The Importance of Dog Vaccinations

Dog vaccinations are an essential step towards a healthy immune system for your pet. Vaccines help prevent the spread of deadly and highly contagious diseases like rabies, distemper, parvovius and hepatitis. Though there is some debate on the need for annual vaccinations and how many shots a dog really needs, vaccines are essential for your dog's health.

How Vaccines Promote Dog Health

Vaccines are a weakened or killed version of bacteria or virus that is injected into a dog's immune system to stimulate the creation of antibodies that block against disease. Puppies have a natural immunity from their mother's milk but this immunity wears off over time and so the puppies need vaccinations to bolster the immune system and prevent disease and illness.

Modified live virus (MLV) vaccines are made up of a weakened strain of a disease and are injected into a dog's immune system to stimulate an immune response. MLVs offer stronger and more lasting immunity with less shots or doses but can cause disease in rare cases and must be stored and handled carefully.

Killed vaccines are inactivated or killed strains of a disease or virus that are introduced to the immune system to stimulate a response. These types of vaccines must be administered several times and are generally less effective than MLV vaccines but are less likely to have adverse side effects.

Recommended Core Dog Vaccines

  • Parvovirus: The parvo vaccine protects against a deadly but common virus, especially in puppies, that is highly contagious through contact with infected animals stool. The virus attacks the intestines and causes severe diarrhea and vomiting which can lead to dehydration and death. Rottweilers and Doberman Pinschers are high risk breeds for parvo.
  • Rabies: A fatal and incurable disease, the rabies virus attacks the nervous system of dogs that have been exposed to the saliva of an infected animal through an open wound or bite. Rabies vaccines should always be kept up to date.
  • Distemper: This deadly contagious disease is caused by the virus CDV and has no cure. Distemper mostly affects puppies and attacks multiple systems including the respiratory and central nervous systems.

Potential Side Effects of Vaccines

Side effects of vaccinations include allergic reactions, low fevers, pain, suppressed immune systems, abortions in pregnant dogs, muscle aches and low energy.

The potential side effects of vaccinations and rare possibility that the vaccines won't work should be balanced against the risks of contracting a disease like rabies or parvovirus, which can be deadly.

Are Annual Vaccinations Safe?

There are many debates among veterinarians and pet care workers over vaccination schedules and the need for booster shots each year. Each year thousands of dogs avoid disease because of vaccines, but annual vaccinations are not always necessary; especially for older dogs that have little contact with other animals or have suppressed immune systems. Senior dogs are less likely to contract diseases like parvo or distemper and may be harmed from too many vaccines. Vets recommend annual checkups for senior dogs but are not giving vaccines each and every year. Check with your veterinarian to see what vaccination schedule is best for your dog's age and health.