & Preventive Care | Veterinary science, in conjunction with industry, has done a great job developing vaccines that are very safe and effective preventive measures. Vaccines keep your dog protected from serious infectious diseases. Diseases that, just a few years ago, were epidemics are now less common. It's not just a matter of more vaccines but also better vaccines that are more specific, provide longer protection, and allow your veterinarian to make recommendations appropriate for your pet.

Not all dogs need to be vaccinated for all diseases all the time. There are two general groupings of vaccinations: those that target “core” diseases and those that target “non-core” diseases.

Core vaccinations

Core vaccinations prevent diseases that are extremely widespread in their distribution and are easily transmitted. These diseases are commonly fatal or extremely difficult to treat effectively. One core disease—rabies, can be transmitted to humans with potentially deadly results. In summary, core diseases are the more contagious and severe diseases.

Core vaccines provide long term immunity, making yearly vaccination unnecessary.

Core vaccines include:

  • Canine distemper

  • Canine parvovirus

  • Canine adenovirus 1 infection

  • Rabies

Historically, these vaccines were recommended yearly but this is no longer the case. Duration of immunity from these vaccines have been proven to be at least 3 years. Rabies vaccines are sometimes administered more often based on state and provincial regulations. While not all vaccines carry a label that indicates they are effective for 3 years, current recommendations for core vaccines are that after the completion of an initial series, adult dogs should be revaccinated every 3 years.

Non-core vaccinations

Non-core vaccines protect against diseases that do not meet the core vaccine description. While all dogs are at risk for core diseases and must be vaccinated--risk of exposure, likelihood of infection, and severity of disease should be evaluated when making non-core vaccine recommendations. The indication for these vaccines should be based on a risk assessment that looks at local and regional incidence of the disease. The risk assessment should also take your pet’s lifestyle into consideration.

Non-core vaccinations may include:

  • Leptospirosis

  • Lyme disease

  • Canine cough complex

  • Canine influenza

These vaccines generally provide a shorter length of protective immunity, and dogs that are at risk for infection should be vaccinated every year.

How can you determine your dog’s risk of infection?

  • Having a conversation with your veterinarian is the number one way you can determine your dog's risk factors and which vaccines are recommended.

  • Lyme disease is no longer limited to the Northeastern United States. It is transmitted by deer ticks associated with white tail deer. The populations of deer are expanding and with them the incidence of exposure. While exposure and infection do not always result in disease, dogs considered at risk should be vaccinated and tested annually.

  • Vaccination against leptospirosis should be considered for dogs who are exposed to wildlife environments like ponds, or when urban and rural wildlife share the environment with your dog.

  • Vaccination against canine cough includes bordetella and parainfluenza vaccines. These diseases are respiratory infections and as such are transmitted from dog to dog. Boarding facilities, dog shows, dog classes, and parks where dogs play are all potential risks. Dogs exposed to these environments should be vaccinated yearly.

  • Canine influenza is a relatively recently described disease and a relatively new vaccine. It should be administered yearly for dogs considered by your veterinarian to be at risk.

All dogs should be examined by a veterinarian at least yearly and a complete history and risk assessment should be performed. This will assure that your dog remains healthy and is appropriately vaccinated.

If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call your veterinarian. They are your best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your pets.


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Planning for Your Pet's Preventive Care Exam

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Spring is a bustling time or veterinarians. In small animal medicine, kittens start arriving. Dogs, too, even though they don’t have a seasonal aspect to their reproductive cycles. Spring is a popular time for people to want to add a puppy to the family.

With the weather warming up, preventive medicine gets a boost in the spring, too. Pet owners begin thinking more about heartworms, fleas, ticks, and parasites— which, of course, are often year-round risks.

What is my veterinarian trying to assess during an appointment?

First things first of a wellness visit is a health evaluation. This typically includes a thorough history including your pet’s breed, age, lifestyle, behavior, and diet, then a comprehensive physical exam, including a measuring of thins such as weight, temperature, pulse, and respiration rates. All of the information gathered will be used to further assess whether your pet may be ill.

Assuming your pet receives a clean bill of health at their wellness exam, the appointment is focused more on preventive care: what can be done to prevent your pet from actually getting ill, divided into categories:

  • Diagnostics (Heartworm testing, FELV/FIV testing, fecal examinations, etc)

  • Parasite control (heartworms, external parasites, and intestinal parasites)

  • Vaccinations

  • Identification (microchipping, rabies tags)

  • Reproductive counseling (spay/neuter)

  • Dental Hygiene

  • A plan for a follow-up or next routine visit

Your veterinarian will determine the appropriate approach for your pet in each of these categories based on the information gathered in the initial wellness exam, and go over their recommendations with you. This is also a good time to bring up any questions or concerns you have.

How often should I take my pet to the vet?

Adult pets should see their veterinarian at least annually to go over preventive care needs. Puppies and kittens require more frequent visits, usually every few weeks until they are several months old. If your pet hasn’t seen their veterinarian in awhile, consider spring to be your launch into taking the step of scheduling an appointment with your veterinarian today.


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Don't forget to subscribe to our email newsletter for more recipes, articles, and clinic updates delivered to your inbox (here). Or, you can keep up to date by liking and following our Facebook page (here). We also have additional helpful articles under our tips category (here).