If you're confused about whether or not your dog needs vaccines and how often they should be vaccinated, you're just one among many pet owners. The result of not knowing or following a vaccination schedule is that you could unknowingly expose your furry friend (and his/her furry friends) to dangerous, even fatal, illnesses. On the flip side, over-vaccination has its risks apart from being an unnecessary expense. This article highlights three important things all dog owners should know when dealing with vaccinations at their next pet consultation.
1. Not all vaccinations are necessary
Vaccinations are subdivided into "core" and "non-core" vaccinations. This doesn't mean that they are legally required; it just means that they are highly recommended for all animals since for protection from highly infectious and potentially fatal diseases. In dogs, core vaccinations (called C3) protect the animals from canine parvovirus virus, canine distemper and canine hepatitis (adenovirus). In addition, all dogs should be vaccinated against rabies to protect humans around them.
There are also non-core vaccinations which your vet will recommend based on where you live, the dog's health history and immunity levels and the age of the dog among other factors. As core vaccinations are christened C3, you can give vaccinations up to C7, which are named for the increasing number of diseases the dog is protected from.
2. More is not always better
All vaccinations have a period within which they are effective, and this is different for different vaccinations. It is essential to maintain a schedule of your pet's vaccinations so that you don't over- or under-vaccinate, both of which have their dangers. Contrary to popular belief, many vaccines can stay active in your pet's body for at least 4 years without needing a booster shot.
In many cases, dog owners ask for booster shots thinking that it "can't hurt" the dog to have too many vaccinations, but this just isn't true. Think about it: we don't get vaccinated every year for most of the shots we get as children because these vaccinations give lifetime protection.
Annual revaccinations for animals was recommended in the 70s when there wasn't enough information to understand how pet vaccinations work because of scanty scientific studies on the subject. Today, you should talk to your veterinarian about booster shot durations and draw up an immunization schedule that works best for your dog in your region.
3. Earlier is better
This may have little to no benefit for dog owners who adopt adult dogs, but the most effective vaccinations are those given when the puppy is still young. This is why we also vaccinate babies and never need to again. For example, a single dose of modified live canine C3 vaccination administered to a 16-week old puppy has been shown to offer lifetime protection in most animals.
Vaccination schedules for puppies aren't the same as those of adult dogs; they involve repeat treatments every few weeks in the first weeks of life. If you have an adult dog whose vaccination history is unknown, a serological test may be used to determine where his/her immunity stands. Failing this, it is safest to give all vaccinations as though he/she never got them.