Vaccinations – The Conversation


There has been a lot of talk lately about vaccinating your dog.
What’s the RIGHT time to vaccinate?
How MANY vaccines does my dog need?
Am I missing IMPORTANT vaccinations because I’ve moved to a new area and don’t know the risks?
What is this I’m hearing about “over vaccination”?

Well we’re here to help with some of those questions and get your dog on the road to a healthy, happy, vaccinated life!

Vaccinations in dogs, as with humans work by stimulating the immune system—the natural disease-fighting system of the body—to produce defenses against certain disease-causing agents. Vaccines are usually made using a killed microbe, or parts of it, which allows the immune system to recognize the disease-causing agent and to be prepared in the event of a future infection. That way, if a dog is ever exposed to the real microbe, his or her immune system will be able to prevent the disease or to reduce the severity of the illness.

Let’s breakdown the 2 categories:

“Core” vaccines are the vaccines that EVERY DOG should have.  

Core vaccines are considered vital to all dogs because they protect against diseases that pose a high risk of infection, that are very severe (sometimes fatal) and/or that may be transmitted to humans (e.g. rabies). All dogs should be immunized against:

  • Canine parvovirus

  • Canine distemper virus

  • Canine hepatitis virus

  • Rabies

“Non-core” vaccines are different vaccines available for dogs, but not every dog needs to receive every vaccine.

There are many other vaccines that are not always needed or recommended.

Non-core vaccines are recommended depending on the risk of a dog to become infected with a given disease. These include vaccines against:

  • Bordetella bronchiseptica

  • Borrelia burgdorferi

  • Leptospira bacteria

The exact vaccines that your dog should receive will depend on several factors, including your geographical area, your dog’s age, medical history, environment, travel habits and lifestyle. Your dog’s veterinarian is the best person to determine which vaccines he or she needs.

On a personal note, we moved to an acreage with a lot of trees, fields and wildlife (we moved from a very crowded suburban lifestyle). I had never heard of, or encountered “Leptospira” and was told my dogs needed it. I had to research myself to ensure the benefits outweighed the risks.  So if you have moved and are not sure what vaccines may be applicable to your dog; research and listen to your veterinarian’s recommendations.

Learn more about Leptospirosis here:
Leptospirosis by Merck

Another Excellent Resource are the New guidelines by UCDavis:
UC Davis Vaccine Protocol

When Should Dogs Receive Their First Vaccine?

Dogs need to receive various vaccines throughout their lives in order to prevent life-threatening diseases such as parvovirus infection. The first vaccine is usually administered between 6 and 8 weeks of age, followed by 2-3 boosters at the ages of 9 to 10 weeks, and 12 to 14 weeks and the last of the series after 16 wks. After that, your dog will need yearly boosters (or talk to your veterinarian about the new 3 yr boosters)

Are Any Dog Vaccines Required by Law?

Each state have their own regulations regarding the administration of the rabies vaccine. Proof of rabies vaccination every one to three years is mandatory in most jurisdictions. Puppies can not be administered the Rabies Vaccine until they are 4 mos old.

Are There Any Risks Associated with Vaccines?

A vaccine will stimulate a dog’s immune system to produce antibodies against the disease. Most dogs will not show any sign of disease after being vaccinated. However, some dogs will show minor illness signs such as:

  • Collapse

  • Diarrhea

  • Difficulty breathing

  • Fever

  • Lameness

  • Loss of appetite

  • Pain, swelling, redness, scabbing or hair loss around the injection site

  • Seizures

  • Sluggishness

  • Vomiting

Some vaccines can cause allergic reactions, which are usually characterized by facial swelling and difficulty breathing. In the case of an allergic reaction, you should bring your dog back to the vets’ office immediately.

Observe your dog for 24 hrs after a vaccine to ensure there is no reaction.

Overall, dog vaccines are safe and they can prevent serious, life-threatening disease. It is important that we make sure that our beloved friends have an up-to-date vaccination schedule in order to keep them and our families 

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