Dogs need vaccines as a part of preventative health care to be protected against some or all of certain diseases. Core vaccines should be given to all dogs, whereas non-core vaccines are given where indicated by your dog's lifestyle or the geographic area in which you live. Core vaccines include rabies, distemper, parvovirus, and more, while non-core vaccines include shots such as Bordetella, Lyme, and Giardia.
With the exceptions of legal requirements for rabies or vaccination requirements for kennels or travel, many veterinarians recommend vaccinating adult pets every three years, as per the American Animal Hospital Association's (AAHA) Canine Vaccine Guidelines. It should be noted, however, that an annual examination is still strongly recommended to make sure your pet remains in optimal health.
List of Core Dog Vaccines
- Rabies: Rabies is a fatal viral disease that attacks the nervous system and that is transmissible to humans.
- Distemper: Distemper is a viral disease that is often fatal, affecting the respiratory and gastrointestinal tracts and often the nervous system.
- Hepatitis/Adenovirus: A vaccination against adenovirus type 2 protects against both adenovirus types 1 and 2. Adenovirus type 1 causes infectious canine hepatitis, a viral disease that affects the liver and other organ systems, causing serious illness which is sometimes fatal. Adenovirus type 2 causes respiratory illness and may be involved in the development of kennel cough.
- Parvovirus: Canine parvovirus is a viral disease that causes severe vomiting and diarrhea and can be fatal.
- Parainfluenza: Parainfluenza is a viral disease affecting the respiratory system; may be involved in the development of kennel cough.
List of Non-Core Dog Vaccines
- Bordetella: Bordetella is a bacterial infection that can cause or contribute to kennel cough.
- Leptospirosis: Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease that affects several systems including the kidneys and liver; it can be fatal. It's only a risk in certain geographic locations, so it's not used routinely for every dog. Your vet can help you decide if your dog should have this vaccination.
- Lyme Disease: Lyme disease is a bacterial disease spread by ticks that can cause arthritis and other problems such as kidney disease. It's only a risk in certain geographic locations, so it's not used routinely for every dog. Your vet can help you decide if your dog should have this vaccination.
- Coronavirus: Coronavirus is a viral disease that primarily causes diarrhea. The risks of coronavirus infection are not as great as other viral diseases, so the AAHA's Canine Vaccine Guidelines advise against routinely vaccinating for coronavirus. Your vet can help you decide if your dog should have this vaccination.
- Giardia: The AAHA also recommends against vaccinating for giardia because the vaccine can prevent shedding of cysts but doesn't prevent infection.
- Canine Influenza H3N8: The canine H3N8 virus, also called the Canine Influenza Virus (CIV), is a relatively new influenza virus in dogs. It causes flu-like symptoms in dogs and is very contagious when dogs are in close contact (i.e. kennel). Due to the contagiousness of this virus, some kennels, grooming salons, and similar businesses are now requiring this vaccination to prevent an outbreak. Aside from those situations, the decision to vaccinate your dog (or not) should be discussed with your veterinarian.
- Rattlesnake vaccine: This vaccine might lessen the severity of the symptoms seen in dogs after a rattlesnake bite. Your vet can help determine your dog's risk for this snake bit based on where you live and your and your dog's lifestyle.
What Are the Letters in Combination Vaccines?
Viruses for which dogs are routinely vaccinated are often combined into a single shot as a combination vaccine (except the rabies vaccine, which is given separately). There are several different types of combinations vaccines available, and the individual components vary; they usually contain the core group of vaccines or the core with one or two other vaccines. Combination vaccines are often just called distemper or distemper/parvo vaccines, though there are more components than these. Each component is typically represented by an initial. What do all the initials mean?
- D = Distemper
- H or A2 = Adenovirus type 2; also protects against hepatitis (caused by Adenovirus type 1)
- P = Parainfluenza (sometimes Pi)
- PV = Parvovirus (sometimes simply abbreviated as P)
- L = Leptospirosis
- C = Coronavirus
For example, your dog's certificate might state that along with its rabies vaccine, it received a DA2PPV vaccine. This means it was vaccinated for distemper, adenovirus (hepatitis), parvovirus, and parainfluenza viruses.
Other common abbreviations for combination vaccines include DHPPV and DHLPPV, among others.