Booster Vaccinations for Dogs

Booster vaccinations are as important as the initial vaccines, as they will prolong the period the vaccines are valid for. Boosters are typically administered on a yearly basis for most vaccines, but there is still a debate about the frequency of the booster vaccines or whether these are needed at all.

Why Boosters Are Needed

The vaccine boosters are needed to protect the dog from infections that can be deadly (i.e. distemper, parvo or rabies).

The boosters will prolong the effectiveness of the vaccines that you’ve administered in the first year.

The booster shots include some cells (various bacteria and viruses in diluted amounts plus antibiotics and serum) that will help the dog build up immunity to common infections that may be deadly in canines. The immune system will assimilate these cells and manage to create antibodies that will protect the body when the dog is exposed to the actual viruses and bacteria. In this manner, the dog will not contract certain diseases.

Boosters and Safety for Dogs

Boosters are typically safe, but some dogs may develop some side effects such as:

  • Swelling and rashes
  • Pain
  • Autoimmune diseases such as lupus
  • Allergic reactions to the injections
  • Skin disease
  • Acral lick granumomas at the injection site
  • Anaphylactic shock, a rare reaction to vaccines

Some research has linked the occurrence of skin cancer to the administration of shots. However, there is not enough data to prove this theory.

Guidelines for Booster Shots

In order to avoid side effects and to make sure the boosters are most effective, you should follow a few guidelines:

  • Don’t choose combined vaccines, as these may not be the most effective
  • Make sure that the parvo booster is not administered at the same time with the distemper booster
  • The rabies booster should always be given alone, not at the same time with any other booster
  • Watch out for any adverse reactions at the injection site and notify your vet if you notice any upsetting symptoms

The Debate on Frequency of Boosters

While vaccines are recommended, the frequency or the need of boosters is under debate.

Some vets will claim that the boosters are needed on a yearly basis, while others will say that they are enough if administered only once every 3 years, as the vaccines can have a longer lasting effect than believed. More extremist voices opine that boosters are not at all needed and a vaccinated dog should be protected against the main diseases that dogs are exposed to. They also claim that the potential side effects of boosters are severe and can be avoided by eliminating the booster shots.

However, there are laws according to which you need to vaccinate your pet, at least against rabies and get booster shots. The rules may vary according to your location, so check with your vet to establish the vaccines and boosters that are needed by your dog.