Now that we’ve covered the core vaccines for dogs, let’s discuss the non-core vaccines. According to the 2011 AAHA Canine Vaccination Guidelines, these include Borellia (Lyme), Leptospira, Bordetella, Canine Influenza, and Canine Parainfluenza vaccines. Deciding whether your dog should get any one of them depends largely on his or her risk factors for exposure to the bacteria or virus. Below is a brief description of each organism and the related disease.
Borellia burgdorferi, aka Lyme disease: Chances are very good that you know people and dogs that have been diagnosed with Lyme disease if you live in the Northeast or Upper Midwest areas of the United States. People and animals living in these locales experience the lion share of Lyme disease. You might be surprised to learn that this disease has been around for over 100 years (that we know of), but it wasn’t until the late 1980’s, when cases in Lyme, CT, were publicized in the media, that the public had knowledge of it. Lyme disease is spread by the deer tick, and the white-footed mouse and deer are involved in the transmission cycle. Because people and dogs often interface with areas where deer and mice live and eat, we are prone to come into contact with deer ticks. Did you know that a tick carrying the Lyme bacteria must be attached and feeding for 36-48 hours for the bacteria to be transmitted? This means that if you remove the tick before this time, infection will not occur, meaning tick control can have a huge impact. One really important point I want to make is that people and dogs infected with the Lyme bacteria do not have the same disease process. People typically develop a rash and flu-like symptoms, followed by joint pain and more rarely, neurologic issues. The potential for long-term illness is much higher in people than in dogs, which present with achy joints and sometimes a fever. The most serious issue with Lyme disease in dogs, which happens in less than 10% of infected dogs, is a type of kidney damage called glomerulonephritis. The majority of dogs are readily treated with a 2-4 week course of antibiotic, and dogs with signs of Lyme disease (such as aches, fever, loss of appetite) will have a response within 48 hours of starting the antibiotic. The goal of treatment is to make the Lyme bacteria inactive in the body since actually clearing it from the body is difficult to achieve.
Leptospira interrogans, aka Lepto: Leptospires are bacteria that are present in the environment and are carried by animals including wildlife and domestic animals, which excrete the bacteria in their urine. Humans can also be infected by these bacteria, which gain entry into the body through abraded skin or ingestion. Once it gets into the bloodstream, it causes fever, painful joints, and lethargy. Many organs in the body are affected, but especially the liver and kidneys. Dogs and people have similar symptoms, and the disease can be quite serious. Luckily, the bacteria is treatable with penicillin or doxycycline antibiotics. Dogs and people that spend time in watery environments have a greater risk of contacting the bacteria.
Bordetella bronchiseptica and Canine Parainfluenza Virus, aka Kennel Cough: Kennel Cough, or infectious tracheobronchitis, is caused by multiple organisms. Bordetella and parainfluenza virus are often involved, but other organisms can also play a role, including canine adenovirus-2, Mycoplasma, canine influenza virus, and canine herpesvirus. Two forms of kennel cough exist: a mild form with a “honking” cough but no fever or loss of appetite, and a severe form with coughing, fever, loss of appetite, weight loss, and respiratory distress. The incubation period ranges from 2-14 days, and dogs are usually sick for 1-2 weeks. Recovered dogs can shed Bordetella for several months following infection, and they are immune from re-infection for 6-12 months. Although most cases go away on their own, veterinarians will often prescribe antibiotics to kill Bordetella and cough suppressants for comfort. More severe cases may require additional therapy such as nebulization and intravenous fluids if dehydration occurs.
Canine Influenza Virus: Reports about “dog flu” appeared in the media in the fall of 2005. The first case of influenza was confirmed in Florida in 2004, in a racing greyhound, and cases were seen in pet dogs in Florida and other states by April 2005. The canine influenza virus is a mutation from the equine (horse) influenza virus, and unless another mutation occurs, people cannot become ill with the canine flu virus. Infected dogs may appear like they have kennel cough early in the infection, and most dogs will develop a fever, loss of appetite, lack of energy, cough, and runny nose as the disease progresses. A small number of dogs will develop pneumonia, and these dogs require in-hospital care. Dogs that recover from the virus may have immunity for up to 2 years.
To Give or Not to Give?
So, how does a dog parent decide whether Fluffy or Hunter should have any of these vaccines? As I’ve stated before, it comes down to risk, first and foremost. If your Fluffy is the type that goes out in the yard 3-4 times a day and doesn’t travel away from home, there is little to no reason for him to receive any of these vaccines. On the other hand, if Hunter is regularly out flushing birds in upstate New York, his risk of contacting bacteria like Borellia and Leptospira are much higher than Fluffy’s. Maybe your dog stays at a doggy hotel while you are on vacation. Most of these facilities require vaccination against kennel cough, because they don’t want to risk having a respiratory disease outbreak in their kennels. Here are a few other things to consider about each of these vaccines:
- There are 3 types of vaccines available for dogs. One of the three is known to cause more vaccine reactions due to it containing dead, whole bacteria. The other two use DNA technology to create immunity. If your dog is going to receive the Lyme vaccine, you can ask your vet which type of vaccine he or she will use.
- Most dogs never show signs of illness after being infected with the Lyme bacteria. Only 5-10% of infected dogs will become achy, and of these dogs, when treated with antibiotics, most will recover.
- Tick prevention is absolutely the most important tool in preventing Lyme disease! There are good preventives available, and checking your dog’s skin daily and removing any ticks not only prevents tick-borne diseases, but also gives your dog lots of attention.
- There are over 200 types (or serovars) of Leptospira interrogans that have been identified. The canine vaccine contains protection against only four serovars. This means that vaccination does not guarantee 100% protection. Many recent outbreaks have involved serovars that aren’t covered by the vaccine.
- Veterinarians are aware that the vaccine for Lepto has a reputation for causing vaccine reactions (hives, facial swelling, breathing problems). For this reason, many dogs cannot get the Lepto vaccine.
- There are intranasal (up-the-nose), injectable, and oral vaccines available for kennel cough. The injectable type is a good option for dogs that don’t appreciate having their noses handled but requires a two-dose series given 3-4 weeks apart. The oral vaccine currently only contains vaccine against Bordetella, not any of the viruses that may be involved. A dog that receives the intranasal type needs at least four days to develop immunity, so this is a good guideline if you realize you need to kennel your dog and he hasn’t gotten his vaccine yet.
- Even with vaccine, kennel cough may not be fully prevented; however, the severity of the disease may be lessened.