Vaccines are a vital part of your dog's health care. They provide protection by giving her immunity to many of the most common canine diseases. Vaccines also provide protection for all of the dogs around her by reducing her chance of catching and spreading these diseases to other dogs in the local population. Although some risks are associated with vaccinations, it is more appropriate to ask your veterinarian about altering your dog's vaccination schedule based on your dog's needs, than skipping the vaccinations.
How Vaccines Work
Vaccines prepare your dog's body to fight off common diseases to which they might become exposed. They introduce the antigens associated with diseases in such a way that your dog's body creates antibodies without ever having contracted them, providing protection in the event that she is exposed. When all dogs in an area are vaccinated against certain diseases, this shared immunity effectively eliminates the disease from that area's population.
The core vaccines include canine hepatitis, canine parvovirus, distemper and rabies. Although all vaccines are important to some dogs, these vaccines are important to all dogs based on the possibility that a dog will be exposed to them or, in the case of rabies, that the disease will be transferred to humans who come into contact with dogs who have the disease.
Puppy Vaccination Schedule
It is recommended that puppies get the core vaccinations once the immunity conferred by their mothers has dissipated. A puppy should be vaccinated against bordetella, also called kennel cough, if she will be among large numbers of dogs, such as at a dog park, kennel, dog show or day care. A typical puppy vaccination schedule for core vaccines is as follows:
- 6 or 7 weeks
- 9 weeks
- 12 weeks
- 16 weeks
Veterinarians may require that a puppy receive a vaccination for parvovirus at the age of 5 weeks.
Vaccinations against Lyme disease, canine parainfluenza and leptospirosis are considered noncore vaccines and are not required for all dogs. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, noncore vaccines "are reserved for individual pets with unique needs." The dog's veterinarian should be consulted to determine if he requires these vaccines and how often he should have them. Typically, the Lyme disease vaccine is given with the dog's annual boosters, while canine parainfluenza and leptospirosis vaccines should be given every six months. The injectible bordetella vaccine should be given twice a year; however, the intranasal bordetella vaccine is suitable for annual use. Because it is a powerful medication, the leptospirosis vaccine should be given separately from other vaccines.
Adult Vaccination Schedule
Some veterinarians recommend that adult dogs receive annual boosters for all vaccines, with bordetella boosters every six months for those dogs who require it. This schedule is currently under question, as it becomes apparent that vaccines confer longer-lasting immunity to various diseases than once thought. It may be possible to alternate between vaccinations every year or even wait a number of years between adult boosters. It is possible to determine if the dog still has immunity from his vaccinations through antibody tests.
Rabies Vaccination Schedule
All states require that dogs be vaccinated against rabies; however, some states require that the rabies vaccine be administered earlier than others. Many states require that rabies vaccines only be administered by a veterinarian. States typically require that puppies be vaccinated at 3 or at 4 months old, with regular boosters at least every three years during the dog's lifetime. Some states require an initial booster 12 months after the first vaccine, with regular boosters every three years after that. A very few states require rabies vaccination by 6 months old or require annual boosters.