Health and Vaccinations

When you add a dog to your family, you are taking on the responsibility to provide that animal with good preventive health care for its lifetime. This includes protecting your dog against parasites, vaccinating for life-threatening diseases, and getting regular check-ups to ensure the dog is in optimum health. Within the first two days of bringing your pup home, you should take it to your vet for health check. While you pup has been wormed already, your vet may want to do a stool test at this time to check for worms again as a precaution.


While there are some who think that vaccines are the root of all evil, I view them as something necessary, but not to be overdone. It used to be common for dogs to be vaccinated annually for everything the vet could offer a vaccine for! However recently, thinking has changed. The AAHA came out with a new recommended 3 year vaccine protocol a few years ago (see here--, and now even vaccine manufacturers have been changing their recommendations. One, Intervet (a Schering-Plough company,) has developed a line of vaccines designed to be used following these guidelines, and they have done the challenge studies so that they can back up a label claim of three years of protection. This is the Continuum series. One of the nice features of this family of vaccines is that they have single disease vaccination options, which allow you to spread the administration of boosters out.

Your puppy will have received its first series of vaccines the week before it is set to go home. This is a DAP (distemper, adenovirus, & parvovirus) shot. The pup will need two boosters of a DAP at four week intervals thereafter. Your vet may want to combine the rabies vaccine with the final DAP booster. My preference is to wait until after 16 weeks, and to give the rabies as a separate shot, as rabies is a major challenge to the immune system. Rabies will need to be boostered a year later. Once this booster has been given your dog does not need another rabies booster for 3 years. Ontario law states that dogs must be vaccinated against rabies, not that it must be done annually, as some vets still claim.

Intervet and Schlering-Plough make other quality vaccines as well (Proguard and Galaxy) that your vet may offer if they do not use the Continuum series. Please inquire as to which brand they use. Be very cautious of Fort Dodge vaccines. There have been too many cases recently of pups coming down with diseases they were supposedly vaccinated for, or having life threatening vaccine reactions with this company’s products.

Outside of the core vaccinations, your lifestyle will dictate which, if any, other vaccines your dog requires. I do not recommend the Lyme vaccine. While Lyme carrying ticks are growing more common in Ontario, it is still better to use repellent type measures against ticks if your dog is going to be hunting or playing in known Lyme areas (i.e. Long Point, Ottawa Valley, Prince Edward County, New England, New York, Pennsylvania, or the southern States.) Furthermore, ticks can carry other dangerous diseases such as Anaplasmosis and Rocky Mounted Spotted Fever which Lyme vaccines do not protect against.

Leptospirosis is another optional vaccine. If you live in an area frequented by wildlife (such as deer or raccoons), or in an area where construction is occurring, or hunt in swampy areas this is a vaccine you may want to consider. Discuss it with your vet to determine whether it is advisable, and again administer it separately from the other vaccines. I chose not to give it to my own dogs, as one of Breeze's pups had a bad reaction to it.

Bordatella(kennel cough) is the final vaccine you may choose. It is often required by many obedience schools, and boarding kennels.

Parasite Preventives

When your dog is on a three-year vaccination schedule, parasite prevention is your opportunity for that annual vet visit and health check. Your dog needs to be on flea and heartworm preventatives in Southern Ontario spring through fall, or in the winter as well if you travel to the United States. My hunting dogs get a combination of Heartguard (oral for heartworms) and Frontline Plus (topical for fleas and ticks available in the US which is safe for breeding dogs). For non-breeding dogs, another topical option, K9 Advantix II works fairly well. If you do not have the means to access it but will be in Lyme tick areas, your vet will be able to recommend other options available in Canada. Many diseases with long-term health effects can be carried by ticks, so it is important to keep them off your dog! I do not like any of the oral flea-tick options like Simparica. The FDA recently released a warning about potential neurological complications with these preventatives. Heartworm protection is also necessary, as with the movement of wild animal populations, cases of heartworm have been reported in Ontario.

Do not get the injectable preventive. The first generation of this treatment was pulled because it had nasty unanticipated side effects once released into the general market. Dogs died. While they have apparently done more research to get it reintroduced, it is still too risky in my opinion.


One of the best things you can do for your dog’s overall health is to keep him/her at a healthy weight. Remember, maintaining a healthy weight is an obligation with your orthopedic guarantee. (Think of it like changing the oil in your car on a regular basis as recommended by the manufacturer!) While hip and shoulder bones should not be jutting out, you should be able to easily feel your pup’s ribs. When viewed from above there should be a slight “waist” behind the rib cage. When viewed from the side there should be a slight tuck-up at the back end of the belly. Puppies should only be pudgy when they are very little. Fat puppies face unnecessary strain on growing bones and joints. Your vet will want a weight on your dog at each visit. Once your dog has reached maturity this weight should not see dramatic fluctuations.


With young puppies, exercise should be voluntary and non-strenuous. There should be no forced running or jumping. Get exercise through games and training, and quit before the pup is exhausted. Once the second booster has been given you may attend a puppy kindergarten class at a dedicated training facility. The operators of these schools ensure their floors have been thoroughly cleaned before their puppy classes come in. This is not the case with publically open facilities such as PetSmart. Until booster three and the rabies shots have been given, the pup should not be walked in public areas or dog parks. Dog parks are problematic for young puppies anyhow, as they can be easily bowled over by large exuberant dogs at play. In the meantime, you can play with your pup in your back yard, and allow play with dogs that you know who have not been frequenting those places.

Vaccination and Immunization Notes:

Schultz Seminar

Dr Schultz Webcast

WSAVA Vaccination Guidelines