Thanks to nationwide vaccinations, dangerous infectious diseases such as rabies, parvovirus, distemper, HCC and leptospirosis have become rare in Germany. But the causative agents of these diseases are not extinct. In fact, outbreaks also occur in this country because dog owners do not have their animals sufficiently vaccinated or import unvaccinated animals from abroad.
The principle of vaccination is as simple as it is ingenious: the veterinarian injects the dog with pathogens that have been rendered harmless so that the immune system gets to know the pathogens and can prepare for them. If the dog does become infected with the pathogens after a vaccination, the prepared immune system can react quickly and destroy them naturally before they cause damage. In rare cases, when the dog falls ill despite being vaccinated, the disease is much milder than in the unvaccinated animal.
However, it is crucial for the success of the vaccination that it is carried out correctly. This includes careful basic immunization. When using certain live vaccines, the basic vaccination for adult dogs consists exceptionally of two vaccinations at an interval of one year. Most vaccines, however, require at least three vaccinations, the first two every three to four weeks and the third after a year, for a basic vaccination. In a very simplified way, the first vaccination is used to get to know the pathogen and the subsequent vaccinations to build up strong antibodies.
Puppies have to be vaccinated more frequently for effective protection, because the maternal antibodies that the puppies ingested with the so-called colostrum in the first hours of life neutralize the vaccine. Only when the maternal antibodies have disappeared from the puppy’s blood can the vaccinations cause the puppy to build up its own antibodies.
Puppies often need to be vaccinated more often. © Lightfield studios – stock.adobe.com
After the basic immunization, the vaccinations for dogs must be refreshed at certain intervals in order to be able to develop their protective effect.
The intervals between the recommended booster vaccinations are between six months and three years, depending on the vaccine and the risk of infection. The Vet. Standing Vaccination Commission in the Federal Association of Practicing Veterinarians differentiates between core vaccinations, which every dog should receive, and non-core vaccinations, which are only recommended if there is a particular risk of infection.
Some of the important core vaccinations that every dog should receive include:
Rabies is considered to be extinct in Germany, but it can be imported back into Germany from abroad at any time. Since rabies is fatal for humans, the official veterinarian may kill a dog if there is the slightest suspicion of rabies – a correct vaccination, which was documented in the dog’s vaccination record or in the European pet passport, can protect the dog from this.
Parvovirus, distemper and HCC are not only regularly brought into Germany with dog transports. They also occur in indigenous dogs that have not been adequately vaccinated. The distemper virus is also spread through the feces of foxes or raccoons. These diseases lead to an agonizing death, especially in young dogs or weakened animals.
A dog can become infected with leptospirosis anywhere, because the pathogens causing this disease are excreted by rats in the urine and are present everywhere in the environment. Leptospirosis can also be fatal for dogs.
You can recognize rabies by the fact that foam forms at the mouth. © Reddogs – stock.adobe.com
The non-core vaccinations, i.e. the vaccinations that are only recommended for dogs with a particular risk of infection, include the vaccinations against Lyme disease, kennel cough, puppy deaths and skin fungal diseases. If there is a corresponding risk, these vaccinations can be very useful. The best thing to do is to ask your vet whether he recommends a non-core vaccination in an individual case, such as a vaccination against puppy death in a breeding bitch or a vaccination against kennel cough when visiting a puppy play group.
Dogs can also be vaccinated against skin fungus. © elen31 – stock.adobe.com
A vaccination against the motion sickness leishmaniasis is also possible for dogs. Anyone traveling south with their dog must start vaccinating at least nine weeks before departure, because basic immunization with three syringes every three weeks is necessary for reliable protection. At the holiday destination, in addition to vaccination, the sand fly as a carrier of leishmaniasis must be fended off by the veterinarian using appropriate means.
Side effects are comparatively rare with vaccinations. Usually this is harmless redness and swelling at the vaccination site or fatigue for up to one day after the vaccination. Allergic reactions, such as swelling of the neck and head, are more serious. Shock or hemolytic anemia are absolute exceptions.
The benefit of vaccinations is therefore to be rated much higher than the possible risks. In any case, the greatest health risk for the dog is not to vaccinate him!