Dogs are susceptible to many contagious diseases, most of which are caused by viruses. Fortunately, vaccines are available to prevent our canine friends from succumbing to several of the worst ones. A series of four Distemper (DHPP) injections (approximately three weeks apart) provides the necessary immunity for puppies. The vaccine series is usually started at six to eight weeks of age. The DHPP vaccine is then given as an annual booster for the remainder of the dog’s life.
During your puppy’s 16 week wellness visit he or she will be vaccinated for the rabies virus. Virginia state law requires that all dogs over 4 months of age have current rabies vaccination status. Your puppy will receive a rabies vaccine booster at his or her one year visit and the vaccine will repeated once every 3 years to maintain the current vaccination status thereafter.
Bordetella is a bacterium that causes canine upper respiratory disease known as tracheobronchitis, or more commonly, kennel cough. This bacterial infection of the respiratory tract is characterized by severe coughing and gagging. It is a very contagious airborne disease that can easily sweep through kennels, grooming parlors and other places where dogs congregate. The incubation period is about one week. Treatment usually involves antibiotics and cough suppressants and most dogs respond quickly. Occasionally dogs may develop pneumonia and require hospitalization and some will develop a chronic cough syndrome that may last for months. Puppies are particularly prone to Bordetella infection so early vaccination is recommended.
The DHPP vaccine provides protection against four contagious canine viral diseases. The following is a brief explanation of each:
Distemper is one of the most severe diseases seen in dogs. It is caused by an air-borne virus similar to the human measles virus. This particular agent can invade any tissue in the dog’s body. It can cause pneumonia, a thick, yellow nasal discharge, vomiting and fever. Later, convulsions may develop. Distemper is most commonly seen in young animals and tends to be most severe in that age group. Older, unvaccinated dogs may occasionally be infected. The disease usually takes several weeks to months to run its course. Once the virus invades the central nervous system, the disease will progress more rapidly. There is no effective treatment, as there is presently no specific anti-viral medicine available. Antibiotics are used to prevent secondary infections and good nursing practices help keep the animal comfortable. Distemper has an 80-90% mortality rate. Immunity from the vaccine lasts approximately thirteen months, so annual boosters are necessary.
Hepatitis is an uncommon disease in dogs because the vaccine is so reliable in prevention of the infection. It is caused by either of two adeno viruses. Symptoms of hepatitis are related to damage to the liver. Vomiting, diarrhea, a high fever, and jaundice (yellow discoloration of skin and mucus membranes) can be seen. Sometimes the eyes are affected as well. As with distemper, no specific therapy is curative. The animal must be hospitalized, receiving intravenous fluids and other medications to relieve symptoms. This disease has a high mortality rate similar to distemper.
The parainfuenza virus causes an upper respiratory infection which is one part of the “kennel cough” complex. It is passed from dog to dog in the air. It can affect dogs of any age, and is most commonly seen where dogs are housed in groups such as boarding kennels and grooming establishments. Dogs may be carriers and show no sign of infection. Symptoms are usually related to the respiratory system. A severe cough is the most pronounced sign, and it may sound as if the dog has something caught in its throat. Some dogs run a high fever and have bronchopneumonia. No specific treatment is available, but cough suppressants and antibiotics are often prescribed.
Parvovirus causes gastrointestinal symptoms that are devastating to young animals, but it can be seen in dogs of any age. Vomiting, bloody diarrhea, dehydration, depression and lethargy are common symptoms. Hospitalization and symptomatic therapy such as intravenous fluids, antibiotics and antiemetics (to stop vomiting) is necessary for all infected puppies and dogs. Intensive care may be required for five to seven days before improvement is seen. Some dogs may die within 12-24 hours after initial signs are seen and, without treatment 80% of infected dogs will die. Hospitalization and treatment brings the mortality rate to 20%.
Flea and tick prevention:
No one wants to have six or eight legged parasites hitching a ride on their pets! Not only can fleas and ticks cause skin irritation, inflammation and itching, but they can transmit serious and sometimes fatal diseases to our furry friends, not to mention to us as well. Our friendly staff will work with you to determine the best external parasite prevention plan for you and your puppy now and in the future when he or she is an adult. Due to our large client volume GVH is able to offer competitive pricing on flea and tick prevention products in our office and through our online pharmacy.
Intestinal parasites, commonly known as worms (yuck!), will be addressed during your puppy’s first wellness visit here at GVH. A simple stool sample can divulge whether your puppy has an active parasite infestation and our staff will administer any anthelmintic agents deemed necessary.
Canine heartworm is a parasitic roundworm (Dirofilaria immitis) that is spread from host to host through the bites of mosquitoes. The heartworm is a type of filaria, a small thread-like worm. The definitive host is the dog but it can also infect cats, wolves, coyotes, foxes and other animals, such as ferrets, sea lions and even, under very rare circumstances, humans. The parasite is commonly called “heartworm” because the adult reproductive stage of its life cycle resides primarily in the right ventricle of its host where it can live for many years.
Heartworm disease is curable if diagnosed early in its course. If not detected and treated, it can cause severe disease and eventually death. Some symptoms of heartworm disease include: difficulty breathing, coughing, loss of stamina, listlessness, and weight loss. Unfortunately, these signs may not be obvious until the disease is advanced.
Heartworm disease is easily prevented with oral or topical medications that are typically administered once per month. Your puppy must have a negative heartworm test result (indicating absence of the disease) prior to being placed on preventive medication, as severe or fatal reactions can occur if these medications are given to dogs with heartworm disease.
We recommend annual heartworm testing and monthly preventative medication for all dogs starting as early as possible. Your veterinarian will prescribe a heartworm medication that is right for you and your puppy. GVH offers a variety of choices to fit each individual animal and most also have the added benefit of controlling an array of intestinal parasites as well.