Vaccinations and Your Dog: What You Need to Know

Vaccination is a controversial topic amongst dog owners. We all want to do what’s best for our dogs, and we don’t want to risk them coming down with a preventable disease. We also don’t want to cause them to become sick from over vaccination. As we  improve our understanding of how the immune system works. vaccination recommendations often change, and it’s not easy to keep up with those changes.

Here are the facts about safely vaccinating your dog

  • Vaccines do save lives. Veterinarians agree that they are seeing fewer cases of potentially fatal diseases such as parvovirus and distemper since widespread vaccination became available.
  • Unvaccinated dogs may not become sick with a preventable disease, but this is because of a phenomenon known as “herd health”. If most animals are vaccinated against a disease, then that disease doesn’t get the opportunity to develop a foothold in the community. As the number of vaccinated animals decreases, there is more chance of a disease epidemic. Some veterinarians confirm that there are areas in their towns where many dogs aren’t vaccinated, and here they regularly see cases of parvovirus.
  • Most vaccine protocols recommend a course of puppy vaccines between 8 and 16 weeks of age. Some breeds don’t respond to vaccines as effectively as other breeds, so they need their own individual protocol. Rottweilers are one breed that falls into this category.
  • In adult dogs, the main veterinary governing bodies including the World Small Animal Veterinary Association and the American Animal Hospital Association recommend that the core vaccines are given no more frequently than three yearly.
  • This raises another point – what are core vaccines? Core vaccines are those that are recommended for every dog. Distemper and parvovirus fall into this category. Non-core vaccinations are optional, and depend on where your dog lives, and what activities he enjoys. In some areas of the United States, dogs are routinely vaccinated against Lyme disease, because the tick that spreads this disease is prevalent in those areas. If your dog is involved in dog training or spends time in boarding kennels, vaccination against kennel cough is a good idea.
  • There is certainly a risk of vaccination reactions in dogs. These can be as simple as aches and pains, or as severe as an immune-mediated destruction of a dog’s red blood cells. There is a very small risk of a dog developing a vaccine-associated fibrosarcoma, which is a type of cancer, but this is extremely rare. Fortunately, adverse reactions are uncommon, and veterinarians agree that the risk to your dog of not vaccinating him greatly outweigh the chances of him having a reaction to a vaccine. Currently, there are no studies that support the theory that spreading out vaccines and reducing the number of vaccines given at any one time will reduce the chances of a reaction.

So, where do you go from here? How do you take this information, and work out what your dog needs? You’ll need to vaccinate your dog with the core vaccines, that’s a given. As far as which non-core vaccines to use, this depends on your dog’s activities, where you live, and other factors such as whether or not your dog is likely to be exposed to disease. By taking all these factors into account, and with your veterinarian’s help, you’ll be able to develop an individual vaccine regime for your dog that protects him from disease and minimizes the risk of any vaccine reactions.


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