Canine Vaccination Guidelines 2011

Canine Vaccination Guidelines
Story at-a-glance
The American Animal Hospital
Association (AAHA) Canine
Vaccination Task Force has issued
updated vaccination guidelines for
A highlight of the new guidelines: The three non-rabies core vaccines
(distemper, parvo and adenovirus) are now recommended every 3 years
instead of annually.
Another highlight: The task force acknowledges that distemper and
parvo vaccines provide immunity for at least 5 years and the adenovirus
vaccine for at least 7 years.
Learn the vaccine protocol Dr. Becker and Dr. Ronald Schultz follow.
By Dr. Becker
The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) Canine
Vaccination Task Force has updated their vaccination
guidelines for 2011.
According to
Developed in a manner consistent with best vaccination
practices, the 2011 Guidelines include expert opinions
supported by scientific study, published and unpublished
documents, and encompass all canine vaccines currently
licensed in the U.S. and Canada. The task force that
developed the guidelines included experts in immunology,
infectious diseases, internal medicine, law, and clinical
I'm encouraged by, if not blissful about the new guidelines.
The absolute highlight is that all core vaccines with the
exception of the 1-year rabies are now recommended at 3year or greater intervals.
Even more exciting is the task force has acknowledged that in
the case of the non-rabies core vaccines,immunity lasts at
least 5 years for distemper and parvo, and at least 7 years
for adenovirus.
Hopefully these new guidelines will help more dog owners
understand the long-lasting effect of those puppy shots! And
hopefully, more dog owners will now request titers rather than
automatically revaccinating their canine companions for
distemper, parvo and adenovirus.
Summary of New AAHA Canine Vaccination
Guidelines for 2011
Please note: My vaccine recommendations and those of Dr.
Ronald Schultz, follow this summary.
Canine Distemper (CDV)
Initial vaccination in puppies less than 16 weeks of age
Starting at 6 weeks, vaccinate every 3 to 4 weeks
(6, 10, 14 or 8, 12, 16 weeks) up to 14 or 16
weeks; final shot should be given between 14 and
16 weeks to minimize risk of maternal antibody
Initial vaccination in dogs greater than 16 weeks of age
One dose
For puppies who received initial vaccination series
by 16 weeks, a booster no later than 1 year after
completion of initial series, then ≥ 3 years
For dogs who received initial vaccination after 16
weeks of age, every ≥ 3 years thereafter
Notes: Among healthy dogs, distemper vaccines are expected
to induce immunity for at least 5 years.
Canine Parvo (CPV-2)
Initial vaccination in puppies less than 16 weeks of age
Starting at 6 weeks, vaccinate every 3 to 4 weeks
(6, 10, 14 or 8, 12, 16 weeks) up to 14 or 16
weeks; final shot should be given between 14 and
16 weeks to minimize risk of maternal antibody
Initial vaccination in dogs greater than 16 weeks of age
One dose
For puppies who received initial vaccination series
by 16 weeks, a booster no later than 1 year after
completion of initial series, then ≥ 3 years
For dogs who received initial vaccination after 16
weeks of age, every ≥ 3 years thereafter
Notes: Among healthy dogs, distemper vaccines are expected
to induce immunity for at least 5 years.
Canine Adenovirus (CAV-2)
Initial vaccination in puppies less than16 weeks of age
Starting at 6 weeks, vaccinate every 3 to 4 weeks
(6, 10, 14 or 8, 12, 16 weeks) up to 14 or 16
weeks; final shot should be given between 14 and
16 weeks to minimize risk of maternal antibody
Initial vaccination in dogs greater than 16 weeks of age
One dose
For puppies who received initial vaccination series
by 16 weeks, a booster no later than 1 year after
completion of initial series, then ≥ 3 years
For dogs who received initial vaccination after 16
weeks of age, every ≥ 3 years thereafter
Notes: Among healthy dogs, distemper vaccines are expected
to induce immunity for at least 7 years.
Rabies 1-year
Initial vaccination in puppies less than 16 weeks of age
One dose not earlier than 12 weeks or as required
by law
Initial vaccination in dogs greater than 16 weeks of age
One dose
For all dogs: annually as required by law
Rabies 3-year
Initial vaccination in puppies less than16 weeks of age
One dose not earlier than 12 weeks or as required
by law
Initial vaccination in dogs greater than 16 weeks of age
One dose
For all dogs: within 1 year of initial dose regardless
of age at time of initial dose, then every 3 years
thereafter as required by law
Measles Vaccine (MV)
This vaccine is supposed to provide temporary immunization
of young puppies against distemper by 'cross-protecting' them
against the disease in the event there are still maternally
derived antibodies present. It is always given in combination
with other vaccines – distemper plus measles, or a 4-way
combination of distemper plus measles plus adenovirus plus
It is only recommended for healthy dogs between 6 and 12
weeks of age.
Canine Parainfluenza (CPiV)
There are two delivery systems for this vaccine – intranasal
and parenteral (injected).
This is a flu vaccine. The intranasal form prevents clinical
signs of illness, infection and shedding. The injected form
prevents clinical illness, but not infection or shedding. It is
used for dogs that aggressively resist intranasal delivery.
The parenteral vaccine is always given in combination with
certain core vaccines; the intranasal form is always given in
combination with the bordetella vaccine alone, or with
bordetella plus adenovirus.
It is always given in a single dose. Revaccination
recommendations, depending on the form of the vaccine
(intranasal or parenteral), are per the combined core vaccine
schedule, annually, or more frequently for 'high risk' animals.
Bordetella (Bb) Vaccine
The bordetella vaccine can also be delivered intranasally or
by injection.
Parenteral administration requires two doses, 2 to 4 weeks
apart. For the initial vaccination, it is recommended the
second dose be given at least a week before the dog is
boarded, attends a dog show, etc. Revaccination is
recommended annually
The intranasal vaccine is single dose, with revaccination
recommended annually or more often for 'high risk' dogs.
Some dogs experience side effects for 3 to 10 days after
vaccination, including coughing, sneezing and nasal
Canine Adenovirus (CAV-2) – Intranasal
The intranasal form of the adenovirus vaccine is a non-core
It's recommended for dogs at risk for respiratory infection
caused by the adenovirus, and it may not provide immunity
against canine hepatitis. It should not be considered a
replacement for the injectable form of the vaccine.
This vaccine is available only in combination with the
intranasal bordetella and parainfluenza vaccines.
Canine Influenza
Vaccine is given in two doses, 2 to 4 weeks apart, in dogs
older than 6 weeks. Annual revaccination is recommended.
Borrelia burgdorferi (Lyme disease)
Vaccine is given in two doses, 2 to 4 weeks apart, in dogs
older than 12 weeks of age. Revaccination is recommended
annually and/or at the beginning of tick season as determined
Notes: Recommended only for use in dogs with known risk of
exposure, living in or visiting regions where exposure risk is
high or where Lyme disease is endemic. Tick control products
are required in addition to the vaccine.
Leptospira interrogans
This refers to the 4-way killed whole cell or subunit bacterin.
The 2-way killed bacterin form of this vaccine is not
Vaccine is given in two doses, 2 to 4 weeks apart, in dogs
older than 12 weeks of age. Revaccination is recommended
annually, but only for dogs with reasonable risk of exposure.
Notes: Vaccination should be based on known geographic
occurrence/prevalence and exposure risk of the individual
Canine Oral Melanoma
This vaccine is only available for treatment of dogs with
malignant melanoma. It is not intended for the prevention of
oral melanoma.
Crotalus atrox (Western Diamondback rattlesnake
vaccine) (toxoid)
Field efficacy and experimental challenge data in dogs are not
available at this time. (Vaccine efficacy and dose
recommendations are based on toxin neutralization studies
conducted in mice.)
Canine Coronavirus (CCov)
This vaccine is not recommended. Neither the modified live
nor the killed CCov vaccine has proved effective against
combination coronavirus/parvo disease. Only the parvo
vaccine is protective against dual viruses.
What Dr. Ron Schultz Recommends
For those of you not familiar with Dr. Schultz, I recommend
you watch my 4-part video series with him. You can find links
to all 4 videos and articles here.
Dr. Schultz is one of the preeminent experts in the field of
veterinary vaccines. If you read the full AAHA vaccination
guidelines report, you'll see his work referenced throughout.
Dr. Schultz recommends not starting a puppy or kitten core
vaccination program before 6 to 8 weeks of age, with
revaccinations no more frequent than every 4 weeks. So for
example, if you start the program at 8 weeks, you would give
another dose of the core vaccines at 12 weeks, and the third
dose at 16 weeks.
Dr. Schultz's core vaccine protocol for his own
family's pets differs in that he actually runs
antibody titers on the mother to know exactly
when the best time is to effectively immunize the
puppy or kitten for the 3 core viruses. Then he
titers the little ones 2 or more weeks after the
vaccine, and as long as the response is
adequate, he doesn't in most cases revaccinate
for the rest of the pet's life.
When it comes to rabies vaccines, Dr. Schultz gives the first
vaccine after 4 months of age, revaccinates in a year, and
then again in 3 years and every 3 years thereafter. In other
words, he follows the law for 3-year rabies vaccines, even
though he doesn't believe a vaccination every 3 years is
necessary for immunization.
Currently Dr. Schultz is in year 4 of a 7-year study of the
rabies vaccine. You can read more about the study at
the Rabies Challenge Fund. His goal is to be able to
recommend that after an animal is vaccinated at from 12 to 24
weeks for rabies, there's no need for re-vaccination every 3
Hopefully we'll see the results of his 7-year study reflected in
a future revision of the AAHA's canine vaccination guidelines,
as well as in state and local laws.
My Vaccination Protocol
My protocol at Natural Pet is a first round of the 3 cores
before 12 weeks of age, usually around 9 to 10 weeks. Then I
boost between 15 and 16 weeks. Then I titer 2 weeks after
the second round to see if the animal has been immunized
and not just vaccinated.
My rabies protocol mirrors Dr. Schultz's, except I prefer to
wait until 6 months of age before giving rabies vaccine.
As for the non-core vaccines, I don't recommend any of them.
Visit the following pages for a discussion of:
Canine flu vaccines (PG 13)
Bordetella vaccine (PG 19)
Lyme disease vaccine (PG 24)
Leptospirosis (PG 31)
Note several non-core vaccines are only available in
combination with other vaccines, some of which are core. I
recommend you check with your vet to ensure none of
the non-core vaccines are being piggy-backed on core
vaccines your pet receives. Most traditional vets do not
carry single vaccines, so ask to see the vaccine vial
before assuming your pet is only receiving one agent at a
Source: Veterinary Practice News September 26, 2011
Related Links:
Why Re-Vaccination is the WORST Reason for
Routine Vet Visits…
How Often Should You Vaccinate Your Cat or Dog?
How Much Money are You Wasting on Pet Vaccines?
What are the Dangers of Mutating
Pet Flu Viruses, and
Does Your Pet Need a Flu Shot?
Visit the Pet Video Library
On October 20, Fox News reported that dog flu, also known
as H3N8, or CIV for Canine Influenza Virus, could be added
to the list of illnesses to think about if you’re a dog owner. CIV
is reportedly a mutated form of Equine Influenza, or horse flu,
and was first discovered about three years ago.
CIV is thought to be mild in most cases with a mortality rate
from 1-5 percent. It has already been identified in 30 different
states including Florida.
Vets warn it can be tough to identify because its symptoms
mimic other canine illnesses like kennel cough. Altamonte
Springs, FL veterinarian Dr. Roger Hart says the symptoms
can include: runny nose, weepy eyes, cough, bronchitis and
even pneumonia.
Dr. Becker's Comments:
Canine influenza virus (CIV) is a new virus that has been
recently identified as a part of the canine infectious respiratory
disease complex, otherwise known as kennel cough.
“Kennel cough” is a collection of viruses that cause upper
respiratory disease in dogs.
This new virus is causing a bit of a scare, similar to that of the
human H1N1, swine flu virus. Hopefully, this information will
put your worst fears at ease.
What is This New Canine Influenza?
All viruses are categorized by their surface protein, of which
there are two: “H” and “N.”
The canine virus is categorized as H3N8. Interestingly, the
H3N8 virus is also the categorization for the equine (horse)
influenza virus, which has been in the US for over 40 years.
Epidemiologists knew dogs could acquire this virus from
horses, but veterinarians also know the flu virus is very
adaptable to change, which is what happened in this situation.
In this case, the equine virus mutated, and is now capable of
being transmitted from dog to dog, without an equine host.
It’s worth noting that CIV has no correlation with any of
the human viruses, including the avian flu, or the swine
flu. There have been no documented cases of dogs acquiring
the swine flu virus.
Contributing Factors that Promote Spreading of Canine
Two major factors have been identified that can contribute to
animals breaking with this infection:
1. Overcrowding, such as dog kennels, shelters, and racing
2. Stress, which suppresses your dog’s immune system
Racing greyhounds, for example, experience very stressful
conditions, but there are many situations that can cause your
dog to experience stress, and environmental factors such as
toxins also play an important role.
Signs and Symptoms of Canine Influenza
The symptoms of CIV are quite similar to that of the human flu
virus, including:
Runny nose
The incubation period for the H3N8 virus is two to four days,
at which point you’ll notice upper respiratory symptoms. The
symptoms typically last for about 7 days, during which time
your dog is infectious.
Naturally, you’ll want to avoid him mingling with other dogs
during this time in order to not spread the infection.
If your dog’s symptoms are progressively getting worse, you’ll
want to take your dog to a veterinarian – ideally a holistic
veterinarian, who has access to a whole arsenal of natural
treatments that can help. To find an integrative vet in your
area, visit
Most dogs, however, will not need medical treatment.
The viral infection is temporary, and under normal
circumstances your dog’s immune system will be quite
capable of overcoming the virus naturally.
How to Boost Your Dog’s Immune System
Regardless of the type of infectious disease, there are
strategies you can use to help bolster your dog’s natural
defenses, including:
Feed your dog a balanced, raw food, species appropriate
diet. Remember that a balanced diet needs to include
adequate amounts of trace minerals, antioxidants and
fatty acids
Reduce stress by reducing your dog’s environmental
toxin load
These common sense strategies will help your dog's immune
system remain strong and resilient.
While there is much talk about toxins wreaking havoc with
human health, many forget that animals, both domestic and
wild, are equally at risk from environmental poisons, which
increases their toxic burden and creates biological stress.
To help reduce your pet’s environmental toxin load, make
sure your dog has access to pure drinking water and optimal
air quality. As you may already know, indoor air quality is
typically far worse than outdoors, so you may want to invest in
a good indoor air purifier, both for your own health as well as
your pet’s.
You’ll also want to avoid as many chemicals as possible. This
includes chemicals sprayed around your house, such as
herbicides, pesticides and insecticides, as well as those
applied directly to your pet, such as flea and tick medications.
Last, but certainly not least, you’ll want to limit the amount of
vaccines you give to your dog.
Vaccines are metabolic stressors that can distract your pet’s
immune system, and actually open them up to infectious
It’s important to realize that dogs do not require annual
vaccinations. For more in-depth information about
vaccinations, please see my previous article, When it Comes
to Vaccinating Your Pet, Less is More.
What About the CIV Vaccine?
I recommend NOT vaccinating against CIV, since most house
pets will not be in situations that warrant the use of the
vaccine, such as in overcrowded boarding facilities, race
tracks, or pet shelters.
Worse yet, some uneducated people are asking their vets to
administer the CIV vaccine to prevent the human H1N1 flu,
and some vets are more than willing to comply, taking
advantage of their ignorance. However, these two strains are
completely unrelated and one vaccine will not protect against
the other. Remember, dogs do not acquire swine flu.
Remember, in the vast majority of cases, dogs recover
uneventfully from their “dog flu” on their own. Only rarely is
hospitalization needed -- usually only for very young puppies
or immuno-suppressed animals, such as older, debilitated or
immensely stressed animals.
If you have cause to believe that your dog has been exposed
to the CIV virus, your veterinarian can do a PCR nasal swab,
or take paired serum samples to confirm this diagnosis, but in
the vast majority of cases you don’t need to do either, unless
you can clearly see that your dog is unraveling from potential
If your dog has been exposed I do recommend, however,
considering the common sense strategies like adding
turmeric, oregano, and fresh garlic to your dog’s diet, which all
boost natural immune defenses. Discuss appropriate doses
for your dog’s age and current immune status with your
integrative veterinarian.
You can also use adaptogenic herbs, such as ashwagandha,
tulsi, bach flower essences, or essential oil of lavender, which
can help limit the amount of immune suppression that might
occur when your pet is exposed to intermittent stressors.
Your best bet is to help your dog develop a functional immune
system through adequate diet and stress reduction.
Why This Vaccine (Bordatella) is
WORTHLESS and Won't Stop Your
Dog Getting the Disease...
If your dog seems to be coughing a lot
or making choking sounds, he may
have a case of canine
infectious tracheobronchitis, more
commonly known as kennel cough.
Believe it or not, as awful as the
choking, hacking noises sound, most
episodes of kennel cough are not
serious and resolve without treatment.
Dr. Becker's Comments:
Kennel cough has a number of different causes, only one of
which — the most common cause — is the Bordetella
bronchiseptica bacteria. Many people think
bordetella is kennel cough, but that is technically inaccurate.
In fact, dogs that acquire the bordetella bacteria usually have
a virus that makes them more vulnerable to infection. Some of
these viruses are the canine adenovirus, distemper, canine
herpes, and the parainfluenza virus.
Kennel cough is a form of bronchitis and is similar to a chest
cold in humans.
How Dogs Get Kennel Cough
Kennel cough is contagious, so whether your dog has the
illness or you know of dogs that do, make sure to keep them
apart until they are well.
Your dog comes down with kennel cough when she inhales
bacteria or virus particles.
The canine respiratory tract is coated in a protective lining of
mucus, but if this lining is compromised, an infection can take
hold from the inhaled particles. The result is inflammation of
the larynx and trachea, and it’s the inflammation that causes
the coughing reflex in your pup.
The lining of the respiratory tract can be debilitated through
exposure to cold temperatures; dust, cigarette smoke or other
particles in the air; stressful situations like travel; and time
spent in crowded conditions like those found in many animal
shelters and boarding kennels.
A weakened respiratory tract lining can’t provide your dog
protection against inhaled infectious particles.
The universal symptom of a bordetella infection is a
persistent, hard, “honking” cough. Your pup may gag or cough
up foamy looking white phlegm. Occasionally a dog will have
other signs of illness like a running nose, sneezing or a
discharge from his eyes.
Kennel cough rarely results in appetite loss or lethargy, so if
your pup is showing those symptoms as well, there could be
something else going on.
Treatment for Kennel Cough
Since most cases of kennel cough resolve without medical
intervention, I don’t recommend immediate or automatic
treatment with antibiotics or other medications. Allowing your
pet’s body to heal itself naturally is always advisable.
Complete recovery from a bordetella infection can take up to
three weeks in healthy dogs, and twice as long in older pets
or those with other underlying conditions.
Occasionally, a serious episode of kennel cough can result in
pneumonia. If your dog doesn’t start to improve on her own
within a few weeks, make an appointment with your vet to be
on the safe side. This advice also applies if your pup is having
symptoms beyond what is seen with kennel cough, in
particular any change in breathing patterns, appetite or
energy level.
During the acute phase of the illness, consider using a
harness temporarily if your dog’s collar seems to be
aggravating the situation -- especially if she strains against
her leash. You can also try humidifying the air she breathes to
help reduce or alleviate coughing spells.
About Vaccines for Kennel Cough
Many veterinarians recommend bordetella vaccines – either
by injection or nasal mist delivery. I’m not one of them,
Many boarding kennels, doggie daycare facilities, groomers
and other similar businesses require dogs be vaccinated for
kennel cough. Please understand the reason behind this
requirement – it is to remove liability from those
The truth is, these vaccines are ineffective and will not
prevent your dog from getting kennel cough. The infection is
caused by a wide variety of bacterial and viral agents, and no
single vaccine can provide protection from them all. Nor will
the vaccines treat an active infection.
On the rare occasion I provide a bordetella vaccine -- usually
for a client who is leaving a dog at a facility that demands it -I always use the nose drop variety as it is much less toxic,
doesn’t contain adjuvants, and has few if any side effects.
And remember, your dog can still acquire the infection even if
she’s been vaccinated.
If you must vaccinate your dog for some reason with the
injectable kennel cough vaccine, consult a holistic veterinarian
about detox agents and doses.
Nine Safe Remedies for Kennel Cough
1. Nosodes. A nosode is a homeopathic remedy derived
from a pathological specimen. Nosodes stimulate the
natural immune system to react against specific
diseases. Kennel cough nosodes are particularly
2. Esberitox. This is a fast-acting Echinacea that I have
found very effective in reducing the virulence of
bordetella infections.
3. Vitamins C and E. Vitamin C is an antiviral and E
provides immune system support.
4. Oregano oil has antiseptic, antifungal, antiviral and
antibacterial properties.
5. Astragalus is an herb used in Chinese medicine to
enhance the immune system, support lung function and
stimulate the regeneration of bronchial cells.
6. Raw garlic and olive leaf are natural antibacterial and
antiviral agents.
7. Raw honey will ease the discomfort of coughing, and
certain herbs will soothe and naturally suppress a
cough, among them licorice root and marshmallow.
8. Essential oils can be used to help a pup with kennel
cough breathe easier. Oils of eucalyptus, lavender and
tea tree have antibacterial and antiviral properties.
Chamomile has a calming effect.
9. Slippery Elm can help soothe sore and irritated throats.
As always, you should talk with your holistic veterinarian
about natural remedies and the doses or applications most
appropriate for your pet.
Lyme Disease on the Rise
For this article, dvm360 interviewed
Susan E. Little, DVM. Dr. Little works
in the Department of Veterinary
Pathobiology, Center for Veterinary
Health Sciences at Oklahoma State
University. She is a past president of
the American Association of
Veterinary Parasitologists and an
expert on veterinary and human
parasites and tick-borne disease
According to Dr. Little, human cases
of Lyme disease are increasing,
which means the number of infected dogs is also increasing
(human cases are tracked, canine cases are not tracked in
the same manner).
Dr. Little says regions of the U.S. not previously endemic for
Lyme disease also appear to be increasing. Human cases are
coming from more counties and states than in the past. In
recent years, more cases have been reported in the Great
Lakes area and south along the East Coast all the way to
North Carolina.
However, the majority of cases remain in the Northeast and
upper Midwest.
Dr. Little would like veterinarians to maintain a heightened
awareness that coinfection with other pathogens is common
among dogs that test positive for Lyme disease. If an animal
has one tick-borne disease, it very likely has others. In
particular, any dog that doesn't respond to treatment for a
single diagnosis should be checked for coinfection.
Dr. Becker's Comments:
I can personally vouch for the fact that Lyme disease is on the
Recently I've had an unusually high number of dogs test
seropositive for Lyme antibodies at my clinic. Dogs testing
positive have been exposed to the infection, but don't
necessarily have the active form of the disease. The vast
majority (95 percent) of dogs exposed don't get sick or show
any symptoms.
In order to differentiate exposure from active disease, I run a
quantitative C6 assay blood test from IDEXX Laboratories.
Only dogs with active infection require treatment – the rest do
Origins of Lyme Disease
As Dr. Little points out, white-tailed deer and white-footed
mice are the primary hosts and reservoirs for the infection that
causes Lyme disease.
Adult black-legged ticks, also called deer ticks and Ixodes
ticks, thrive with plenty of deer around. The more deer there
are in an area, the more deer ticks there will be.
Younger ticks go after rodents like the white-footed mouse,
but other small hosts like chipmunks and shrews are
prevalent in certain regions.
A tick transmits the Lyme organism, a spirochete, to a dog or
a person and both can become infected. Lyme disease in cats
and cattle is uncommon, but horses can become infected in
tick-infested areas.
Symptoms of Active Lyme Infection
In humans, signs of Lyme disease are a skin rash, which
often resembles a bull's eye, and flu-like symptoms including
fever and lethargy.
Dogs not only don't develop a telltale rash, in most cases they
don't even appear sick despite having contracted an acute
Lyme infection.
As Dr. Little mentions in the dvm360 interview, many dogs
aren't seen by a vet until they develop arthritis or other
symptoms of a long-term Lyme infection. Typically we see an
otherwise healthy dog that has recently developed
polyarthritis, which may or may not move from leg to leg – and
there's no explanation for the sudden lameness. Other
symptoms can include:
Shifting joint pain
That's why I do the C6 test whenever I have a patient testing
positive for Lyme antibodies. The C6 test helps me determine
whether there's active infection so I can institute treatment
with the antibiotic doxycycline if necessary.
Keep in mind only 5 percent of dogs with Lyme antibodies
actually become sick with the above symptoms. In an even
smaller percentage of pets, chronic Lyme disease can result
in significant kidney problems, as well as autoimmune
polyarthritis, a type of joint degeneration secondary to an
undiagnosed, untreated Lyme infection.
Testing for Coinfections
As Dr. Little points out, many dogs with active Lyme infection
also have other infections.
If your dog is diagnosed with active Lyme disease, your vet
should run another IDEXX test, the SNAP-4Dx blood test. The
SNAP-4Dx tests not only for Lyme, but also for heartworm
disease, anaplasmosis, and e. canis, and is beneficial in both
diagnosis and treatment. I also recommend checking for
Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever if you are in an endemic area.
Ineffective, Toxic Parasite Preventives
I'm not a proponent of Lyme disease vaccines. These
vaccines are bactrins, created to treat non-viral infections.
Their immunization duration is short, usually around a year.
Even worse, these vaccines are known to be significantly
more reactive to the immune system. Sending your pet's
immune system into hyper-drive can trigger a whole host of
serious secondary reactions, including autoimmune disease.
Further, many dog owners mistakenly believe the vaccine will
somehow prevent ticks from attaching to their pet. This isn't
true – you still need a tick repellent.
If you live in a Lyme endemic area and use a chemical tick
repellent on your pet, using the vaccine as well will give your
pup a double dose of toxins and increase his risk of toxicosis,
a disease resulting from poisoning.
Just a few weeks ago I saw my first canine patient with Lyme
disease and heartworm disease -- conditions she acquired
while taking a monthly, year-round chemical heartworm
preventive and a spot-on flea/tick preventive prescribed by
her regular vet.
This poor dog's situation is a good demonstration of the
ineffectiveness of some of these drugs. It's also another
warning signparasites are growing resistant to the drugs used
to prevent and eradicate them, thanks in large part to
overprescribing and overuse.
As I write this, veterinary drug companies are scrambling to
develop the next generation of toxic chemicals that will cause
more autoimmune disease and cancer in too many precious
animals. And without question, pests will grow resistant to
these newer, more deadly drugs as well.
Safe Ways to Prevent Lyme Disease in Your
Canine Companion
In the spring, summer and fall, avoid tick-infested areas.
If you live where Lyme disease is endemic or you
inadvertently wind up in a tick-infested area, check your
pup for ticks twice each day. Look over his entire body,
including hidden crevices like those in the ear,
underneath his collar, in the webs of his feet, and
underneath his tail. If you find a tick, make sure
to remove it safely.
Use a safe tick repellent like Natural Flea and Tick
Defense. If you live in a Lyme endemic region of the
U.S., your veterinarian will probably recommend you use
a chemical repellent. Remember: it’s important to
investigate the risks and benefits of any medication
before you give it to your pet.
Create strong vitality and resilience in your dog by
feeding a species-appropriate diet. Parasites are
attracted to weaker animals. By enhancing your pet’s
vitality, you can help her avoid the ill effects of a Lyme
infection or other opportunistic pathogens.
Source: dvm360 May 1, 2011
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A Dog Near Death and the
Miracle of a Pet Owner's Love
When Ann Krcik's 5-year-old
Airedale terrier Shayla acquired
leptospirosis, she was admitted
to the Pet Emergency and
Specialty Center of Marin in San
Rafael, CA.
Krcik asked the veterinarian, Dr.
Marcella Harb-Hauser, if spending time with her dog at the
center would help the healing process. Dr. Harb-Hauser
encouraged Krcik to come visit her dog. The doctor believes
that "Just like humans, if pets are less stressed, they heal
So Krcik visited Shayla several times each day, sitting on the
floor with her 65 pound dog in her lap.
Shayla seemed to be getting better, but additional tests
showed the disease had attacked the dog's lungs and had
become life-threatening. Dr. Harb-Hauser told Krcik there was
nothing more she could do for Shayla medically.
Krcik, sitting on the floor with Shayla in her lap, could feel her
dog struggling to breathe. She held Shayla tighter, taking
some small comfort in knowing at least she could hold her pet
as she passed on.
At that very second, Shayla's health suddenly turned around.
Her breathing improved and the very next day she was off
oxygen and at home with Krcik to complete her recovery.
According to Dr. Harb-Hauser:
"We'll never really know why Shayla's health appeared to
change in that instant. I firmly believe that Ann's presence,
holding her the way she was, somehow helped Shayla
enough to fight the physiological ailments she was facing.
She may have recovered regardless, but it sure didn't seem
that way."
Dr. Becker's Comments:
This wonderful story isn't really about leptospirosis, which I'll
discuss shortly. It's about the human-animal bond and how
truly life-giving we are to the pets who love us.
If you want to be with your pet during vet exams, procedures
and hospitalizations, you should make your wishes known to
your veterinarian ahead of time, if possible. Some DVMs are
perfectly fine having pet parents around while they work.
Others don't feel comfortable with an audience.
It will also depend on the procedure being performed, the size
of the exam and procedure rooms, sterile field considerations,
your stress level, your pet's, and other factors.
If your vet isn't willing to let you stay with your pet and the
reasons he or she gives don't make sense to you, you might
want to consider switching to another veterinary practice.
And now I do want to discuss the disease that almost took
Shayla's life, and two aspects of it in particular. One is the
little-known fact that lepto can cause serious damage to the
lungs and pulmonary function in dogs. And the other is,
despite recent hype to the contrary, leptospirosis has been
around a long, long time and is very successfully treated if
caught early.
Canine Leptospirosis
Leptospirosis is caused by at least four species of leptospira
bacteria (serovars) that infect dogs. We know that there are
more than 20 serovars in existence.
Leptospira are found in both domesticated and wild animals,
with rats, pigs, raccoons, cattle, skunks and opossums as the
main reservoirs of infection. With suburban sprawl, more
family dogs are coming in contact with wildlife, and this could
be the cause of the increase in lepto cases.
The bacteria is spread in urine. It gets into water sources and
can remain infective in soil for as long as six months. Dogs
can pick up the bacteria through a cut or other break in the
skin or when they drink contaminated water.
Dogs at particular risk of acquiring the infection are those who
spend a lot of time in the water, drink out of puddles, or who
hang out in yards that get rain or snow runoff.
Lepto Symptoms and Treatment
Many leptospirosis infections are so mild there are no
symptoms. Clinical signs will depend on the age and health of
the dog, environmental factors affecting the bacteria, and the
virulence of the infecting species. Young dogs tend to get
sicker than adult dogs.
If signs of infection do appear, they will show up from four to
12 days after exposure to the bacteria and can include:
Fever and muscle pain
Loss of appetite and vomiting
Lethargy, depression
Blood in the urine
The disease primarily impacts the kidneys and liver. In serious
cases, a dog can become jaundiced (usually the whites of the
eyes turn yellow), indicating a case of hepatitis and
destruction of liver cells. Blood clotting problems can develop
which can cause blood in the stools and bleeding from the
An untreated dog who recovers from leptospirosis can
become a carrier and shed the bacteria in urine for as long as
a year.
If your dog is seriously ill with the disease, she should be
hospitalized both for her sake and for public health reasons.
She'll be given an antibiotic or a combination of antibiotics,
and she'll receive supportive care to alleviate vomiting and
diarrhea, and to insure she's well hydrated and is receiving
If your dog has been diagnosed with lepto but doesn't require
hospitalization, you can manage his care at home while
implementing careful hygiene measures:
Wear gloves in the event you need to come in contact
with your pet's urine
Wash your hands thoroughly after handling or cleaning
up after your dog
Clean non-porous surfaces that have been urinated on
with either an antibacterial disinfectant or diluted bleach
Leptospirosis is a zoonotic disease, which means it can be
transmitted from animals to humans. It can cause flu-like
symptoms in family members, and sometimes progresses to
serious illness.
If your dog has lepto and anyone in your family or others in
contact with your dog get sick, be sure to mention the
possibility of a leptospirosis infection to health care providers.
Leptospirosis and the Lungs
Shayla, the 5-year-old Airedale terrier described above with
lepto, was recovering normally until the disease hit her lungs.
And while it's understood in veterinary medicine the disease
sometimes affects the lungs of dogs, it is not a commonly
seen situation and is much more prevalent in human
leptospirosis than canine. That's why most available
information on canine lepto doesn't even mention lung
Lung involvement in humans with the disease is called
leptospiral pulmonary hemorrhagic syndrome (LPHS).
A study done in Berlin and published late last year
in Veterinary Medicine International discusses a similar
emerging syndrome in dogs.
According to the study:
Between 2006 and 2010, an increasing number of dogs
suspicious for leptospirosis were treated at the Small Animal
Clinic of the Freie Universität Berlin. More than two-third of
these dogs had clinical and radiological pulmonary
manifestation in addition to renal and hepatic insufficiency
The cause of death in all 15 dogs in the study was severe,
acute, pulmonary hemorrhage. And researchers theorized the
acute liver and kidney lesions seen in some of the dogs were
most likely caused by hypoxia (oxygen deprivation) due to
respiratory distress.
The waters remain murky, however, because the cause of the
pulmonary hemorrhage syndrome in the dogs could not be
definitively linked to leptospiral organisms, even though all the
dogs had the disease.
In another Berlin study published around the same time but in
the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine looked for
pulmonary abnormalities in 50 dogs with leptospirosis.
The study found that 35 of the 50 dogs had pulmonary
changes according to x-rays, and 31 had pulmonary distress.
Sixty-seven percent of the dogs (20 to 21) were euthanized
because of respiratory distress.
The study concluded 70 percent of dogs with leptospirosis
had pulmonary changes, and that lung involvement as a
symptom represents a severe complication that causes an
increase in deaths from the disease.
Preventing Leptospirosis
Leptospira bacteria thrive in warm, humid climates and are
frequently found in stagnant water, for example in ponds.
Animals in the wild can also carry the bacteria.
Dogs exposed to contaminated water and wild animals and
their urine (hunting dogs, for example) are at greater risk than
other dogs.
Infection is most prevalent in the summer and early fall, and
after flooding.
Rodent control around your home can cut down the
opportunity for infection. And if you live in a location where
lepto is common, keeping your dog away from ponds, slowmoving water and sitting or stagnant water will also reduce
the risk.
I actually live in a high-risk area for lepto, and I'm confident
my dogs have had exposure (from our pond, or from all the
free-standing water and puddles they drink from). In addition
to keeping my pets' immune systems thriving, I also stay alert
to the symptoms of lepto. A leptospirosis infection, like many
bacterial infections, can be cured successfully if identified and
treated early.
If you live in an endemic area and your dog suddenly
develops lethargy, a fever and symptoms of a urinary tract
infection, ask your vet to test for lepto immediately. Quick
diagnosis and treatment usually results in complete recovery
from this bacterial infection.
In fact, I treat about a dozen cases of lepto each year and
have never had an animal experience any lasting
consequences from the infection.
There is a vaccine for leptospirosis, but I do not recommend
it. It is a relatively weak bacterial vaccine with marginal
staying power and it cannot protect against all 20 or more
leptospira serovars. The vaccine carries a significant risk of
adverse reactions, especially in small dogs.
Information is also emerging that the lepto vaccine can
actually cause the disease in dogs, and can bring on kidney
failure in older dogs.
Source: Veterinary Practice News August 4, 2011
Source: Veterinary Medicine International. 2010; 2010: 928541. Published online 2010
December 27
Source: Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine. 2010 Nov-Dec;24(6):1277-82
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