Vaccinating Your Dog
Vaccinations are a critical component to preventive care for your dog. Thanks to the development of vaccines, dogs have been protected from numerous disease threats, including rabies, distemper, hepatitis and several others. Some of these diseases can be passed from dogs to people, so canine vaccinations have protected human health as well. Recently, studies have shown that vaccines protect dogs for longer than previously believed. There have also been improvements in the type of vaccines produced. In addition, there is increased awareness and concern that vaccination is not as harmless a procedure as once thought. These factors have led to Dr. Ramsey and many other veterinarians to recommend reduced frequency of vaccinations while at the same time tailoring vaccine recommendations to specific risk situations.
Is vaccinating my pet a risk to his or her health?
Vaccination against disease is a medical procedure and, like all medical procedures, carries some inherent risk. As in any medical procedure or decision, the benefits must be balanced against the risks. Veterinarians recommend that no needless risks should be taken and that the best way to accomplish that is to reduce the number and frequency of administration of unnecessary vaccines. The choice in type and frequency of vaccines is determined by your dog's age, lifestyle, and potential exposure to infectious diseases.
What possible risks are associated with vaccination?
Vaccine reactions, of all types, are infrequent. In general, most vaccine reactions and side effects (such as local pain and swelling) are self-limiting. Allergic reactions are less common, but if untreated can be fatal. These can occur soon after vaccination. If you see such a reaction, please contact us as soon as possible. In very rare cases, vaccines can stimulate the patient's immune system against his or her own tissues, resulting in diseases that affect the blood, skin, joints or nervous system. Again, such reactions are infrequent but can be life threatening. There is a possible complication of a tumor developing at the vaccination site in a small number of pets, most frequently cats.
How do I know which vaccines my pet needs?
There are two general groups of vaccines to consider: core and noncore vaccines.
Core vaccines are generally recommended for all dogs and protect against diseases that are more serious or potentially fatal. These diseases are found in all areas of North America and are more easily transmitted than noncore diseases. The AAHA guidelines define the following as core vaccines: distemper, adenovirus, parvovirus and rabies. Noncore vaccines are those reserved for patients at specific risk for infection due to exposure or lifestyle. The AAHA guidelines classify kennel cough, Lyme disease and leptospirosis vaccines within the noncore group.
Due to our location in Missouri, leptosporsis is recommended for all dogs due to an increased number of cases and the risk for human infection.
How often should my dog be vaccinated?
Make sure that your dog completes the initial series of core vaccines administered at the puppy stage, as well as booster shots at one year of age. Following these one-year boosters, the AAHA Canine Vaccine Guidelines recommend that the distemper, adenovirus and parvovirus core vaccines be administered once every three years. The rabies vaccine can also be given every 3 years after the initial 1 year vaccine.
Noncore vaccinations should be administered whenever the risk of the disease is significant enough to override any risk of vaccination. For example, kennel cough vaccine may need to be administered up to every six months in a dog repeatedly being kenneled or exposed to groups of dogs at grooming salons or dog shows.
Does this mean I only need to see the veterinarian every three years?
Regular wellness examinations, at least once or twice a year, are the most important preventive measure that you can provide for your dog. Vaccinations are just one component of the wellness visit. To help keep your dog in optimum health, regular wellness examinations are critical ? regardless of how often vaccines are administered. Remember, dogs age at a much faster rate than humans, so a once-yearly exam is similar to a human getting a physical every 5-7 years. Plus they don't always show signs of early disease, and they can't easily communicate discomfort to us. During the wellness exam, your veterinarian has an opportunity to detect and prevent problems at an early stage.
Can a test be done to see if my dog needs to be vaccinated?
Tests that measure protective antibody levels for diseases are called titers. In recent years reliable titer tests for some diseases such as canine distemper and parvovirus have become more readily available and economical. Veterinarians may recommend using these titer tests in some cases to determine whether or not vaccinations are needed. Your veterinarian can provide you with more information on titer testing.
For more information or answers related directly to your pet's health, give us a call to set up a time you can visit with Dr. Molly one on one.