Dog vaccinations are a major part of preventing disease and keeping our pets happy and healthy. Many of these diseases are very common in Australia.
The vast array of vaccine types, brands and vaccine information out there can make it confusing to work out what vaccination schedule your dog needs. All of the information you need, including vaccination costs, types, side effects and more, is below.
How do dog vaccinations work?
A vaccine stimulates your pet’s immune system to be able to recognise and destroy certain viruses that cause disease. By using a small portion of a virus, a vaccine triggers your pet’s body to produce antibodies against that virus. When the real virus tries to invade your pet, these antibodies bind to and neutralise the virus before it can take hold.
How often do dogs need vaccines?
How often you have to give a dog vaccination depends on how long sufficient levels of these antibodies hang around inside your dog’s body. This time frame can vary depending on the individual animal. Some dogs have a stronger response to vaccination than others. It also depends on the type of vaccine. For instance, there is no long lasting immunity for kennel cough beyond about 12 months. Whereas immunity for parvovirus, distemper and hepatitis may last three years or more.
Since a kennel cough vaccine must be given yearly anyway, most vaccinations are given all together yearly. This makes it easy for pet owners to remember when their pets are due (simply once a year). There are stronger versions of the C3 only vaccines available that are registered for use every three years if preferred. In this situation you would give this stronger C3 every three years whilst also giving a kennel cough only vaccine every year.
Finally, in terms of how often to vaccinate your dog, there is also the option of titre testing. Tire testing is a blood test that measures how much antibody your pet has to each virus. It helps to determine more accurately when exactly to give your dog immunisation. Again, this is only for the core C3 vaccination. There is no titre test available for the canine kennel cough part of the vaccine.
Types of Dog Vaccines
C3 : parvovirus, distemper, adenovirus (hepatitis)
C4: C3 + parainfluenza
C5: C4 + bordatella bronchiseptica
C7: C5 + leptosporosis + coronavirus
KC: parainfluenza + bordatella bronchiseptica
2i : coronavirus
Diseases Vaccinated Against
Vaccines are classified as either core vaccines or non-core vaccines depending on the diseases they protect against. Core vaccines are considered essential for all dogs no matter where they live. Non-core vaccines are required depending on where your pet lives and the prevalence of the disease in that location.
Core Vaccines Prevent:
- Parvovirus: a common virus that attaches to the lining of the intestinal wall causing it to slough and bleed. Parvovirus in dogs is highly contagious and can live in the environment for up to 7 months. Infection is via direct contact with areas where infected dogs have defecated. Once infected, clinical symptoms can take 7-14 days to appear. Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhoea, nausea, pale gums, blood in the stool and loss of appetite. When infected, most will die without treatment. Because most pets have to be in quarantined intensive care for 5-10 days, this is an expensive condition to treat.
- Distemper: a virus that attacks the nervous system of affected dogs. Spread via contact with urine, blood or saliva. Symptoms can include sneezing, coughing, thick mucous from the nose or eyes, lethargy, depression, paralysis and death. Puppies and young dogs are particularly susceptible. Thankfully because of vaccination, distemper is not as common as it once was. However cases do still emerge, especially in low vaccination areas, so it is important to stay vaccinated.
- Adenovirus (infectious hepatitis): causes an acute liver infection in affected pets. Spread by faeces, urine, saliva, blood and nasal discharge. Progresses to also affect the eyes and kidneys. Symptoms include fever, lethargy, loss of appetite, cloudy eyes, jaundice (yellow discolouration of skin and eyes) and vomiting. Severe cases can also have nervous system symptoms as well as spontaneous bleeding.
Non-core Vaccine diseases:
- Parainfluenza: similar to the human cold, this is a virus that usually causes short term respiratory symptoms. Not usually life threatening itself, but can make your pet feel very unwell. However, it is possible for a pet to develop secondary pneumonia from this disease which itself can be life threatening.
- Bordatella bronchiseptica: this is not a virus, but is actually a type of bacteria. Combined with parainfluenza this grouping is what is collectively known as canine cough (kennel cough). It invades the upper respiratory tract of dogs and causes a harsh dry cough.
- Leptosporosis: this fatal bacteria penetrates the skin or gut and spreads through the bloodstream. It replicates inside organs and can cause permanent organ damage. It is zoonotic, meaning it can be passed on to humans. Symptoms include fever, reluctance to move, stiff muscles, lethargy, lack of appetite, vomiting, diarrhoea and jaundice mucous membranes(yellow gums and eyes). This condition mainly occurs in tropical areas where dogs come into contact with water contaminated by urine from rodents and other infected wild marsupials. Therefore, it is mainly animals living in these areas that are vaccinated. This is not a standard vaccine for all dogs. If in doubt, ask your local veterinarian about whether lepto is present where you live.
- Coronavirus: a contagious virus that affects the gastrointestinal system, mainly of puppies. It is often a mild disease that can cause lethargy, loss of appetite, vomiting and diarrhoea. Most dogs recover with treatment, but if other diseases such as parvovirus are also present, it can be fatal. The use of coronavirus in standard vaccination protocols is currently questioned. The Australian Veterinary Association does not currently recommend vaccinating against Coronavirus since there is apparently insufficient evidence to justify its use.
Rabies is an exotic disease in Australia. That is, rabies is not known to exist here. It does exist overseas however, for example, in the US. A rabies vaccination may be required when planning a trip overseas with your pet. Rabies is highly contagious and can be fatal to both dogs and humans.
Dog Vaccination Schedule
Perth Vet Care’s recommended dog vaccination schedule is as follows:
6 weeks: C3 vaccination
8 weeks: C5 vaccination
10 weeks: C4* vaccination
*some older vaccines require two C5 boosters to be given to a puppy 4 weeks apart. We only administer one C5 since we use the new Bronchishield Oral vaccine by Boehringer Ingelheim. One dose is sufficient to provide 12 months coverage from 8 weeks of age for Bordatella bronchiseptica.
Adult Dogs: Yearly C5 vaccination
Vaccination Side Effects
Because vaccinations stimulate a pet’s immune system, they should only be given to healthy animals.
Vaccination side effects in healthy animals are rare and when they occur are usually mild and self-limiting. The risk and severity is considered far less than that of your pet contracting the actual diseases the vaccines protect against.
Side effects may involve temporary swelling or hair loss at the site of vaccine injection, fever, mild lethargy and sleepiness for 24-48 hours after the vaccination.
As with all drugs, very rare, more serious systemic reactions are still possible. This may include severe anaphylactic reactions.
If your pet experiences the following symptoms, be sure to contact your vet immediately:
- difficulty breathing
- loss of appetite
In addition, some kennel cough vaccines may cause a mild, temporary cough approximately 5 days after vaccination. If this persists, please see your veterinarian.
Some pets react not to the vaccine but to the type of carrier agent the vaccine comes with. As a result, trialling a different brand of vaccine may be useful when adverse reactions occur.
Dog Vaccination Cost
Your vet will tailor the correct type of vaccination for your pet’s particular situation and exposure risk. All pets receiving a vaccination are first given a thorough physical examination to ensure they are in good general health. In Australia, a dog vaccination usually costs around $139. They are also commonly paired with an injection for heartworm.
Most frequent questions and answers regarding dog vaccinations.
Simply contact your vet to get your pet back on track as soon as possible. Depending on previous vaccination history, some pets will be able to continue on as normal with their routine vaccinations. Others may need a top up booster first.
The use of vaccines in pregnant animals is not recommended.
The recommendation to finish a puppy vaccination schedule at 16 weeks comes from WSAVA (World global veterinary community) guidelines. These guidelines were constructed to be all encompassing of every vaccine brand and variable local conditions worldwide.
The vaccines we recommend are from Boehringer Ingelheim and use the latest vaccine technology.
As directed by the manufacturer here in Australia, a vaccination at 6, 8 and 10 weeks of age, of this brand of vaccine, is sufficient to infer the proper protection.
The advantage of this is that puppies can get out to socialise and develop those crucial good behaviours earlier rather than later.
If your pet has had previous vaccines elsewhere, that differ to the schedule we recommend in this article, the type and number of vaccinations they still need may vary. For example, to be fully covered for kennel cough, a puppy must have at least two vaccines that protect against parainfluenza and one for bordatella.
As outlined above, a C5 vaccination is the most common vaccine type given on a yearly basis to adult dogs. It protects against parvovirus, distemper, infectious hepatitis, parainfluenza and bordatella (kennel cough).