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Canine Vaccinations

There is currently a lot of controversy surrounding vaccine safety and efficacy. Unfortunately, there is also a lot of inaccurate and unsubstantiated information about vaccines being spread by different people and shared on the internet and through social media. This overwhelming amount of information makes it hard for you as a pet owner to make an informed decision about vaccinating your pet. We know you want to do everything you can to ensure your pet stays healthy, and the doctors and staff at The Burnt Hills Veterinary Hospital are here to help. Our vaccine recommendations were created after reading a variety of scientific research, reviewing the recommendations of large veterinary health organizations, and considering our doctor’s combined 250 plus years of experience giving these vaccines and treating the infectious diseases they were created to prevent. We will continue to consider new information and research as it becomes available and may adjust our protocols and recommendations so we can continue to provide the safest and most effective vaccines to the pets we all love so much.  


We do not administer vaccines except as a medical procedure that we feel is properly indicated based on the age, risk of exposure, health status, past vaccine history, and intended life style of your pet.  We recommend yearly physical examinations for every pet, and we can discuss the appropriateness of vaccination at those times. We welcome any and all questions regarding vaccine safety and efficacy at your appointment. 



1.) Will my pet have a reaction to the vaccine?

2.) Does my pet really need all the vaccines available?

3.) Why does my small dog get the same volume of vaccine as a large dog?

4.) Are some breeds of dog unable to tolerate certain vaccines?

5.) Does vaccination guarantee protection?

It’s not uncommon for a dog to experience mild lethargy, fever, or soreness at the vaccine site for 24-48 hours following an injection. These side effects are not harmful to your pet and generally resolve quickly without any medical care. Serious or life-threatening vaccine reactions are very rare, and it’s important to remember that for most pets the benefits of vaccination far outweigh the risks. If your pet is one of the few which experiences more serious side effects when vaccinated your doctor will discuss ways which these side effects may be minimized, or in rare cases, will consider not vaccinating your pet.

When reading about vaccines you will see the terms “core” and “non-core.” Core vaccines are those recommended for all dogs of a certain age and generally includes rabies and DAPP (distemper, adenovirus, parvovirus, parainfluenza). “Non-core” vaccines are those vaccines only recommended to certain pets based on the geographic area they live in and their lifestyle. The most common “non-core” vaccines are Leptospirosis, Bordetella, Influenza, and Lyme. In the capital district, vaccinating against Lyme disease is essential because the disease is so prevalent in this area. We generally recommend that all dogs, even those that do not go outside, be vaccinated. Leptospirosis is becoming more common and because it can be deadly we recommend this vaccine for most dogs. The Bordetella and influenza vaccines are more essential for those pets that are at significant risk for exposure; however, even a dog that doesn’t leave the home could be exposed.

Unlike medications which are often dosed on weight, a vaccine dose is not based on the size of the patient because a dog’s immune system does not come in different “sizes.” The amount of vaccine given is based on the minimum immunizing or infectious dose. Reducing the vaccine dose given may cause the vaccine to be ineffective, thus putting your pet at risk. In addition, studies have not shown that reducing the volume of vaccine given will reduce the risk of an acute adverse reaction or enhance vaccine safety.

There is some literature to suggest that a few specific breeds are more at risk for some very rare immune mediated diseases as a result of vaccines. It also appears that smaller breed dogs and Boxers may be at higher risk for an allergic reaction to a vaccine. Regardless, these reactions are still very uncommon and in the majority of cases the benefit of vaccination still far outweighs any associated risk. Our doctors do not recommend against vaccinating any patient due to breed alone.

The short answer is no. No vaccine can be guaranteed to be 100% effective against preventing disease transmission even when given correctly. This is due to a variety of factors such as the health of your pet’s immune system and their genetics. That being said, when given appropriately vaccines are usually very effective and are one of the simplest things you can do to keep your pet safe.


For the Future: There are new vaccines that have been granted 3-year duration by the FDA, but they contain 5 times the regular amount of viral particles, so we are currently waiting to see if they are safe over a long period of time as the ones we currently use.  As information becomes available, as vaccine companies develop improvements in their products, as we understand the immune system and vaccination reactions better, we may recommend less frequent vaccinations, or individually create protocols for each pet.  But for now, we choose the safest vaccines available, which routinely provide the highest level of protection, with the least likelihood for vaccine reaction, and we recommend yearly re-vaccination for most pets, except for rabies which is every 3 years.  


Many of us know our pets need vaccines, but have you ever wondered about the disease you are vaccinating against? Below is a list of the vaccines we offer followed by information on the diseases they prevent.  

  • “Distemper,” DHPP, or DAPP: This is a combination vaccine which vaccinates against 5 separate disease. We also have the option to provide this vaccine without the leptospirosis portion or to give leptospirosis as a single vaccine.
    • Canine Distemper (D) is a viral disease that is often fatal even with the best medical treatment.  Symptoms are varied but include respiratory, gastrointestinal and neurologic signs. Thanks in part to vaccination this disease is not as common as it once was, but when it does occur it’s often deadly.
    • Canine Adenovirus Type 1 and 2 (H/A2) primarily cause infectious hepatitis and respiratory infection, respectively.  Hepatitis caused by adenovirus type-1 can result in liver failure and therefor death. Adenovirus type 2 is a potential cause of kennel cough and can be very contagious from dog to dog.
    • Canine Parainfluenza (P) is a very contagious respiratory virus and another potential cause of kennel cough. Although parainfluenza is often a mild respiratory infection in otherwise healthy dogs, it can be severe in puppies or debilitated dogs.
    • Canine Parvovirus(P) infection is a virus which infects and destroys a variety of different cells in the body. Most notably, it kills the cells which line the intestinal tract which can result in vomiting, bloody diarrhea, and severe dehydration. Parvovirus is most common in puppies and can be deadly.
  • Rabies is a virus which attacks the brain and central nervous system. It is always fatal in dogs. This vaccine is required by law in New York state. Rabies represents a major zoonotic health risk and is transmitted to humans chiefly through the bite of an infected animal. It is estimated that worldwide nearly 60,000 human deaths caused by Rabies occur each year.

  • Leptospirosis is a bacteria spread in the urine of wild animals which then contaminate the environment. This disease is also zoonotic, meaning it can be spread from animals to people. There are multiple strains, known as serovars, of leptospirosis and the vaccine protects against several common ones. Leptospirosis primarily damages the kidneys and liver and can be fatal.

  • Lyme (Borrelia burgdorferi) is a bacterial disease which is transmitted by the bite of an infected tick. Acute Lyme disease most often causes fever, lethargy, joint pain and inflammation. Chronic Lyme disease can result in kidney damage and failure among other consequences. In this area this disease has increasingly become a concern and we currently recommend vaccination for all dogs.

  • Influenza is a contagious viral disease that can spread quickly among dogs.  It affects a dog's respiratory system and may cause serious illness. The most common symptoms are coughing, nasal or eye discharge, fever and lethargy. In the US, outbreaks of canine flu were first reported in 2004 and the virus has since spread across country. Currently there are two strains of canine flu, H3N8 and H3N2, and neither are contagious to humans.

  • Canine Bordetella (Bordatella bronchiseptica) is a bacterial infection of the respiratory system and one cause of kennel cough. It is highly contagious among dogs. The most common symptoms are cough, lethargy, and fever.


Below is a generalized vaccine schedule provided to give you an idea of what you may expect for your dog. However, we tailor our vaccine recommendations and schedule to the individual patient and what is listed below may not be what is recommended for your specific pet:

- 8-9 weeks:               DA2PP #1, Lyme #1, influenza #1
- 12 weeks:                DA2LPP #2 (first leptospirosis) second vaccine, Lyme #2, Bordetella #1, influenza #2  
- 16 weeks:                DA2LPP #3, Bordetella #2, Rabies
- 1 year and older:    DA2LPP and Lyme yearly, rabies every three years, Bordetella and Influenza yearly if appropriate
- 7-8 months:             Lyme #3


Although we highly recommend getting all vaccines for dogs, there are some vaccines that can be omitted depending on your pet's lifestyle. Here is a breakdown of what vaccines to get for your dog:

- Distemper, Leptospirosis, Rabies, and Lyme vaccines: - reecommended vaccines for all dogs
- Bordetella, and Influenza vaccines: "life style vaccines" -- recommend for any that is being exposed to other dogs via boarding, grooming, daycare, dog parks, or social dogs

A note on DAPP vaccination: Vaccinations that have been FDA approved to be administered every 3 years instead of once a year are available.  Initially, they seemed to be desirable because they are used less frequently and help avoid “over-vaccination”.  However, to make them last longer, vaccine manufacturers have increased the vaccine virus load five-fold.  This means your pet’s immune system is being exposed to five times the stimulation with each vaccine and are actually being exposed to more vaccine virus with the 3-year vaccine, than if they receive the yearly vaccine.  In addition, in order to obtain USDA approval for the 3-year vaccine, only 8 dogs were vaccinated and their antibody levels checked at just 12 weeks after vaccination. At this time, we feel that this is not adequate proof of protection and have chosen not to use 3-year vaccinations. However, we continue to keep up on the current research and the consensus among veterinary professionals and our opinions and policies may change.


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