As soon as you get a new dog, you’ll hear about the vaccinations they need. For a new pet parent, that can be confusing! You’ll hear one thing from a breeder, another thing from Google, and another thing from a random person at a park.
Let’s start with this: Vaccinations are amazing. Vaccines are, legitimately, the BEST way to kick the worst diseases in the face. And it all happens by tricking your dog’s body into thinking that there’s an invasion.
Let’s explain why vaccinations are awesome. We also hope that this blog will help answer your questions about vaccines.
Why should my dog be vaccinated?
When parvovirus emerged in the early ’70s, it swept the world in two short years. This deadly disease was unstoppable. It shuts down the immune system just as it starts shredding through the gut.
Then, a vaccine emerged. Dogs were vaccinated en masse and the vaccine worked so well, parvovirus was stopped in its tracks. Cases are rare now, although prevalence definitely changes with postcode.
That anecdote illustrates two important points:
- How effective vaccination is
- How important it is that everyone is vaccinated
The average dog, upon receiving a vaccination, produces an immune response which protects them against infection. There has been research to show that immunity can last for up to 7 years.
However, not every dog responds to vaccination nor is every dog suitable for vaccination. There are dogs who will never respond to a vaccination; their immune system just doesn’t get it. There are also dogs who are sick and cannot be vaccinated.
That’s why it’s important to vaccinate every, single healthy dog. We’re trying to take steps toward eradication, not just prevention. That means we vaccinate to create “herd immunity”; which means we protect individuals that cannot be vaccinated by being vaccinated.
What vaccinations should my dog get?
There are 2 groups of vaccines: core and non-core.
The core vaccine protects against Canine Distemper, Canine Infectious Hepatitis, and Canine Parvovirus. This is what is known as the C3. The C3 is considered a core vaccine because the diseases it protects against have global prevalence and are deadly if contracted.
The C3 protects against:
- Canine distemper virus which affects the nervous system. Early signs of distemper include eye and nasal discharge, fever, lethargy, vomiting and diarrhoea.
- Canine infectious hepatitis which causes liver damage, jaundice, vomiting, diarrhoea, and abdominal pain.
- Canine parvovirus which causes immunosuppresion and haemorrhagic diarrhoea.
Non-core vaccines are dependent on the geographical location of the dog, as certain diseases are more prevalent in certain locations. This includes the rabies vaccine, the kennel cough vaccine, and the leptospirosis vaccine, just to name a few.
At My Vet Animal Hospital, our doggy furbabies are vaccinated against kennel cough. We consider this really important because we live in a high density area with very social pups. The kennel cough vaccine reduces the severity of symptoms and lower the chances of being infected with kennel cough. However, unlike the C3, being vaccinated against kennel cough doesn’t guarantee prevention. This is because the kennel cough vaccine is very much like the flu vaccine; it only protects against the worst pathogens, not the entire list of pathogens that can cause kennel cough.
How often should I vaccinate my dog?
The answer lies somewhere between industry guidelines and the World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) guidelines.
A couple of C3 vaccines are actually approved to finish at 10 weeks. This means that puppies vaccinated with these vaccines technically get their last vaccine at 10 weeks! Other vaccines require puppies to get their last vaccination at 16 weeks.
WSAVA, however, makes no distinctions and recommends a minimum of five vaccines before a puppy turns a year old! See below a couple of their recommended schedules.
We recommend discussing your dog’s vaccination schedule with your veterinarian! In some areas where vaccination is considered a higher risk, frequent revaccination is absolutely warranted, while in others, vaccination may be less frequently performed. This again, goes back to the concept of herd immunity – it all depends on the population! (We discuss this in another blog. Stay tuned!)
Your veterinarian very likely makes the decision based on the local prevalence of disease, proportion of vaccinated dogs, and the registration of the vaccine.
Are vaccinations harmful?
In practice, the most common side effects are lethargy, inappetance, and a little bump where they’ve gotten the injection under the skin. More uncommonly, we can see vomiting and diarrhoea; we don’t consider this normal and you’ll need to let us know if this happens!
That said, vaccinations are not, in themselves, harmful. Millions of doses have been administered without issue and the establishment of herd immunity is paramount for maintaining the health of the entire community of dogs.
Does my dog need a rabies or leptospirosis vaccination?
Not if you live in New South Wales, Australia! Australia is rabies-free, unlike many other countries, so the rabies vaccine is absolutely not mandatory. The exception is if your furbaby is flying overseas! Meanwhile, Leptospirosis is most prevalent in the northern Australian states, so while it is a requirement there, it is considered a non-core vaccine in New South Wales.
But, as always, consult your vet!
Can I over-vaccinate my dog?
“Over-vaccination” has been thrown around so much that the phrase has lost meaning. Can you vaccinate your dog every single month with little to no effect? Yes. Can you experience a negative side effect if you vaccinate your dog every single month? Also, yes.
For example, we personally like to avoid doing what is medically unnecessary, which is why we use the triennial C3 vaccination.
If you’re interested in learning more about vaccinations, you can check out the WSAVA guidelines and discuss them with your vet!