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As in the case of humans, vaccinations are a key component of preventative medicine for dogs as well. These shots will protect your pet from all kinds of serious diseases by building their immune system. Considering that immunity for different conditions fades over time, it is very important to administer vaccines and boosters all throughout your dog’s lifetime, each at its right time.
Through vaccination, the dog’s immune system will be exposed to an inactive or incomplete strain of a particular infectious agent or combination of infectious agents. This is how the body of the animal is able to build its immune cells that will be designed especially to deal as effectively as possible with the real, aggressive strain of the same agent.
Even though some people have started to call some vaccines dangerous nowadays, there is almost no scientific evidence behind these claims. And the truth is that most vaccines are against diseases that aren’t just irritating or a mild inconvenience, a lot of them protecting the pet from deadly illnesses. At the same time, vaccines are also cost-effective, easy, and painless to administer.
What are the diseases a dog should be vaccinated against?
There are quite a few vaccines dogs will need to get throughout their lifetime, but they can be placed into two main categories: non-core and core vaccines. While non-core vaccines are only optional and will only be recommended if your dog has a lifestyle that would call for them, core vaccines, on the other hand, are essential for your dog’s wellbeing. If you aren’t sure which non-core vaccines are needed in your particular situation, your veterinarian can help make the decision easier for you.
The core vaccines all dogs need
- Leptospirosis: The vaccine against this disease is often called a ‘lepto’ vaccine and protects against one of the most violent bacterial infections. Even though there are some vets that argue that this particular vaccine shouldn’t be in the core category, I am one of those that consider it a must for all dogs.
- DHPPi: This one is usually called the Distemper vaccine, even though it is a combination of multiple infectious agents, protecting against Infectious Hepatitis, Parainfluenza, Parvovirus, and of course, Distemper. All of these illnesses are very infectious and can lead to severe symptoms like organ damage, and increased pain, and can even become fatal.
- Rabies: You’ve surely heard of rabies, which is a fatal, very contagious viral disease that can be transmitted through the bite of an infected animal. Among the most common wild animals to have this disease are foxes, bats, skunks, raccoons, and coyotes. It is also fatal to humans that can get it in the same way as all other creatures. Most states in the US require vaccination against Rabies for all dogs.
A list of the non-core vaccines for dogs
- Canine Influenza Virus: The Canine Influenza Virus isn’t the same as the Parainfluenza virus that I’ve gone over above. Dog Flu or Canine Dog Influenza is a very serious respiratory disease that is very much similar to the flu humans go through.
- Lyme: Lyme disease can affect humans as well as pets and is basically a bacterial disease. It can cause symptoms like organ damage, painful joints, and high fever. It is usually carried and transmitted by ticks and you should probably vaccinate your dog against it if you live in areas where ticks are abundant.
- Bordetella: Kennel cough, also known as Bordetella, is another nasty respiratory disease. Daycare facilities, boarding facilities, and dog groomers will usually be required to administer vaccines against this disease.
If you fail to administer certain boosters within the right time frame, your dog might be required to repeat the whole vaccination series to make sure the immunity holds strong enough.
When should puppies get their first shots?
Pups should start to receive their shots right after the age of 8 weeks or right before they are weaned. Then, up until they get to the age of four months, they should continue to receive shots every four weeks. This shouldn’t take more than three visits within the first few months of a puppy’s life.
It is very important to administer all of the needed boosters within the right time frame, to avoid having to repeat the whole series of vaccines. This time frame is usually 4 weeks, although your puppy’s exact dates might differ slightly, something your veterinarian can give pointers on.
The actual schedule of vaccination for puppies
YOu should keep in mind that the actual schedule for a puppy vaccination can look very different across multiple pups. This is because not all dogs will need the same type of protection and depending on the general lifestyle of both the pet and the owner and their geographical location, some dogs might need some vaccines, while others might need other types of protections. However, the typical vaccination timeline for the first year of life of a pup can be found below:
- 8 weeks: Lyme vaccine (1 of 2), Bordetella vaccine (1 of 1), DHPPi (Distemper) vaccine (1 of 3), & Dog Flu vaccine (1 of 2)
- 12 weeks: Lyme vaccine (2 of 2), Leptospirosis vaccine (1 of 2), Rabies vaccine (1 of 1), DHPPi (Distemper) vaccine (2 of 3), & Dog flu vaccine (2 of 2)
- 16 weeks: Leptospirosis vaccine (2 of 2) & DHPPi (Distemper) vaccine (3 of 3)
Puppy vaccines & boosters
As they have a still underdeveloped immune system, puppies will always be more vulnerable to diseases than adult dogs. This is the main reason why you should vaccinate your pup as soon as medically possible. Right when they are born, puppies still have some immune protection from their mother, but this immunity won’t last for too long. This type of maternal protection can make the vaccines that you’d want to administer less effective because it can spot the inert agent and destroy it before the pup can develop its own protective cells. This is why most vaccines will come with one or more boosters. To make sure that the pup gets enough antibodies for effective protection.
What should you do if you’re unsure if your dog’s vaccination schedule is up-to-date?
First off, to avoid this when adopting a puppy, make sure you ask for a copy of the immunization records of your pup. If this isn’t possible and you know nothing of the dog’s vaccination history, then you should really talk with a veterinarian.
They are the only ones able to run antibody tests to see if the whole vaccination process has to be started all over again or if the dog still has some antibodies and only needs a few additional vaccinations or boosts.
Adult dog vaccination schedule
Adult and senior dogs need regular boosters to maintain their immunity levels. Boosters are required yearly or every three years depending on the vaccine.
- Lyme disease: every year
- Canine influenza: every year
- Bordetella: every year. Even though this was a vaccine that previously was recommended at six-month intervals, newer guidelines recommend boosters every twelve months. Keep in mind that there are some daycare facilities and groomers that still ask for boosters given every six months
- Leptospirosis: every year
- DHPPI (Distemper): every three years
- Rabies: every three years
Boosters and titers for your adult dog
Some owners still have some concerns when it comes to boosting their pets’ immune systems, even though vaccines are proven to be very safe. For these people, titers have been invented as an alternative. Titers are also a requirement when international traveling is involved, especially in some countries.
The titer test is the procedure that people use to measure the level of antibodies that pets have in their blood for specific diseases. To do this, a sample of the dog’s blood is taken and diluted repeatedly, and then exposed to the antigen. This is how you can check whether your dog needs to get a booster or fully vaccinate again.
The law in the US states that the rabies vaccine is the only required shot when it comes to dogs. Always talk to your veterinarian when you can decide between titers and boosters. They will be able to give you specific recommendations that are based on your lifestyle and your dog’s health as well as the advantages and disadvantages of both options.
How much do puppy shots cost?
The amount of money you will end up paying when vaccinating your puppy will differ based on a few factors like whether these vaccinations are considered core or non-core, but also based on where you live. You should also keep in mind that as the dog becomes older, the price of vaccination will get lower. This is because older dogs will have to get vaccinated less frequently than pups. If money is a problem for you, then you should try to take your dog to an animal shelter, because these are the places that usually offer the cheapest alternatives when it comes to vaccinations. Although you won’t find cheaper vaccines than at the animal shelters keep in mind that most of them won’t be able to supply all of the shots your dog might need.
Why should you ensure that the dog is fully vaccinated?
A fully vaccinated dog is protected against a lot of diseases, some of them very serious, painful, and in some instances, even fatal. You should periodically get in touch with a vet and ask whether your dog needs any additional boosters.
Vaccinations are very important for dogs, as they are for people, and help them stay protected from common diseases, so they can be healthy for as long as possible. When you get a new pup, keep in mind that between the ages of 8 weeks and 4 months, the small pet will go through a number of core vaccinations and a few non-core ones, as recommended by the veterinarian.