Dog Vaccinations Explained

Many pet owners like to have dog vaccinations explained before their pup goes in for his shots. It's important for owners to be educated on their pet's health and well-being and vaccinations are key to both.

The First Year

Dog's require vaccinations from puppy hood. During the first year, dog's receive several rounds of vaccinations commonly called "puppy shots." These vaccines include parvo virus, distemper, and rabies. Puppies should receive shots every four to six weeks. Your veterinarian will place your dog on a vaccination schedule which should be followed exactly. Your puppy may also require additional vaccinations such as corona or bordetella. Your veterinarian may suggest vaccinations if your dog is boarded or groomed on a regular basis as well.

Annual Shots

After the first year, a dog should receive an annual booster of rabies, parvo virus, distempr, and any other vaccinations he may need according to your veterinarian. Boosters can also be given in higher doses that only require an injection every three years.

How Vaccines Work

Vaccines work by stimulating a dog's immune system through an injection of a partial virus. The virus is picked up by the body and antibodies are built up. These antibodies stay in your dog's system and equip them to fight off future infections.

Vaccine Break

Many dog owners are concerned that a vaccination will make their dog sick. Vaccines contain only part of the virus and will not cause illness unless in very rare cases when the dog has health issues. However, just because a dog has received a vaccine doesn't mean he will never become ill. If your dog was vaccinated but still becomes ill, a "vaccine break" has occurred. This can be caused by anything from fever to maternal antibodies that have not properly increased your dogs immunity to the disease. Vaccine breaks can also occur if the vaccination was improperly handled. Before your dog is vaccinated, have him examined for any sign of illness and get his vaccinations from a licensed professional. Taking these steps will lower your dog's risk of vaccine break.

Possible Side Effects

Reactions to vaccines are rare. A dog may run a low fever for 24 to 48 hours after the vaccine is administered. Severe side effects, while rare, still can occur. Signs of a severe reaction include swelling and vomiting. If these occur contact your veterinarian or local animal hospital immediately. While these symptoms are scary, severe reactions are much more rare than the disease itself. Not vaccinating your dog is putting him at risk of potentially life threatening illnesses. Most states require dogs to be vaccinated annually. 

Additional Vaccines

Many owners want to to know if their dog needs additional vaccinations. A veterinarian can perform a test called a titer. Titers test the dog's immune system to see if they have adequate levels of antibodies. Contact your veterinarian to inquire about the types of titer testing offered.

 Remember the following when getting your dog vaccinated:

  • If your dog is a puppy, stick to your veterinarian's recommended vaccination schedule.
  • Have your adult dog vaccinated annually.
  • Be sure your dog is healthy before being vaccinated.
  • Have only a licensed professional administer the vaccine.
  • After vaccination, watch for signs of a negative reaction such as vomiting and swelling (a low-grade fever the first 24 to 48 hours is normal).