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Vaccines prevent many viral and bacterial diseases that are difficult to treat in dogs. You must also protect your dog from a variety of parasites, from fleas to heartworms. Here’s what you need to know.
Vaccination schedules vary, as do the combination of vaccines that can be administered at the same time. “Puppies should be vaccinated starting somewhere between 6 and 8 weeks of age. By that time, the mother’s antibodies are starting to wear off,” explains veterinarian Robert Culver of the Heartland Animal Hospital in Des Moines.
As long as your dog has all her vaccines by 16 weeks, she should be well-protected. Until the immunizations have been given, minimize your puppy’s contact with other dogs (except those that you know have had their shots).
Annual booster vaccinations will help your dog stay disease-free. Boosters are especially important for pets who will be interacting with other dogs — such as at a dog run, kennel, or “doggie day care” facility. Even if your puppy will be walked with other dogs, or possibly come in contact with other dogs in your neighborhood, be sure to keep her vaccinations up-to-date.
These are the main diseases that dogs are vaccinated against:
• Rabies is a viral disease of the central nervous system that can be passed from wild animals to pets and is fatal to humans and animals. Rabies vaccines for dogs are required by law in most states. Symptoms of rabies include excess salivation, seizures, unexplained aggression, and difficulty swallowing.
• Distemper is a highly-contagious viral disease that attacks a dog’s nervous system. Puppies are the most common victims of distemper, but it can affect dogs of all ages. Distemper can cause fever, lethargy, discharge from the eyes and nose, vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, and death. The death rate is very high (75 percent) and patients that recover may suffer permanent damage to vision, teeth, and the nervous system.