As more people are questioning the long-standing practice of vaccinating children, some pet parents are wondering about vaccinating their dogs. We want to do the right thing for our best friends. The last thing we want is a sick dog, not to mention a sick dog's vet bill.
Vaccines contain dead or weakened microbes of the disease they're meant to prevent. Our annual flu vaccine, for example, contains microbes of the flu. When injected into our body, our immune system attacks the microbes and creates a defense system that should prevent us from getting the flu. The same goes for dog vaccines.
What is the DA2PP vaccine?
The DA2PP canine vaccine is a combination of several different microbes. It's designed to prevent four different diseases. The D stands for distemper, A2 is canine adenovirus type 2, the first P is for parvo, and the second P is for parainfluenza.
The typical dog vaccination schedule for the DA2PP vaccine is six to eight weeks with boosters at 10 to 12 weeks and again at 14 to 16 weeks. After that, another shot is given at 16 months and then every three years.
Concerns and controversies about vaccinating aside, the DA2PP vaccine is still considered by most vets to be a necessary core vaccine. Core vaccines are the ones that are highly recommended by vets because they provide protection from diseases that are easy to get and have significant mortality rates.
Distemper and adenovirus type 2
Distemper is a debilitating disease that has no cure. If your dog gets it, he just has to weather through it. If he's an adult, he's more likely to recover than if he's a puppy. The death rate for puppies is 80 percent.
Distemper symptoms begin with a nasty eye discharge and can progress to scary neurological symptoms like seizures.
Canine adenovirus type 2 also has no cure. Symptoms usually begin with a heavy discharge from the eyes and nose and can progress to internal hemorrhaging. Ten to 30 percent of dogs who get adenovirus type 2 die from it.
Parvo and parainfluenza
The parvo virus is a highly contagious and terribly resilient bug. It can live outdoors for months just waiting for your dog to come into contact with it. It infects the digestive system. One of the first signs is bloody diarrhea.
Like distemper and adenovirus type 2, there is no cure for parvo. Vets treat the symptoms with antibiotics to prevent infections and with IV fluids to help with dehydration. An unvaccinated dog can die from it.
The parainfluenza part of the DA2PP vaccine does not prevent all forms of canine flu, but it does prevent canine parainfluenza, a mild to moderate upper respiratory infection. Dogs rarely die of parainfluenza. However, if your dog gets it and is exposed to bacteria such as Bordetella, a case of kennel cough can develop.
DA2PP vaccination side effects
Minor and short-lived side effects from the DA2PP vaccine are swelling where the shot was given, a slight fever, disinterest in food, and lethargy. Cold symptoms like a runny nose, cough, and sneezing can also occur. All of these side effects should clear up within a few days. If they don't, see your vet.
Rare but more serious side effects can arise. They include swelling of your dog's neck, muzzle, face, or eyes, severe coughing, itchy and/or bumpy skin (multiple bumps, not just the one at the injection site), persistent vomiting, or diarrhea. If any of these happen, you should bring your dog to the vet as quickly as possible.
These serious side effects could mean that your dog is allergic to the vaccine. Again, this is rare, but if it happens, it's a full-blown emergency. Get your dog to your vet or the nearest pet emergency clinic. Unfortunately, there is no way to predict an allergic reaction ahead of time.
Weigh side effects against protection
Each of us has to decide what's best for our dog. We have to weigh the risk of vaccine side effects against the risk of our dog getting sick and possibly dying from a terrible disease. As you might have guessed, most responsible dog owners opt to protect their dogs from these completely avoidable diseases by getting them vaccinated.
It's tough to opt in for some vaccines and not others because vaccines for individual diseases are almost impossible to come by. For example, it's been years since veterinarians have been able to offer only a distemper shot. Variations of the DA2PP vaccine include DA2PP-L and DA2PP-C. Consult with your vet on what is the most appropriate vaccine combination for your dog.
- American Kennel Club: What Every Owner Should Know About Parvo in Dogs
- American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals: Vaccinations for Your Pet
- American Veterinary Medical Association: What to Expect After Your Pet's Vaccination
- Canine Journal: Which Dog Vaccinations Are Necessary?
- Centre for Agriculture and Bioscience International: Canine Distemper
- Hemopet: Parainfluenza in Dogs: What is it?
- National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases: What is a Vaccine?
- UC Davis Veterinary Medicine: Vaccination Guidelines for Dogs and Cats
- Floofins & Co.: Behind the Acronyms of Dog Vaccines