Canine Vaccinations

Canine Core Vaccinations

Rabies Vaccination:

Rabies Vaccination is required by law. If your dog is older than 12 weeks, he or she needs one. Rabies vaccination needs to be boostered every 1-3 years depending on local regulations. For complete details please see the “Canine Rabies Vaccination” portion of this page.

Canine Distemper or DA2PP Vaccination:

This is probably the most important vaccination you can give your dog. This vaccine is a combination vaccine very similar in concept to the Measles, Mumps, and Rubella (MMR) or the Diptheria, Pertusseis, and Tentanus (DPT) vaccinations that children receive. We want to vaccinate the puppies against those diseases most likely to cause death or severe illness. A “Distemper vaccine” contains Distemper (D), Adenovirus Type 2 (A2), Parainfluenza (P), and Parvovirus (P) vaccines. Other Vaccines that may be included in a Distemper include Coronavirus, or Leptospirosis.


Currently the scariest disease (although none of them are very nice) in the mixture is Parvovirus. “Parvo” destroys the lining of the intestines causing severe vomiting and bloody diarrhea which can rapidly lead to dehydration. The disease most severely affects animals under 6 months of age, although any unvaccinated animal is susceptible. Prognosis is guarded in untreated animals or in animals in which treatment is delayed. Animals that receive prompt medical care have a good prognosis. “Parvo” is mind-bogglingly contagious to other unvaccinated puppies and dogs, and is a problem in our region.

Canine Distemper Virus:

Distemper virus can cause anything from vomiting and diarrhea, to severe respiratory symptoms, to neurological symptoms. Many cases of distemper are fatal. It is uncommon to see distemper in this area any more because the vaccine is so effective.

Adenovirus Type 2:

Adenovirus Type 2 vaccination is actually used to protect dogs from two forms of Adenovirus. It protects against the form that attacks the liver and causes liver failure in dogs of all ages, with high fatality rates in puppies. It also protects against the respiratory form of the disease which is part of the kennel cough complex.


Parainfluenza most commonly works with Adenovirus and other organisms to cause kennel cough. It can also cause hydrocephalus (commonly called water on the brain) in young animals.

As you can see preventing all of these viruses is very important. Puppies should receive vaccination against these diseases at 6, 9, 12, and 16 weeks of age. The vaccine should then be given every 1 to 3 years as determined by your veterinarian after discussion of your pet’s risk factors.

Canine Non-Core Vaccinations

Bordetella bronchiseptica (Kennel Cough) Vaccinations:

Kennel Cough is a very contagious upper respiratory disease that can be caused by both viruses and bacteria. Kennel cough can be transmitted by aerosol droplets or contact with other infected dogs. Bordetella (a bacteria) is one of the more common causes of this disease. The vaccine comes in both an intraoral or injectable version. Although, vaccination will not prevent 100% of infections, it will reduce symptoms in those animals that become infected. The most common symptom of kennel cough is a hacking persistent cough. Many boarding kennels and groomers require this vaccination.

Lyme Vaccination:

Lyme disease, or Borrelia burgdorferi, is primarily transmitted by the deer tick in Wisconsin and can cause many symptoms including: fever, lameness, reluctance to move, lethargy, enlarged lymph nodes, and lack of appetite. Any one or all of these symptoms can be present in an infected animal. Vaccination against Lyme disease can not prevent 100% of cases but it has been shown to reduce clinical disease in those animals that do become infected. When first given the vaccine must be boostered in two weeks. Lyme vaccination should never be given to animals under 9 weeks of age and ideally should not be given until the animal is more than 12 weeks old. The vaccine needs to be repeated annually. Lyme vaccinations are one of the vaccines more likely to cause a vaccine reaction. Discuss your animal’s risk of Lyme disease with your veterinarian to decide if your pet should receive the vaccine. Animals at high risk are those that hunt, hike, camp and fish, and those who swim frequently. Currently it is controversial whether the vaccine is effective in those animals that have been naturally infected.

Leptospirosis Vaccination:

The Leptospira are a group of bacteria which can cause kidney and liver disease, some cases of which are fatal. Currently our in-house monitoring indicates that the Tomah area is at relatively low risk for this disease. Many different types of vaccination are available for these bacteria; however, vaccination for this disease carries some complications. One is that the vaccine can interfere with the body’s response with core vaccines in the Distemper Combo vaccine—and these vaccines are more important. Because of this, dogs, especially puppies, should not receive distemper combo vaccines which contain Leptospirosis vaccination at the same time. Lepto vaccinations are one of the vaccines more likely to cause a vaccine reaction. The vaccine also needs to be given multiple times to be effective. The first dose should be give to a puppy at 14-16 weeks of age (after core vaccination is done). It will need to be boostered in 3-4 weeks. The vaccine should then be given every 6 months to 1 year depending on the risks associated with the dog’s lifestyle and the region a dog lives in. Even with this highly aggressive vaccination program 30-50% of vaccinated dogs will still become infected. Discuss your animal’s risk of Lepto with your veterinarian to decide if your pet should receive the vaccine. Animals at high risk are those that hunt, hike, camp and fish, travel the US, and those who swim frequently.

Canine Other Vaccinations

Coronavirus Vaccination:

Coronavirus vaccine is commonly included in many Canine Distemper vaccine combos. Coronavirus is thought to cause vomiting and diarrhea in puppies. Recent research indicates that by itself the virus alone is incapable of making even a puppy symptomatic. It can possibly make parvoviral infections worse, but preventing parvovirus prevents coronavirus. AAHA and most immunologist currently do not recommend vaccination for coronavirus as the risk of over vaccination outweighs the possibility of contracting symptomatic coronavirus.


Giardia is a single celled parasite that prefers to live attached to the cells of the intestinal tract. Giardia are usually transmitted by ingestion of their cysts, normally from an infected water supply. Giardia is uncommon but does exist in Wisconsin. When it occurs Giardia can lead to chronic diarrhea or soft stools. Although a vaccine does exist for this disease, it has so far only been shown to decrease shedding in infected animals and not to prevent disease.

Canine Rabies Vaccination

What is So Darn important about Rabies Vaccination Anyway?

The short answer for this one is that Rabies Vaccination is required by law. The long answer is more important and more interesting. Rabies is caused by a virus. It is not a nice virus. It infects the nerves and brains of it’s victims and causes unpleasant symptoms like aggression, paralysis, profound neurological disturbance (affected animals and people have been reported to attack and mutilate themselves as well as others, oblivious to any pain), hypersalivation, restlessness, agitation, changes in personality, bizarre behavior, inability to close the mouth or eyelids, inability to eat or drink, and death. Once symptoms appear the disease is 100% fatal in a rather unpleasant way. Rabies is transmitted by the bite of, or even exposure to the infected saliva of a rabid animal. Any mammal can potentially get infected with and transmit rabies. Mammals at high risk of having rabies in this country include raccoons, skunks, foxes, coyotes, cats, dogs, and especially bats. Other animals, including livestock, may be infected. Fortunately for us rabies infection of humans is very rare in this country as a result of national and state laws requiring rabies vaccination of domestic dogs and cats; and quarantine of any animal involved in biting a human, or any animal suspected of being exposed to a rabid animal. In 1946 there were 22 cases of rabies in humans in the U.S, and more than 8000 cases in dogs. In 2004 in the U.S. there were 8 cases of human rabies reported, 94 cases in dogs, and 281 cases in cats (keep this in mind when handling stray cats), and over 8000 cases in wildlife and other domestic animals. Rabies vaccination saves human lives.

The State of Wisconsin requires any dog over the age of 4 months to be vaccinated for rabies. Length of time between vaccinations varies by county and ranges from 1-3 years. Another part of the State law requires that any animal bite (of a person) treated by a health care professional be reported to the health department, and that the bite-er be quarantined for ten days with three veterinary examinations for good measure. If the bite-er is current on rabies vaccination this is only moderately inconvenient for the responsible humans. If said bite-er is not rabies vaccinated, or is even the teensie-weensiest bit overdue the perpetrator gets to be a guest of a veterinary clinic or another certified facility (animal shelter) for the whole ten days(at cost of hundreds of dollars). A vaccinated animal that may have been exposed to a rabid animal simply gets re-vaccinated and observed. An un-vaccinated (or overdue!) animal gets to be quarantined for six months!

A few more fun rabies facts:

  1. The only way to tell for sure if an animal actually has rabies is a 10 day quarantine (it’ll be dead before the 10 days are up) or to send its brain (removed from its body) to a lab for testing.
  2. If you are tempted to shoot an animal that has bitten someone(something we don’t recommend), don’t shoot it in the head! Once the brain is damaged by a bullet it is impossible to examine the tissue for rabies, so the bite victim is going to be getting lots of painful vaccinations
  3. Rabies vaccination has to be done by a licensed veterinarian. Yes, I know you can buy the stuff over the internet, but it doesn’t count legally speaking in Wisconsin if you give it yourself.


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