Canine Vaccines

Dogs have a range of different vaccines which we administer, based on their likelihood of exposure due to their lifestyle. What are these vaccines and why do we recommend protection? Vaccines work by stimulating the immune system to form antibodies, essentially soldiers whose job is to seek out viruses/bacteria and destroy them before they produce ill effects or to reduce disease severity and duration.

Distemper Combination Vaccine (DA2PP) This vaccine has a combination of four different viruses:


Distemper is virus which attacks many different areas of the body- often the respiratory tract is first, but vomiting/diarrhea, callouses on the nose and footpads, seizures, muscle rigidity, abnormal tooth enamel formation, death, etc. Thank goodness this vaccine is available. With such a severe disease, vaccination has drastically reduced the number of distemper cases present.

Adenovirus and Parainfluenza

Since both Adenovirus and Parainfluenza cause the same types of symptoms, I am going to lump them together for this discussion. Both these viruses cause upper respiratory infections initially, but can also lead to bronchitis if left untreated.


Most people have heard of this virus, it is highly contagious via feces from dog to dog and can be fatal if left untreated. It can cause a bloody diarrhea, with the most susceptible patients being puppies, especially if they are not fully vaccinated when they are exposed. The vaccine drastically reduces the disease severity, each booster vaccine strengthens the immune system.

Rabies Vaccine

Rabies is an easily transmitted virus mainly through bites since it is transmitted via saliva, but also can be obtained from drinking from a contaminated puddle (somewhat rare). With Rabies being a fatal virus which attacks the nervous system, this is a public health issue and thus is the only Provincially Mandated Vaccination. All dogs and cats should be kept up-to-date with their rabies vaccinations to keep them, and the people they contact, safe.

Leptospirosis Vaccine

Treating a dog with leptospirosis can be heartbreaking, they become ill so quickly after drinking from a contaminated puddle, or licking their paws after walking through a contaminated water source. Animals such as rats, squirrels and racoons can harbor the bacteria which is urinated into puddles.

The bacteria makes the trip to the liver and/or kidneys, causing the organs to be unable to function. Dogs develop vomiting, dehydration, inappetance, lethargy, and will die without proper treatment. Often times, these dogs are hospitalized for a full week on IV fluids, antibiotics, and medication for their nausea to keep them eating. Even worse, this bacteria can be spread to people via contaminated urine.

Lyme Vaccine

Ticks are a major issue in this area, especially during spring and fall. Not all ticks transmit Lyme disease, but the Ixodes ticks which can spread the disease are increasing in the area. Lyme disease causes issues such as joint stiffness and pain, kidney damage, lethargy, etc.

The lyme vaccine helps to protect our dogs who have been bitten by a lyme infected tick by giving the dog antibodies to fight the lyme bacteria once it is in the body. This is an important vaccine for dogs going in lyme endemic areas such as the Provincial Parks, Ojibway, camping or travelling dogs, since these ticks are found near wildlife such as deer and mice, but also migrating birds!

'Kennel Cough' Vaccine (Bordetella, Parainfluenza, Adenovirus)

The CIRDC complex- or 'Canine Infectious Respiratory Disease Complex' - is a group of bacteria and viruses which cause similar signs of sneezing, coughing, and if the infection spreads to the lungs, a pneumonia. These are diseases easily acquired from breathing in bacteria or viruses which have been sneezed or coughed out by another dog. The locations our dogs are most likely to infect themselves include: a grooming salon, dog park, another dog on the other side of the fence, the vet clinic, etc., any other location where there will be an infect dog nearby.

The great news about the vaccine is, while our dogs can still pick up the bacteria or virus, they are going to be better protected from actually becoming ill from these infectious agents. It may mean a few days of coughing in a vaccinated patient, versus a fatal pneumonia in an unvaccinated patient. Now, after learning all this information, think about your dog. What are they exposed to (other dogs, wildlife, ticks, puddles), and what should your dog be protected against?

Dr. Kim Quinn

Practice information

South Windsor Animal Hospital

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