Vaccinate to keep diseases at bay!

Canine Parvo and Canine Distemper are two commonly prevalent diseases in pooches but the good news is that they can be prevented – with effective use of vaccines. Here’s more on vaccinating the right way!

Vaccination is an artificial induction of actively acquired immunity by administration of a non-pathogenic form of a disease causing agent. All the vaccines should be recommended or used with caution. Though vaccination is the best protection against disease but it doesn’t always work, because there is a brief period of time (about a week) during the puppy’s life when the virus can overpower vaccination even when it has been properly administered.

Generally in canine practice, commonly employed vaccines are against prevention of rabies. In recent progressive years the introduction of multi-component vaccines having Canine Parvo Virus (CPV), Canine Adeno Virus (CAV), Canine Distemper Virus (CDV), Canine Para Influenza (CPI) and Canine Leptospira are definitely needed to prevent high risk infectious viral and bacterial diseases.

Here’s more about vaccination against Canine Parvo and Canine Distemper – two of the commonly prevalent diseases in dogs.

Canine Parvo: It is a highly infectious, life-threatening disease that affects puppies and dogs. It is readily transmitted through contact with faeces and vomit of other infected animals. Infected dogs may continue to pass the virus in their faeces for up to 3 weeks. Puppies, who are 6-20 weeks old, are most susceptible to infection, as their maternal antibodies are decreased in this age and antibody levels from vaccination are not yet fully developed.

Some of the symptoms of Canine Parvo include vomiting, loss of thirst/appetite, depression, abdominal pain and severe diarrhea. This results in dehydration and can be life-threatening.

Canine Distemper: It is a contagious, incurable, often fatal, multisystemic viral disease that affects the respiratory, gastrointestinal, and central nervous systems. It is caused by the Canine Distemper Virus (CDV) and puppies between 3 – 6 months old and non-immunized older dogs are mostly susceptible to this infection.

Further the virus can penetrate into blood stream of the pet, which eventually infects the lymphatic tissue and spreading the infection to other organs like respiratory, gastrointestinal, urogenital epithelium, central nervous system and optic nerve. Thus Canine Distemper has typical pathologic features like lymphoid depletion, which causes immunosupression that leads secondary infections and others including pneumonia, encephalitis with demyelination and hyperkeratosis of the pet’s foot pads.

Canine Parvo & Canine Distemper vaccine

Presently available high tittered low passage vaccines of Modified Live Vaccine (MLV) origin are known for their effectiveness even in the presence of moderate levels of maternal antibodies and have narrowed the window of susceptibility that occurs between declining levels of maternal antibodies and acquired immunity conferred by vaccine shots.

Some vaccines that provide a very high titer of the vaccine virus for canine Parvo to overcome interference of moderately high levels of maternal antibodies are recommended as a first vaccination in pup’s life at the age of 4-6 weeks.

This recommended age range is based on the level of maternal antibodies transmitted through mothers. Here actually one needs to interpret the situation in a scientific way.

Why pups have moderate to low amount of maternal antibodies?

  • The number of pups having high amount of maternal antibodies can be less in number if the pups are weaker as they might share less amount of colostrums.
  • If the vaccination history of the mother is not known (unknown MDA status of the pups),the choice of first shot of available high tittered low passage vaccines of Modified Live Vaccine (MLV) origin should be based on the epidemiological situation of the region.
  • Known history of mother having no regular vaccination against Parvo.
  • Regularly vaccinated mother but having exceptionally high litter size (low share of colostrum).
  • Possibilities of pups not received the first milk of mother because of some pathological condition of mother or death of mother during delivery.
  • Difficult breeds where response to vaccine is always low.

Vaccinating: the right way!

  • In all those conditions where the maternal antibody level is low, the first shot for puppy to have distemper and Parvo at the age of 4-6 weeks will be highly useful. Even if the moderate amounts of antibodies are present, such vaccines can break through the immunity and can produce active immunity in the pups.
  • The primary shot must be followed by repeat boosters with normally available multicomponent vaccines for further vigorous and sustained immune response. By adapting this approach, one can expect best possible immunization results in preventing Parvo and Distemper infections. Thus vaccination of puppies against Canine Parvo Virus (CPV) and Canine Distemper Virus (CDV) at a young age improves control of disease.
  • In the reverse situation where the MDA level in pups are at a higher side, vaccination at a lower age will put the pup in an awkward situation because of MDA interference, where neither MDA nor vaccine can protect the pup from the high field challenge.
  • The best way to prevent the dog from contracting the diseases to assure that the dog is vaccinated properly. Puppies should be vaccinated every three weeks from first shot until 12 weeks of age.
  • It is very important for puppies to get their entire series of vaccinations since one shot is not at all enough to protect the dog from Parvo and Distemper. Do consult your veterinarian about the schedule of the vaccination programme.

(Dr P W Borgaonkar is Tech Support Manager & Field Trial Co-ordinator, MSD-AH, Pune).