Vaccines: Common Sense for Dog Daycare (or Dog Boarding) and Dog Parks

When it comes to basics of dog ownership, understanding the ins and outs of pet health is crucial. More specifically, the key vaccinations that your dog should have in order to be kept healthy. With the disclaimer that any list of vaccines noted here may be variable based on many things – where you live, the kind of exposure your dog has as well as specific health issues that may be present – for the most part, if you have a dog and you live in anything other than a remote environment, not keeping up with your pup’s vaccines is irresponsible – both to your own pet as well as those with whom your pet comes in contact.

Almost every municipality – especially dense population urban environments – have strict laws around some vaccines (most generally Rabies) but knowing what illnesses/potential illnesses are common in your area is crucial to insure your pet’s health and safety; and in the case of certain illness your own (as some illnesses are zoonotic – meaning they are communicable to humans!)

Now let’s get one thing straight before I motor forward here. I am not suggesting over vaccination. Not even a little bit. For dogs that have little to no exposure (don’t go to dog parks, don’t go to dog daycare/boarding facilities, don’t travel) the vaccination requirements are substantially more limited. In fact, the vaccines your dog gets as a pup may well be sufficient enough immunization for your dog’s level of exposure. The minute you change that, however, is the minute when you need to consider your pet’s safety and well-being as well as the well-being of those around you since your dog could be a carrier for an illness and be asymptomatic.

First the basics. As noted above, most municipalities have a simple set of requirements for even having a dog. Rabies is usually the big one. There are areas of the US that have experienced outbreaks in recent years. Rabies is no joke.

The core vaccines for which most dogs should be kept up to date include:

  • Rabies
  • Distemper
  • Parvo
  • Leptospirosis
  • Bordetella (aka kennel cough)

Increasingly vaccinating against Canine Influenza is recommended, as waves of this disease have swept through parts of the United States causing thousands of illnesses and many deaths.

There dogs that are allergic to some vaccines or for other health reasons can’t have them (e.g. dogs with epilepsy can sometimes experience seizures due to some vaccines). In these cases  titer tests may be used to determine whether a dog is sufficiently protected against a specific illness.

When you get your dog vaccinated it’s generally about a week before vaccines “take hold” and depending on what kind of application your dog may actually be able to infect another dog. So if you have plans to board your dog, use a daycare facility or even go to a park, make sure to get the shots done when you have at least a handful of days before the dog goes.

So what about things for which there are no vaccines? Things like intestinal parasites? While fecal tests are strongly recommended at least as part of a dog’s annual wellness check up, sadly many people just neglect to have them done. If your dog frequents any public parks, dog daycare/boarding facilities or engages with other dogs, getting a regular fecal test checking for all ova & parasites including giardia is a good idea. While there aren’t vaccines for parasites, you can protect your pup with a monthly preventive that address everything from heart worm to ringworm, whipworm, and hookworm. If you’re also protecting your pup against fleas & ticks (which is seasonal in most parts of the country but year-round in others), the monthly preventives you get often can serve for all the above mentioned parasites too. And protecting against fleas is important. Flea infestations can lead to all manner of other issues, including tapeworm.

Places like public dog parks are rife with infestations on these fronts and are often hotbeds of any number of other illnesses that can get passed along.

Bottom line – use your judgement and if you’re not sure, ask your vet.