Vaccinations are supposed to protect your dog from different illnesses, and some definitely do and are essential (core vaccines). Not all vaccines may be needed, and many holistic veterinarians make an argument that the discomfort and side effects from certain dog vaccines might seem not worth it. Pet owners also question if dog vaccines are necessary at all. So here are 10 things you should know about before you make the choice to vaccinate your dog.
ALSO READ: 10 Vaccines That Dogs May Be Allergic To
1. Dog vaccines are grouped into two categories – the core and non-core vaccines
Most veterinarians will recommend getting the core vaccines as these are designed to protect your canine companion from the more dangerous diseases like Adenovirus or Canine Hepatitis, Canine Distemper, Parvovirus and Rabies. The non-core vaccines are for bacterial diseases like Adenovirus Intranasal, Bordetella (kennel cough), Canine Influenza, Leptospirosis, Lyme Disease, Parainfluenza.
2. Leptospirosis vaccines are sometimes given with core vaccines
In some cases, leptospirosis vaccines are administered as a four-way shot with combination vaccines for Parvovirus, Distemper and Canine Influenza. However, it's probably better to get this vaccine separately as it would be hard to detect the side effects, if any, in a combination vaccine.
Moreover, giving too many vaccines in one shot can raise the possibility of having side effects. This is the reason why booster shots, including those for humans, are spaced out months or years apart after the first shot to ensure that there will be no harmful effects.
3. Core vaccine protection may last for years
The core vaccines may protect the dogs years after the first shot, according to a team of veterinarians from the American Animal Hospital Association Canine Vaccine Taskforce forum. This means that it might not be necessary to re-vaccinate the dog every year. It's possible he might not even need the core vaccination done for the rest of his life.
Most recent findings on these dog vaccines negated what veterinarians recommended in the 1970s or earlier, where it was said that dogs should be given booster shots for their immunities. But the current viewpoint suggests that more vaccines is not actually better.
4. Non-core vaccines are not quite efficient
There's not enough scientific research to prove the efficiency rates of non-core vaccines since these are bacterial treatments. Some dogs might actually develop side effects from these vaccines, according to Dogs Naturally Magazine.
5. Some vaccines are required by law
Some states require the administration of dog vaccines, thus veterinarians have to comply with these vaccination laws. But the laws for rabies vaccinations differ from state to state. You can check state laws and ordinances in your city in this PDF from American Veterinary Medical Foundation.
6. Non-core vaccines can also be toxic to dogs
The two main ingredients in bacterial vaccines are thimerosal and gentamicin. But according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), these ingredients are also in antibiotics or used as preservatives. Thus, it may have toxic levels that your dog's body cannot endure or may not be immune to.
7. The AAHA does not recommend Canine Coronavirus vaccinations (CCV)
The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) published a document (PDF here) where they state that they're against giving dogs vaccines for coronavirus since it bears little effects but it could lead to serious complications. CCV might lead to the development of subclinical disease and can be self-limiting, especially if the vaccine was administered in pups younger than six weeks.
8. Vets still advise pet owners to get some vaccines
Some veterinarians might still recommend getting certain dog vaccines, particularly if the disease is rampant in your city or community. But it is still up to you to make the choice. It will help if you keep yourself informed about these diseases. For instance, research about the rate of dog influenza in your city and read up on the pros and cons of this vaccines since the virus can spread pretty fast.
9. Kennels might require Bordetella vaccine if you're boarding your dog
Bordetella vaccine is supposed to protect the dog from a kennel cough. If you plan to be away and leave your pup in a dog hotel while you're gone, you might be asked to get the dog vaccinated for this disease. But if you can, arrange to sign a waiver instead stating that the boarding facility will not be responsible if your dog develops a kennel cough. Or it might be better to hire a pet sitter or house sitter who can look after your dog and your property while you're away. No need to bring the pet to the kennel.
10. The main factors to consider when getting your dog vaccinated are your dog's age, size, breed, medical history and allergies, and the number of shots
Same as with spaying/neutering a dog, certain vaccines are risky for puppies who are too young. There is actually an age minimum requirement since pups still have not developed their immune systems. Make sure to ask your vet about the minimum age requirement. Old dogs, on the other hand, might have their immunity compromised so it's also difficult to administer vaccines knowing the risks and side effects.
If your dog is small or underweight, it's not advisable to inject vaccines. Good vets will wait to administer this until the dog's weight and general health are in order.
Some breeds are also more sensitive to dog vaccines than others. For instance, German Shepherds, Australian Sheepdogs, Border Collies, and Longhaired Whippet have the MDR1 gene that might make them struggle and feel weak after vaccinations like Ivermectin, which is usually given for protection against parasites.
For some dog owners, vaccinating their dogs will help alleviate the worries and give them peace of mind. Core vaccines are usually essential and have the least side effects. But other pet owners believe that vaccinating a dog might cause more harm than good.
Read and research about dog vaccines, and don't be shy about asking your veterinarian specific questions. Talk to other pet parents and get feedback about their dogs' vaccinations, if any, to help with your decision. Keep a dialogue with your veterinarian going and convey your fears and worries as well, so that the vet will also be able to guide you in making the right choice for the sake of your dog's health.