Congratulations on your new puppy! To make sure you enjoy a happy, healthy best friend for many years to come, it’s time to talk to your veterinarian about which vaccines they recommend to protect your bouncing ball of tail wags against preventable diseases. Join Dr. Alina Barland, family veterinarian, to discuss core vaccines for dogs and common vaccine questions from pet owners.
Welcome Dr. Alina Barland
[00:01:05] Dr. Lancellotti: Welcome, everyone, to today’s episode of Your Vet Wants You To Know. Today, we have a really important topic for all puppy owners out there and I’m joined by a special guest. Not only is she a brilliant veterinarian, she is also my sister-in-law. I would like to give a very big welcome to Dr. Alina Barland.
[00:01:23] Dr. Barland: Hello! Thank you!
[00:01:25] Dr. Lancellotti: I’m so happy to have you on, today. Can you tell our listeners a little bit about your background and why this topic is so important to you?
[00:01:34] Dr. Barland: I’ve been a veterinarian working in general practice for over eight years. I’ve experienced working in both the corporate and private practice and I’m currently working as a relief vet. Originally, I come from New York, but have since moved and relocated to LA with my family. I love traveling. I did a cross country road trip when I moved out to California, and that was one of my favorite things.
[00:02:01] Dr. Lancellotti: Oh, mine too. That was just so much fun, moving from the east coast to the west coast and being able to explore along the way.
[00:02:08] Dr. Barland: Absolutely. I think that was such a good time.
[00:02:10] Dr. Lancellotti: So when you are working in practice, what are some of your favorite types of appointments?
[00:02:16] Dr. Barland: My favorite type of appointment is the ‘puppy vaccine’ appointment. To me, there’s nothing better than meeting a cute puppy for the first time and watching them grow up in all the subsequent visits. Also, puppy visits are usually so happy and joyful, and I just really look forward to each and every one.
[00:02:36] Dr. Lancellotti: Yeah, it is so fun to have that happy puppy, and the puppy tail going on, and the puppy breath- it makes everybody in the clinic so thrilled when there are puppy visits.
[00:02:47] Dr. Barland: It just brightens your whole day.
Puppy vaccines prevent deadly diseases
[00:02:49] Dr. Lancellotti: So in order to keep those puppies happy and healthy, we are going to talk about vaccines, today, and why it’s important to get them. Let’s give our audience a little bit of a background about vaccines and why we want to talk to them about this.
[00:03:03] Dr. Barland: Absolutely. Like you said, it’s definitely super important for puppies to get vaccinated, especially with their core vaccines. In my career, I’ve encountered and treated many cases of preventable infectious diseases in young, unvaccinated puppies, and it really is truly heartbreaking for everyone involved. Some puppies do survive the infection. However, sometimes, by the time we see these cases, the disease has spread so rapidly and the prognosis is poor, no matter how aggressively we hospitalize and treat them.
[00:03:41] Dr. Lancellotti: Yeah, it really is a shame because these are preventable diseases. To see these animals suffering and passing away, as a result of something that we can easily stop from happening in the first place, it’s just really heartbreaking for everybody involved. Tell me a little bit about your time working in Pennsylvania, because I know you had a unique position there with the community.
[00:04:02] Dr. Barland: Yes. When I was a new graduate, I was working in rural Pennsylvania. I saw a staggering amount of infectious disease coming from pet stores, breeders, transport and rescue operations, and even strays. We would get crates of ‘parvo’ puppies on an almost weekly basis. We would hospitalize them, start them on fluids and medications- lots of supportive care. In the end, about half of them did not survive or ended up having severe complications. Keeping in mind that this was over eight years ago, recent advances have improved treatment success. Occasionally, we saw distemper in puppies, which often had the same survival rate, but was much more difficult to diagnose. Rabies was also widespread in Pennsylvania. We had a couple cases that were confirmed, which is always heartbreaking since we can really only diagnose it after the pet has passed. Unfortunately, it’s always fatal.
[00:05:09] Dr. Lancellotti: Yeah, I think that’s something that a lot of people don’t realize. This is a 100% fatal disease. There is no surviving rabies once a pet gets it. It is also something that we need to be worried, about as far as the people that come in contact with the pet. Correct?
[00:05:26] Dr. Barland: That’s exactly right. Every person that had direct contact with those pets had to get vaccinated for rabies, as well.
[00:05:34] Dr. Lancellotti: Tell me a little bit about Cricket. Cricket is very close to my heart. I consider him my nephew because he’s your dog. He came from one of these situations, where he didn’t have a lot of great care when he was a puppy. Fortunately, you were able to take care of him. What happened with Cricket?
[00:05:54] Dr. Barland: This topic actually hits close to home for me because, like you said, Cricket’s my own dog. I’ve had him for over eight years now. He came from one of those breeder litters that I mentioned. He was the little runt and kept coming down with problems, so he kept coming in to see me. He was about eight weeks old when I hospitalized him for hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), and that was the first time I saw him. Then, he was about 10 weeks old when he came back with pneumonia. And at this point, he had not been properly vaccinated. I saw him back again a few weeks later. And by this time, he was quite ill and the breeder wanted to relinquish him. So, I offered to adopt him and tried my best to nurse him back to health. It was definitely touch and go for a while, but after a lengthy hospital stay and months of treatment, he had a successful recovery and continues to be well since.
[00:06:55] Dr. Lancellotti: I can remember back when you first got Cricket. It was just constant treatments. He had surgery at one point and he was just very sick. I think Cricket is probably one of the luckiest dogs out there to have found his way into your home. I can’t imagine that he would’ve made it if he didn’t have you.
[00:07:14] Dr. Barland: Yeah, there were definitely a couple of times where I didn’t think he was going to make it, but he pulled through!
[00:07:21] Dr. Lancellotti: Did you ever find out what happened to the rest of his litter?
[00:07:25] Dr. Barland: Yes. Later, I found out that all of his litter mates had actually passed away from parvovirus a few weeks after he was relinquished. It was really sad.
[00:07:36] Dr. Lancellotti: Yeah, that is awful. Especially, because parvovirus is one of those things that we want our puppies to be vaccinated against.
Which Vaccines Should My Puppy Get?
Dr. Lancellotti: So, I want to talk a little bit about puppy vaccines. How does a veterinarian determine which vaccines a puppy should receive and when they should receive those vaccines?
[00:07:54] Dr. Barland: That’s a great question. A vaccine schedule is created considering the pet’s age-based immunity, lifestyle, and risk factors. There is no universal vaccination protocol. However, many practices do reference the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) vaccination guidelines.
[00:08:17] Dr. Lancellotti: That’s great. We actually have a link to the AAHA vaccination guidelines in the show notes, for anyone who wants to check that out. But Dr. Barland’s right, this is something that is based on the individual pet. It’s important to have that relationship with a primary care veterinarian or family veterinarian, so that you can discuss what your individual pet’s needs are, and what their recommendations are for your animal.
What are core vaccines for dogs?
Dr. Lancellotti: Can you describe, to pet owners, what core vaccines are? And why should almost every dog, regardless of their lifestyle, receive these core vaccines?
[00:08:52] Dr. Barland: Core vaccines include the vaccination for canine distemper virus, canine parvovirus, canine adenovirus 2, and canine parainfluenza virus. Usually, all of these are combined into one, called the distemper combination (DAPP vaccine). Then, of course, there is the rabies virus vaccine. These infectious diseases can cause severe respiratory, gastrointestinal and neurological clinical signs, among others. Since rabies is a deadly disease that can be transferred to humans, vaccination is required by law in most states. It is very important for every dog to receive these vaccines, if not medically exempt, in order to obtain immunity to these (sometimes) fatal, yet completely preventable viruses.
[00:09:46] Dr. Lancellotti: I think That’s really important to make sure that people understand. These are preventable diseases. It is really easy for us to make sure that the animal does not become deathly ill as a result of them, just by making sure that they receive their puppy vaccines, as recommended by their family veterinarian.
[00:10:05] Dr. Barland: Exactly.
Which dogs should have medical exemptions from vaccines?
[00:10:06] Dr. Lancellotti: You mentioned that there are ‘sometimes’ some medically exempt animals. What sort of exceptions would you consider medical exemptions?
[00:10:16] Dr. Barland: Yes. So we do, on occasion, see dogs that have debilitating disease or medical conditions, which preclude them from getting vaccines. Vaccines can even be harmful to them, potentially (dogs that have immune mediated diseases, or dogs that are immune compromised due to cancer or chemotherapy). This is why talking to your vet and providing a thorough history is so important. For these cases, antibody testing will probably be the chosen alternative, if possible.
[00:10:46] Dr. Lancellotti: And we’ll talk a little bit more about antibody testing later in the episode. But you are absolutely right. You have to talk to your family veterinarian and make sure they understand your individual animal, so that they know what the best recommendation would be, as far as balancing that risk versus benefit of the vaccines with your individual pet.
How old should my puppy be for its first vaccines?
Dr. Lancellotti: How old do you recommend a puppy be when they’re receiving their core vaccines?
[00:11:11] Dr. Barland: Core vaccines are usually started at 6-8 weeks. However, they can be initiated after this age. One of the most important things to remember, when you have an unvaccinated puppy, is to restrict the puppy’s environment to your home and restrict the puppy’s contact with all other unknown or potentially unvaccinated animals, as well as their elimination.
Should I keep my puppy away from other dogs?
[00:11:38] Dr. Lancellotti: Do you ever get pet owners asking about exceptions for this, as far as restriction of the puppy’s environment?
[00:11:45] Dr. Barland: Absolutely. The most common questions that I get actually at first-time puppy visits, pet owners ask me, “Can I carry them to the store? Can I carry them to other places? Can I let them out in our backyard? Or in the front yard? My answers are usually this- carrying them in your arms is no exception. A lot of these diseases are airborne, so they can still catch them, even if they’re not on the ground or sniffing around. Even letting them go outside in your yard can expose them to rodent or raccoon droppings, which can be contaminated. So keeping them inside until their little immune systems can handle the outside world is definitely the best option.
[00:12:31] Dr. Lancellotti: Yeah. We want to make sure that we prevent them from getting sick, not only with the vaccines, but also from exposure to these potentially life-threatening diseases until their immune systems are ready to handle them.
How many vaccines does my puppy need?
Dr. Lancellotti: What about timing of the vaccine schedule? It’s not just one shot and they’re done. Correct?
[00:12:49] Dr. Barland: That is correct. It’s definitely important to remember to stick with the timing of the veterinarian’s vaccine schedule. It’s so important to keep getting those booster vaccines every 2-4 weeks until after they are old enough to have developed appropriate immunity, which is usually between 16-20 weeks. After the last vaccine booster, they will be due every 1-3 years, depending on the availability of the vaccine.
[00:13:17] Dr. Lancellotti: The other thing that’s important to mention here is that by keeping to that vaccine schedule, your animal develops that immunity at an appropriate age. Then, you can start taking them to those places where they get more socialization, where they become more comfortable with different types of environments. So it’s not just protecting them against the preventable diseases, it’s then allowing them to safely go to those other places, so they become well-socialized animals.
[00:13:44] Dr. Barland: Absolutely. And it gives you this peace of mind that they’re going to be safe, even though they are socializing with unknown animals.
What other vaccines might my dog need?
[00:13:51] Dr. Lancellotti: So let’s talk about individual lifestyles. You went through the core vaccines, but I know that a pet’s individual lifestyle can influence a veterinarian’s recommendations for additional vaccines based on what diseases that animal may be at risk of acquiring. What are some of those lifestyle factors? And what diseases might the veterinarian be worried about?
[00:14:14] Dr. Barland: Sometimes, there are a few non-core vaccines that are recommended, based on lifestyle and risk. These include the Bordetella (canine infectious respiratory disease, or kennel cough) vaccine, the Leptospira (leptospirosis) vaccine, the Canine Lyme Disease vaccine, the Canine Influenza Virus vaccine, and the Western Diamondback Rattlesnake vaccine.
[00:14:43] Dr. Lancellotti: There are certainly a lot of other things that these animals can be vaccinated for, if the veterinarian thinks that they are at risk for potentially coming in contact with them. You and I have dealt with an outbreak of both the leptospirosis and canine influenza, in Los Angeles, recently. So if listeners want to get more information about those two particular diseases, there are episodes dedicated, exclusively, to leptospirosis and canine influenza in episodes 34 and 37. They can go back and get lots more information on those particular diseases. Tell me a little bit about what some of the risk factors are and why a veterinarian might choose to vaccinate an animal against some of these additional diseases.
[00:15:30] Dr. Barland: If you have a highly social dog that visits dog parks, doggy daycare, gets groomed often, boarded, etc, it is definitely recommended and sometimes even required to vaccinate for canine influenza, Bordetella, and leptospirosis, if living in an area with the current outbreak (like LA). For those dogs that love a good swim out in nature or tend to play or drink from puddles in the street, being vaccinated for leptospirosis is a must. Dogs that tend to go hiking or camping, or just have a history of getting ticks on them, should also be vaccinated for Lyme Disease. The Rattlesnake vaccine is a bit controversial and not all clinics will carry or recommend it. But if you do have a dog that is expected to have frequent close contact with rattlesnakes, it may also be recommended.
[00:16:26] Dr. Lancellotti: Yeah. This just highlights another reason why a pet owner should talk to their veterinarian about what their animal’s risk factors are to come up with a good vaccination plan for that individual pet.
Can I do antibody testing for my dog?
Dr. Lancellotti: Can you talk a little bit about antibody testing?
[00:16:41] Dr. Barland: Yeah, absolutely. Antibody testing has increased in demand, recently. Some reasons why one might choose antibody testing include unknown vaccine history, advanced age or health condition, or just confirmation of previous vaccination. Antibody testing for the purposes of determining protection from infection is only valid for canine distemper virus, canine parvovirus, and canine adenovirus (DAPP combination). Regarding the rabies vaccination, in most states, a veterinarian does not have the discretion to waive the vaccine requirement. However, some states do allow this. It’s important to note that rabies antibody testing does not determine protection from infection, and vaccination is still required by law in most states.
[00:17:37] Dr. Lancellotti: Yeah. And I think one of the reasons why they are so strict about rabies vaccination is (like we mentioned before) because it is 100% fatal, and there’s a risk to the people around the animal if they do develop rabies. So we just want to be extra careful and make sure that we’re protecting both the pet and the family of that pet.
Puppy vaccines keep your pet healthy and happy
Dr. Lancellotti: What are some of the big takeaway points that you’d like pet owners to remember regarding the core puppy vaccines?
[00:18:02] Dr. Barland: Vaccination is crucial to the health and wellbeing of our pets. There are definitely low-cost options and you can search for your local animal shelter, your humane society, or SPCA, and find something that suits you. There are advantages besides protection. Bringing in your puppy regularly is also important, in order to acclimate them to the veterinary hospital and the staff. Some hospitals will also do ‘happy visits’ where the pet comes in just to get familiar with their surroundings and the people and the hospital, without getting any treatments. This is important because puppyhood is such a crucial time and doing those regular vet visits will help to socialize them, desensitize them, and just create those desired behaviors that will be ingrained in your puppy for life.
[00:18:51] Dr. Lancellotti: Yeah. I love seeing well-socialized animals that are happy and comfortable coming to the vet, know that it’s not a terrible place to be, and that they’re just used to being in a vet’s office because they’ve had good experiences. Getting those puppy vaccines is certainly something that can help to establish that positive relationship with the vet’s office.
Ask your veterinarian about vaccines for your dog
[00:19:11] Dr. Barland: Absolutely. Another thing that is definitely a key point here is to please listen to your veterinarian and vet staff, regarding the appropriate vaccine schedule for your pet. I say this, because I do often see that pet owners are told very different things by their breeders, friends, Facebook groups, and even pet store clerks. Veterinarians are trained professionals, and they’re only looking out for your pet’s best interest. They would just love to see them live a long, happy, and healthy life.
[00:19:43] Dr. Lancellotti: Absolutely. We want to see those puppies grow up to be wonderful family pets and have them around for as long as possible. You mentioned earlier in the episode about the multitude of sick pets that you would see when you were working back in Pennsylvania.
Consider adopting a puppy from your local shelter!
Dr. Lancellotti: Do you have recommendations for pet owners about the best place to get a pet, if they’re looking to bring a new puppy into their home?
[00:20:07] Dr. Barland: Absolutely. One thing I can recommend is adopt, don’t shop. There are so many dogs and cats in need of homes. Rather than buying your pet from Craigslist or an online seller, I recommend adopting them from a reputable organization or a local shelter. You’ll likely avoid a huge risk with unknown medical history or exposure. If you would like to find out some more information, please contact your local shelter and you can get those details.
[00:20:36] Dr. Lancellotti: That’s fantastic. So, for those pet owners who are interested in having their puppies’ vaccines done, I would encourage you to reach out to your family veterinarian, so that you can talk to them about what individual plan is best for your pet. If you want to share your puppy pictures, I would encourage you to join our Facebook Group, Your Vet Wants You To Know, because I love puppy pictures and it would make me so happy for everyone to share those puppy pictures with me. You can also follow us on Facebook and Instagram, if you want more information.
Scratching the Itch
[00:21:10] Dr. Lancellotti: We end each episode of Your Vet Wants You To Know with a segment called Scratching The Itch. It’s designed to highlight something- either a human interest story, a product, or a website- that either provides relief or just makes you feel good. Hence, scratching the itch. Do you have a ‘scratching the itch’ for our listeners today?
[00:21:30] Dr. Barland: I do. Something that has helped me to scratch the itch, recently, is helping the Ukrainian people in whatever way I can. There’s a variety of ways to help- anything from donating money and supplies or contacting your local representatives. I was able to book a week-long stay at a family-friendly Airbnb rental in the heart of Kiev just the other day, and that is helping to support the local residents’ business. I also have some friends of friends that are actually at the Ukraine border right now, and they’re helping refugees directly. And donating to them helps me to feel that the funds are going to a worthwhile cause.
[00:22:11] Dr. Lancellotti: Yeah, that’s wonderful. I would love for you to share some links for us, so that we can put that up on the show notes. If people are interested in finding other places where they can help support the Ukrainian people, that’s available for them.
[00:22:22] Dr. Barland: Absolutely!
[00:22:23] Dr. Lancellotti: Dr Barland, thank you so much for coming on the show today and talking to us about puppy vaccines. I hope the listeners got some good information out of today’s episode.
[00:22:32] Dr. Barland: My pleasure. Thank you.
[00:22:34] Dr. Lancellotti: And for everyone listening, I look forward to your next visit with Your Vet Wants You To Know.
If you would like to help WSAVA care for the people and animals of Ukraine, please visit https://www.yourvetwantsyoutoknow.com/Ukraine for relief efforts to support.