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Purchasing a dog can be an extremely gratifying experience, but it implies some responsibility in which concerns our companion's health and welfare. As our canine friends cannot speak, we have to keep a close look on any change of their behaviour or habits to detect eventual signs of disease. To begin with, we will clarify some of most frequently asked questions as regards to vaccination and deworming.
There are several diseases that can be fatal to the dogs but, fortunately, some of them can be avoided with timely vaccination. However, vaccines only work if the adequate timing is respected. Ideally the first round of vaccinations must be done at the age of 6-8, 12 and 16 weeks of age; this schedule may vary depending on several factors.
The schedule of routine vaccination protects the dogs from seven diseases:
1. Distemper - an airborne viral disease of the brain, lungs and intestines. It´s considered the most serious viral dog disease in the world that kills around 90% of the non-immunized, infected dogs.
2. Parvovirus - a viral disease of the intestines; adult dogs generally recover from a viral diarrhea; in puppies it can be fatal.
3. Leptospirosis - a bacterial disease of the urinary system.
4. Infectious Hepatitis - a viral disease of the liver not as common as it once was, but still a dangerous disease; adult dogs generally survive but to puppies are often fatal.
5. Parainfluenza - infectious bronchitis. It is a highly contagious though self-limiting respiratory disease.
6. Coronavirus - a viral disease of the intestines.
7. Rabies - a viral disease that attacks nerve tissue; it iscontagious and fatal to humans and other animals.
The first six diseases are included in a combined vaccine (6-way vaccine), that is administered at 6-8, 12 and 16 weeks of age. The rabies vaccine is administered between 3 and the 6 months of age. The vaccine boosters are administered once a year; the rabies inoculation can be made at the same time or included in the same vaccine. These are the core vaccines. If your dog attends training classes or is occasionally sent to a kennel or other dog boarding facility, it would be advisable to administer the vaccine for the Bordetellosis (cough of the kennel), a noncore vaccine but that, in this case, is more than appropriate.
Why my dog needs more than one vaccination?
When the puppies feed from their mothers’ milk, they obtain temporary immunity under the form of proteins called antibodies. During the first 24 to 48 hours after the birth the puppy’s intestine absorbs these antibodies which enter directly his bloodstream. This form of immunity protects the puppy during his first weeks of life, but at a certain time this temporary immunization gradually fades and the dog has to be able to produce its own long term immunity. The mother’s antibodies are neutralizers and, as such, while they are present in the puppies system the vaccines won’t have the capacity to stimulate the dog’s immunology system.
As we can't determine the exact moment that the dog loses the maternal immunity (the exact time of maternal immunity's fading is very variable) we follow a schedule of several injections to increase the probability that an inoculation is administered at the precise moment that it is effective. If only one inoculation is made (even if the vaccination is effective and is not neutralized by the maternal antibodies) the probability that it stimulates long term immunity is narrow.
The rabies vaccine is an exception, because a single inoculation, when administered at the right time, is enough to produce long term immunity.
The intestinal parasites (endoparasites) are common in puppies; they can be infected before being born or later through the maternal milk. Most of the products available in the market for endoparasites control are effective and don’t have any secondary effects; therefore, deworming puppies can start as of six weeks of age. It is important to repeat the deworming within two to three weeks; because the products only eliminate adult parasites, in the meantime the larvae develops and becomes adult, needing to be eliminated by a second treatment. Some parasites may even require multiple dewormings. As dogs can be reinfected, especially those that live outside, deworming must be done monthly up to six months of age and, subsequently, once every six months. Deworming prior to vaccination is vital.