Canine Diseases and Vaccinations

Canine diseases are among the biggest threats to your dog's health. Many of these diseases are fatal to the dog who comes down with them, and prior to the introduction of effective vaccinations, thousands of dogs died each year because of these diseases. Other diseases are not usually fatal but can cause serious health problems.

Alternative Veterinary Medicine

If veterinary medicine isn't confusing enough for most dog owners, now you have even more choices to make. Many veterinarians now practice alternative medicine, offering acupuncture, chiropractic therapies, herbal remedies, and homeopathy. This is particularly important for those people who use these remedies for themselves and their families; now the same techniques are available for family pets.

♦ Adenovirus: This virus affects the respiratory system and shows up primarily as coughing. It is passed through the air by an infected dog coughing out droplets carrying the virus. It can be serious, especially in puppies, but usually is not fatal. There are effective vaccines.

♦ Bordetella bronchiseptica: This bacterial infection affects the respiratory system. An infected dog may experience coughing, sneezing, and a running nose. Secondary infections and pneumonia can be dangerous. It is passed through contact with an infected dog. There are effective vaccines.

♦ Canine distemper: This virus affects a dog's skin, eyes, and nerves. The first symptoms are typically a running nose and eyes, and might even appear to be pneumonia. Canine distemper can be passed through an infected dog's feces or through the air if an infected dog sneezes or coughs. It is usually fatal, and those dogs who do survive often have neurological problems, including seizures. There is an effective vaccine.

♦ Canine hepatitis: This virus usually begins with a sore throat and quickly spreads to other organs, especially the liver. It is extremely contagious and is usually picked up when a healthy dog sniffs the urine or nasal discharge of an infected dog. It is fatal, and dogs can go downhill and die within hours of showing symptoms. There is an effective vaccine.

♦ Canine influenza: This highly contagious virus hits the respiratory system, causing a nasal discharge and coughing in milder cases. More serious cases progress to a high fever and pneumonia. It is passed by contact with a sick dog, especially the respiratory discharges. Most dogs recover with supportive veterinary care, but canine influenza can be fatal to those with the more severe form. There is no vaccination yet.

♦ Coronavirus: This virus most often hits puppies and can cause severe dehydration. The primary symptom is mild to severe diarrhea. There may be blood in the stools in severe cases. It is transmitted through contact with an infected dog's feces. With supportive veterinary care, most puppies survive. There is an effective vaccine.

♦ Leptospirosis: This bacterial infection is often fatal. It is usually picked up from contact with an infected dog's urine or water polluted with urine. Symptoms include fever, vomiting, and dehydration. The organs primarily affected are the liver and kidneys. There is an effective vaccine.

♦ Lyme disease: This bacterial infection affects the nerves and joints, often causing permanent damage. It shows up as a fever, muscle soreness, weakness, and joint pain. It is passed by infected ticks, fleas, and flies. There is a vaccine.

♦ Parainfluenza: This is another virus that affects the respiratory system. It, too, is passed by an infected dog coughing out droplets containing the virus. It can be serious, especially in puppies. There are effective vaccines.

♦ Parvovirus: This virus is continuing to mutate. It primarily affects puppies, although dogs with compromised immune systems and older dogs may also be infected. It causes vomiting, diarrhea, and dehydration and is passed through contact with an infected dog's feces and vomit. It is often fatal, and because it is continuing to mutate, it has been called the most dangerous canine virus. There are vaccines, and the makers are trying to keep up with the mutations.

♦ Rabies: This virus affects the brain, causing staggering, drooling, seizures, and changes in behavior. It is caught by contact with another sick animal, often bats, skunks, squirrels, and raccoons. It is fatal, but there is an effective vaccination.

Puppies need vaccinations; the key is to work out a reasonable schedule that you and your vet will both be happy with. Chloe, a Labrador Retriever, owned by Danny and Carol Norman.

Your veterinarian will set up a vaccination schedule for your puppy. The first shots are generally given during your puppy's first visit to the vet, usually at 8 to 10 weeks of age. If the breeder gave the puppy a vaccination before you brought him home, make sure you bring the record with you to the vet's office. He will need to take that into account when setting up the schedule.

If you have adopted an older puppy or an adult dog, bring his shot record with you on the first visit. After your vet sees what has been given (or not given), she can discuss a vaccination schedule with you. Although many vaccines have been given annually for many years, now many vets prefer to space them out, sometimes to every three years. The timing can depend on your dog's immune system and whether a particular disease is an active threat in your area.

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