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Dog Viruses and Vaccines Explained

Updated: May 11, 2022

We offer a great number of different vaccines for both dogs and cats. Sometimes it is difficult to know what your animal needs. Here are several different vaccines we offer for dogs and why they are important:


The rabies virus causes a disease that is nearly always fatal. All mammals, including humans, can become infected with rabies. Most domestic animals are at risk of contracting the virus from the bite on an infected animal. Much less commonly, transmission can occur through ingestion of tissue from an infected animal or aerosol exposure. Certain wildlife species, including bats and raccoons, are the most common sources of rabies infection.

The virus incubates in the body for an infected animal for a variable period of time (weeks to months) prior to causing signs of disease. The signs of disease can vary widely. Rabies primarily targets the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) Most commonly, animals showing signs of rabies will experience abrupt changes in behavior and progressive paralysis. Symptoms include fever, increased reactions to sound and sight, restlessness, aggression, hyper-salivation, uncoordinated movement, weakness, difficult eating or drinking, coma, and sudden death.

Once signs of rabies are apparent, there are no effective treatments. Death occurs within 10 days.

Rabies Vaccine

The rabies vaccine is required, by law, for dogs and cats. It is available to provide immunity in 1 year and 3 year forms. Puppies and adult dogs receiving their first vaccine will require a booster 1 year after initial vaccination. Be attentive to state and local ordinances regarding vaccination requirements.

DHPP Vaccine

The DHPP vaccine (also know as DA2PP or “5-in-1”) contains components for vaccination against

  • Canine Distemper Virus

  • Canine Adenovirus type 2

  • Canine Parvovirus

  • Canine Parainfluenza

Ideally, DHPP vaccine is given as part of a puppy series, with the first vaccine received at 8 weeks of age, with a booster every 3-4 weeks through 16 weeks of age. After an appropriate initial series, DHPP vaccine can be administered annually or every 3 years to maintain immunity.

If the dog is at least 16 weeks old and has never been vaccinated, they will require a vaccine booster 3-4 weeks after initial vaccination before extending the vaccine schedule.

The DHLPP vaccine contains all of the aforementioned immunities, and also includes a leptospirosis component.

Canine Distemper (CDV)

Canine Distemper Virus causes canine distemper, a highly contagious disease witnessed in dogs. CDV can cause severe multi-systemic disease affecting the respiratory, gastrointestinal, and/or nervous systems. Canine distemper is fatal in 80-90% of infected puppies and about 50% of infected adult dogs.

Puppies and unvaccinated dogs are at greatest risk of infection. Infectious viral particles are present in many environments. CDV infection generally occurs when a dog breathes viral particles through the nose of mouth. Early signs of CDV infection include lethargy, fever, runny eyes or nose, cough, decreased appetite, vomiting, diarrhea and other nervous system changes including seizures and uncoordinated walking.

Canine Anedovirus

Canine adenovirus type 1 (CAV-1) is also known as infectious canine hepatitis. It is rare, but potentially deadly. This virus is generally transmitted through contact with an infected animal’s urine. CAV-1 symptoms include mild gastrointestinal signs to severe disorders and fatality within a few days. Dogs who recover can experience eye changes and ongoing disease of the liver or kidneys.

Canine Parvovirus (CPV)

Canine parvovirus (CPV) is a highly contagious intestinal disease. Puppies and young dogs of particularly susceptible to infection. Without treatment, parvovirus is extremely fatal. Treatment is lengthy and aggressive and not always effective.

Parvovirus is spread through oral contact with viral particles from feces, saliva, and/or vomit. Symptoms include fever, lethargy, decreased appetite, vomiting, and diarrhea (often bloody) CPV affects rapidly dividing cells, those in the GI tract, and leads to damage of the lining of the gastrointestinal tract.

CPV viral particles are present in many environments and can persist for many months in soil and objects (clothing, shoes, toys) The virus is difficult to kill with disinfectants, making vaccination very important.


Canine parainfluenza virus is one of the causes of “canine kennel cough” in dogs. This virus is spread through inhalation of infected particles. Infection can lead to runny eyes and nose, coughing, and even pneumonia.

Additional Viruses and Vaccines for Dogs


Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease, generally contacted through contact with the urine of an infected animal. Dogs are also at risk of contracting Leptospirosis through contact with contaminated water. Lepto is a zoonotic disease.

Upon infection, Leptospira may damage kidneys, liver, and blood vessels, resulting in kidney or liver failure. Symptoms vary and can include fever, lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, and eye inflammation. Leptospirorsis can be treated with antibiotics, or more aggressive care in some cases.

Allergic reactions to the leptospirosis vaccine are more common than most other vaccinations. Small/toy breed dogs may have an increased risk of allergic reaction.

When administering the Leptospirosis vaccine for the first time, a dog will require booster 2-4 weeks later. After completing the initial series, the vaccine should be scheduled annually.


Bordertella bronchiseptica is the bacteria involved in the development of “canine kennel cough” (ITB)

ITB is highly contagious via inhalation of infected microbes and/or through direct contact with an infected animal. This disease is most common in social areas like shelters and kennels. Generally, symptoms include coughing, runny nose, and runny eyes. More severe cases can develop fever, loss of appetite, lethargy, and shortness of breath.

The intranasal vaccine (administered through the nose) provides immunity for 1 year.


Lyme disease is caused by a bacteria called Borrelia Burgdorferi. The bacteria is transmitted through the bite of an infested tick. Lyme disease is zoonotic, humans are at risk of contracting the disease.

The majority of dogs that become infected never develop signs of disease, but symptoms include lameness, swelling, joint pain, fever, and decreased appetite. Rarely, Lyme disease has been associated with kidney and heart disease. Most Lyme disease responds to antibiotic treatment, but infection may remain and symptoms may recur in the future.

The Lyme vaccine has been associated with more adverse reactions than other common vaccinations. Prevention is the most important component in the prevention of Lyme disease and other tick borne illnesses.

Stop by and get your pet vaccinated today! It doesn't cost much and it will prevent serious medical bills in the future.


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