Dog Vaccination FAQ's
Find the answers to your questions about dog vaccines and vaccination.
Is vaccination actually necessary?
Yes. Vaccination can help prevent your dog from contracting potentially fatal diseases. Vaccines contain modified or killed versions of common canine diseases. When they are injected into the body, your dog’s immune system will attack them. If your dog is later exposed to the disease again, the immune system will remember the disease and quickly counteract it.
Should I vaccinate for everything?
Not necessarily. There are two classes for canine vaccines: Core and Non-Core.
Core vaccines are recommended for all dogs, regardless of breed, size or location. All dogs will see these life-threatening diseases in their lifetime. If it didn’t kill them and they were lucky enough to recover, they would still suffer the side effects for the rest of their lives. The core vaccines include distemper, adenovirus, parvovirus and rabies (required by law).
Non-core vaccines are reserved for pets with unique exposure risks or needs. These include leptospirosis, kennel cough, corona virus, giardia and Lyme disease. If any of these diseases are prominent in your area, you may want to consider vaccinating for them. If your dog will visit the groomer’s or kennel often, the kennel cough (bordetella bronchiseptica) vaccine may be recommended as well.
Standard 5-way vaccines offer protection against the “Core” canine diseases. Other 6-, 7- and 8-way combinations add “Non-Core” disease protection against corona or lepto. Kennel cough vaccines may include the parainfluenza virus as well. The non-core options should be added if your dog’s lifestyle or area of the country exposes it to these diseases. Talk to your veterinarian for more specific recommendations for your dog.
Is there a risk in giving vaccines?
As with human vaccination, there are always risks. However, the benefits of a healthy life certainly outweigh the risks of contracting a life-threatening disease. Your dog may have mild tiredness, fever, soreness or reduced appetite, but these will go away in a day or two. If they persist longer, you should talk with your veterinarian. Rare cases have reported allergic reactions and sometimes death, but the chances of this happening are very low.
If your dog has had reactions to vaccinations before, it’s best to let your veterinarian give the vaccines. Let them know of the reactions, so they can make the proper adjustments and preparations.
What’s the difference between MLV vaccines and Killed vaccines?
An MLV (Modified Live Vaccine) is a live but weakened version of a virus that is used to stimulate immune response. A Killed vaccine is an inactive form of the virus, with all infectious bacteria taken out and killed.
There are advantages and disadvantages to both. MLV vaccines are more effective in preparing the immune system, they last longer and they’re also faster, achieving immunity in one dose. Killed vaccines pose no risk of infecting the animal, but are less effective in providing immunity and usually require two doses.
Why do puppies need a series of vaccinations?
Puppies receive antibodies from their mother’s milk, giving temporary protection against disease. These antibodies also see vaccines as a disease and can eliminate them before they stimulate the immune system. There is a time after weaning called “window of susceptibility,” where the antibodies wear off and the puppy is at risk for disease. However, it’s almost impossible to determine this time period for each individual puppy. By giving a series of vaccinations, you boost your puppy’s protection as soon as the mother’s antibodies wear off, whenever this happens.
Can I give vaccines to pregnant or nursing dogs?
In general, treatments of any kind are not recommended for pregnant or nursing animals unless the manufacturer has tested and proven them to be safe. The same is true with vaccines. If you have questions, check with your veterinarian first.
Keep in mind that vaccinating a nursing animal will not pass the protection on to the babies. Newborns only receive the antibodies from the colostrum in the first 36 hours of nursing, and the vaccine will take a week or more to fully affect the immune system. If the mother needs vaccination, it’s best to wait until after weaning, when the stress of pregnancy and nursing is removed. She will be better equipped to respond after she’s had adequate time to recover.
Are yearly booster shots really necessary?
Up until a few years ago, this was the standard recommendation. However, recent studies show increasing evidence that some vaccines last much longer than a year. Talk to your veterinarian for recommendation. One vaccine schedule is not universal for all pets, so your vet will have the best insight into what kinds of vaccines your dog should receive and when they should receive them.