What shots does my dog need?
The question isn’t as simple as it may seem. As we learn more about disease and vaccines there are more choices available. We vaccinate to prevent disease. In the case of animals, we are also trying to prevent disease from spreading from animals to humans, like in the case of rabies.
Core vaccines are vaccines that are recommended for all dogs. These include:
- Rabies - Causes neurological signs and is fatal to animal and humans, this vaccine is required by law in many states.
- Canine distemper - Can cause seizures, pneumonia and diarrhea in dogs. It is often fatal.
- Canine adenovirus or hepatitis - Causes liver disease in dogs, can be fatal.
- Canine parvovirus - Causes vomiting and diarrhea in dogs, often fatal, very contagious.
Non-core vaccines are vaccines that are appropriate in some cases, but not in others. These include:
- Canine parainfluenza virus - Although this is a non-core vaccine, it is often included in combination distemper vaccines. It is one of the causes of Kennel Cough.
- Leptospirosis - Causes kidney and liver disease, spread by contaminated urine from wildlife, contagious to people, more prevalent in some parts of the country than others
- Lyme disease - Both dogs and people can get Lyme disease from ticks. Lyme disease causes joint pain, depression and fever in dogs. Lyme disease is more prevalent in some parts of the country than others.
- Bordetella - Causes the condition commonly known as kennel cough. This cough is spread between dogs, so this vaccine is recommended for dogs that come into contract with other dogs at dog parks, grooming facilities, boarding facilities, group dog training classes and pet stores.
- Canine influenza (dog flu)-This is not transmissible to humans. Symptoms in dogs are cough, runny nose and fever, and, rarely, pneumonia. Spread is possible between dogs at dog parks, grooming facilities, boarding facilities, group dog training classes, pet stores and other places dogs congregate.
How often should your dog get re-vaccinated? This depends on:
- Age: Puppies get some protection to some diseases from their mothers, if their mothers have been vaccinated appropriately. This protection will wane as the puppy ages, which is why it is important for some vaccines to be given as multiple boosters to puppies.
- The type and brand of vaccine: Studies have shown that different vaccines are protective for different lengths of time. In adult dogs, this can range from six months to three years.
- The law: In the case of rabies vaccines, different states have different laws about who can give the vaccines and how often they must be repeated.
What are the risks of vaccinating? Although there are some, the benefits of vaccinating far outweigh the risks. Far less people are dying from rabies now that we have widespread rabies vaccinations of our pets. Our dogs live longer, healthier lives free from diseases that used to be common.
However, just as is the case with vaccinations in humans, there is a slight risk of vaccine reactions. This is why there is no one-size-fits-all plan for vaccinating your pet. Your veterinarian knows what diseases are prevalent in your area.
He or she ask questions about your pet’s lifestyle and your traveling habits to devise a vaccination plan that will protect your pet, while avoiding vaccinations that your pet doesn’t need. Your veterinarian can chose a vaccination frequency that will provide protection, but won’t be more often than necessary.