Caring For Your New Puppy

Rockland Veterinary will guide you through vaccines and the first few weeks of care for your puppy.

Vaccines Required for Dogs Living in Rockland County

Dogs living in Rockland County should be vaccinated against 5 prevalent and severe illnesses. Here is a brief description of each illness followed by a schedule of when these vaccines are to be administered.

The distemper vaccine is really a combination vaccine that protects against 4 illnesses, all of which are described below. The Distemper vaccine is initially given in three doses spaced three weeks apart, but dosing may change base on the patient’s age and breed.

  • Distemper disease is caused by a virus. Infected patients often experience severe lethargy, fever, inappetance, diarrhea, vomiting and neurological impairment. Distemper infects young puppies, but adult dogs are also susceptible. The mortality rate is high and many of those that survive are neurologically impaired for life.
  • Adenovirus is in the same family of viruses that cause hepatitis. Symptoms of infection in dogs includes lethargy, vomiting, inappetence and fever.
  • Parainfluenza is another virus, this organism often works in conjunction with the bordetella bacterium to form a ‘Kennel Cough Complex’.
  • Rabies is an incurable, highly infectious illness caused by a virus.  Many mammals are susceptible to rabies including all members of the dog family, cats, bats, raccoons, and people. Rabies vaccines for dogs and cats are required by law in the state of New York. Approximately 2-4 of all animals presented for testing to the NY health department each month test positive for rabies.
  • Parvo is an especially nasty, infectious disease caused by a virus that infects both adult and young dogs. Dogs infected with the Parvo virus experience extreme gastro-intestinal upset and often succumb to the disease because of the secondary effects of inappentance, diarrhea, vomiting and fever. According to an article published by the University of Pennsylvania, male Doberman and Rottweiler dogs are more susceptible to Parvo virus than other breeds, but all dogs should be vaccinated against this particularly virulent disease.
  • Bordetella and Kennel Cough are used interchangeably, but there is a subtle difference. Bordetella refers to a bacterium that causes upper respiratory symptoms in infected patients. Kennel Cough is a broader term used to refer to complex of infection by organisms like Bordetella, adenovirus, and parainfluenza in various combinations.  In both cases, patients exhibit symptoms that we would associate with a head cold:  runny nose or eyes, mild fever, loss of appetite, sneezing and a persistent cough that sounds like gagging. The cough may or may not be productive. Typically owners of dogs that are sick with any of the above-mentioned upper respiratory germs believe that their dog is vomiting. What is actually happening is that the dog is coughing (which sounds like gagging) and bringing up mucous and spitting it out (which looks like vomitus). All the germs working together to form the Kennel Cough complex are highly infectious and long-lived in the environment. The disease is typically not life threatening, but symptoms can persist for months.  It’s important to note that the symptoms of the more serious disease, Canine Influenza, are nearly identical to Kennel Cough, though dogs with CI are more likely to be febrile (have a fever). If your dog has a cough, be sure to call us for an appointment so we can accurately identify the source of the cough, give your pet medication to mitigate the symptoms, and teach you how to prevent infection to other dogs.
  • Canine Influenza (C.I.) was first identified in the U.S. in 2008. Subsequent to that another large outbreak occurred in Chicago in 2015. Since then, Canine Influenza has sadly been a more common occurrence all over the U.S. including here in NY.  Unlike the more benign Kennel Cough, Canine Influenza is likely to impact patients harder. Patients infected with C.I. are at a higher risk for developing pneumonia-like symptoms, running high fevers, and needing supportive therapy. Though most patients infected with C.I. recover without complications, there is a high enough mortality rate with C.I. that all dogs should be vaccinated against the disease. Rockland carries a bivalent vaccine against Canine Influenza meaning that it protects against the two most common strains of the virus that we see infecting patients.
  • Leptospirosis is a serious, life-threatening illness caused by a bacteria that is shed in the urine of infected animals. While wild animals, like raccoons, foxes and opossums, are singled out as the reservoir for Leptospirosis, the most common reservoir for the bacteria are rats. In fact, it wasn’t too long ago that a significant outbreak occurred in New York City in a home infested with rats. Pet owners should have their dogs vaccinated for Leptospirosis because, once infected, the dogs can pass the disease onto the human members of the household. Approximately 5% of all dogs infected with Leptospirosis die of the disease.
  • Lyme disease, an illness transmitted through the bite of a tick. In Rockland County, an astounding 1 out of 8 dogs test positive for Lyme disease. Symptoms include joint pain and swelling, fever, and malaise; but it’s important to note that some dogs suffer the illness with no outward signs of infection. Lyme disease, when left untreated, can cause secondary and life threatening damage to your dog’s kidneys so it’s very important to test your dog annually for Lyme and to vaccinate against the disease.

Puppy Visits and Schedule of Vaccination

Puppies aged 1 day-8 weeks inherit partial immunity to disease from their mother when they drink colostrum or mother’s milk. Vaccines administered during this time are unlikely to be effective because the inherited antibodies prevent the vaccine from stimulating the puppy’s immune system to produce antibodies of its own. To get around this biological roadblock, Rockland veterinarians administer vaccines in a series after the puppy is 8 weeks of age. By this time, the number of inherited antibodies has begun to decline and the vaccine series slowly goes to work at stimulating the puppy to produce antibodies of his or her own.

Click to open a copy of the vaccine schedule in a new tab and to print.

Importance of an Exam

Prior to giving a vaccine, Rockland vets will fully examine your puppy and take a temperature, pulse and respiration rate. The purpose is to ensure that the puppy is in good health prior to stimulating the immune system with a vaccination. Puppies that show signs of illness are not usually vaccinated because the combination of the vaccine and the illness may be too much for the young puppy’s immune system to manage.

Possible Side Effects of Vaccination

Rockland Veterinary has spent a significant amount of time and money to acquire the safest and most effective vaccines on the market. Still, there is a potential for the following side effects.

  • Lethargy
  • Pain at the injection site
  • Small amount of swelling at the injection site

Typically minor reactions like these can be prevented and/or treated with antihistamines. In rare cases, puppies may vomit or become listless, but reactions like these occur within minutes of vaccination, so it’s likely that if your pet has a severe reaction, it will happen while you are still at our office where we can provide treatment. Certainly if your puppy experiences any symptom after vaccination that worries you do not hesitate to call 845-354-1800.

Importance of a Fecal Sample

Within the puppy series, you’ll be asked to bring two stool samples. This may seem unnecessary given that we are ‘deworming’ your dog at the same visit, but the stool samples are essential. Here’s why:

  • Deworming medications are effective against many kinds of parasites, but not all.  A fecal test lets us know if the patient is infected and identifies the parasite.  This information helps us to determine if additional treatment is required.
  • When we test a puppy’s stool, the only positive evidence for an infection by some parasites is whether or not we see the parasite’s eggs, but the absence of eggs isn’t necessarily proof that your puppy is not infected.  Puppies with recent infections will not harbor parasites mature enough to deposit eggs.  So, while eggs are definitely a sign that your pet is infected with a parasite, the absence of eggs isn’t positive confirmation that your puppy is not.
  • Intestinal parasites have several life stages of development.  If the deworming medication is administered at a time when the parasite is not in the intestinal tract, it will not be effective.  Two consecutive stool samples confirm that previous deworming treatments were effective.
  • Most puppies are infected with parasites because the mother of the puppy was infected, but it is just as likely that the environment in which the puppy was raised is the source of the infection.  If this is the case, the initial dose of medication may have been effective at eliminating the infection, but the puppy was reinfected subsequent to receiving deworming medication because of additional exposure to the mother or to the parasites in the environment.

Behavior, Food, Toys and More

Training, nutrition and the selection of safe toys are all important topics to address. Explore the other resources in this section for more information in these areas, but keep in mind that you can always phone us or email us with your questions. We’ll be happy to help!