Vaccination for dogs : which are essential and when to start vaccinating ?

Having your dog vaccinated plays a very important role in ensuring your pet stays healthy, since they are exposed to disease-causing pathogens on a regular basis. Enabling him to resist infections from potentially fatal viruses and bacteria, these essential vaccines are administered starting at two months of age.

Basic vaccine

We have good news to share! To simplify vaccinations for all those involved, and to make these visits as stress-free as possible for your dog, four essential vaccinations are administered together in one simple injection, commonly referred to as the basic canine vaccine :

  • Vaccine against Canine Distemper. This viral disease is transmitted between dogs by contaminated mucous membranes or by airborne particles. The symptoms start with nasal discharge, conjunctivitis with intolerance to light, but quickly progress to vomiting, diarrhea, fever, and even death.
  • Vaccine against Parvovirus. This highly contagious virus produces severe gastrointestinal signs, and can be easily transmitted by contact with contaminated fecal matter or vomitus. Symptoms include vomiting and abdominal pain with decreased appetite. Diarrhea with blood, fever, and severe dehydration will follow. Since this disease takes hold very rapidly (24-48 hours), parvovirus is particularly dangerous to puppies because their immune system is much less developed. This disease can be fatal.
  • Vaccine against Hepatitis. This disease is characterized by an inflammation of the liver, usually caused by a bacteria or virus, but may also be caused by a toxin or tumour. Symptoms include yellow mucous membranes, weight loss, fever, and increased thirst. 

Rabies vaccine

Even though this disease has become less prevalent among dogs due to vaccination, it can still be transmitted by bites from other mammals like squirrels and raccoons. Usual symptoms that are observed in dogs include sudden-onset aggressive behaviour, excessive drooling, and a paralysis of the vocal chords. Rabies is a fatal disease and a public-health risk to humans. Proper precautions must be taken to avoid being bitten.

Other available vaccines

Depending on your dog’s habits and lifestyle, your veterinarian may recommend vaccinations to protect against other common diseases:

  • Vaccine against Leptospirosis. This disease is caused bacteria that survive in warm and humid areas, especially those with standing water, that can become contaminated by the urine of wild animals (ex. ponds and marshes). This disease can also be transmitted to humans, leading to severe damage to the kidneys and liver.
  • Vaccine against Lyme disease. Transmitted by ticks, this disease is very common in Quebec. In the last few years, there have been increasing numbers of cases diagnosed. Symptoms in dogs include fatigue and recurring lameness and joint pain, but some infected dogs may never show any symptoms at all.
  • Vaccine against Kennel Cough. Also known as bordetella, this disease is highly contagious and is transmissible by the respiratory system. It causes an inflammation of the lower respiratory tract and trachea, leading to a dry or hacking cough.

When should a dog be vaccinated?

Puppies should begin receiving vaccinations at two months of age, followed by monthly boosters until they are at least four months old. It is extremely important to respect the vaccination schedule prepared for your pet in order to ensure his long-term protection. During this time, it is best to limit exposure to potentially-infected dogs (ex. other puppies). Although the basic vaccine can be administered at two months of age, the rabies vaccine can only be given later. Afterwards, some vaccines will need to be repeated every one or two years, following your veterinarian’s recommendation.