Killed and MLV Canine Vaccines Compared

Canine vaccines provide the best protection for your dog against illnesses and disease.

How Dog Vaccines Work

The vaccine contains a weakened or already killed virus and it is injected into your dog's immune system. This allows your dog's immune system to easily overcome the virus. Antibodies for the virus will form and in turn protect your dog's body against that particular virus in the future.

Types of Vaccines

There are two basic types of canine vaccines and those are killed and modified live vaccines (MLVs). Killed vaccines use a dead form of the virus, as well as an adjuvant which stimulates the immune response. Modified live vaccines use live but weakened versions of the virus to stimulate an immune response.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Killed Virus Dog Vaccines

Killed dog vaccines have the advantage of being safe for use, even in pregnant and immunocompromised animals, without any risk that the dog will develop the illness. Killed vaccines do not cause shedding of the virus, which could cause infection in unvaccinated dogs who come in contact with the vaccinated dog.

The primary disadvantage of killed vaccines is that they are often less effective that MLV vaccines. Two doses of a killed vaccine are often needed to activate the immune response.

Advantages and Disadvantages of MLV Canine Vaccines

MLVs have the advantage of causing fewer of the side effects that can result from vaccination. It is also possible to administer them through mucus membranes (for instance, through the mouth).

However, MLVs carry a higher risk for inducing the very disease they are intended to prevent. They are risky for pregnant and immunocompromised dogs. They have a short shelf life and can be easily deactivated by mishandling.