It's up to you to make sure Dexter is healthy; a proper diet and exercise are the basics of good health. Vaccines are another proactive step to protect your pup against many illnesses. The shot schedule for your dog depends on what the shots are and how old he is.
When Dexter gets a shot, he's getting a dose of antigens that mimic the disease the vaccine is engineered to fight. When he gets his shot, the antigen enters his body and stimulates his immune system, putting it on alert for the potential illness. If your pup is exposed to the actual illness, his immune system is prepared to keep it at bay or reduce the effects of the illness.
Different vaccines protect against different diseases, and vaccines are available in a variety of combinations and types. The American Animal Hospital Association, or AAHA, updated canine vaccination guidelines in 2011 to account for the latest information about vaccines. The AAHA categorizes vaccines in three groups: core vaccines are considered vital to all dogs because of the potential exposure and impact of the disease and the risk of passing it to humans; noncore vaccines are situational, given to a dog based on his risk of exposure to the illness; the final group of vaccines is not recommended.
The core vaccines for all dogs are for rabies, canine parvovirus, distemper and canine adenovirus. If Dexter is still a puppy, he'll have a flurry of shots in his first several months. He can have a rabies vaccination at 3 months, followed by a second shot at his first birthday. AAHA recommends the first shots for canine parvovirus, distemper and canine adenovirus be given to puppies every three to four weeks between the ages of 6 and 16 weeks. For example, Dexter would have all three shots at 6, 10 and 14 weeks of age. When he gets his rabies shot updated for his first birthday, he'll also get the rest of his core vaccines updated. The schedule for his rabies shots after his first year is dictated by local ordinance -- in some places it's an annual event and in others, it's every three years. The rest of his core vaccinations are updated every three years. If Dexter's fully grown but has never had a vaccination, he'll need one shot, with a booster every three years.
Whether Dexter needs any of the noncore vaccines depends on how much he's at risk for exposure. Noncore vaccines include parainfluenza, Bordetella, canine influenza, Borrelia burgdorferi, Bordetella bronchiseptica and Leptospira bacteria. The noncore vaccine schedules vary according to the shot. For example, Bordetella is initiated in two doses, between two and four weeks apart and updated annually; puppies as young as 8 weeks can have the vaccine. One parainfluenza vaccine is dispensed with core vaccines while another type is a single dose, updated annually or more frequently for dogs at high risk for contracting parainfluenza. The influenza shot requires two doses, between two and four weeks apart, updated every year. Borrelia burgdorferi and Leptospira vaccines should not be administered to puppies younger than 12 weeks old; all dogs require two shots, two to four weeks apart, with an annual booster shot.
Canine coronavirus and Leptospira interrogans are not recommended by the AAHA as part of a dog's vaccination protocol. The shots Dexter gets may cause some side effects, including sluggishness, fever, decreased appetite, diarrhea, vomiting, hives, swelling or redness around the injection site, difficulty breathing, seizures and collapse. If your pup shows any signs of a bad reaction to his shots, call your vet.
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