By: Abby Marshall | Reviewed by Dr. Clayton Greenway, B.Sc., DVM | Jun 28, 2018
There’s a lot of information out there nowadays about vaccination, with opinions running the gamut from “don’t do it at all” to “vaccinate every year.” It can be difficult to separate truth from fiction when deciding how to best care for your furry friend. Here we go over 5 reasons to vaccinate your dog.
Some of these diseases are life-threatening, and some, like rabies, can be transmitted to humans. These diseases are not as common as they once were because of vaccines, but they do still exist in the canine population. Your individual dog may not be at significant risk of exposure to one of these viruses, but preventing them from recurring within a population means controlling them on an individual level. If you prefer to avoid vaccinating your pet, it’s important to consider the societal responsibility of controlling these diseases on a wider scale. Providing immunity as a standard practice of care means protecting the dog or cat next door, down the street, or elsewhere in your city, state, province, or country.
If you’re concerned about giving your pet a vaccine, be sure to discuss this with your veterinarian. It’s important that you work together to understand your particular lifestyle and the risk that your pet will be exposed to the diseases that vaccines are meant to protect them from.
Vaccines are generally separated into two categories: core and non-core. Core vaccines protect against the most serious and life-threatening diseases, such as distemper, hepatitis, parvovirus, and parainfluenza (DHPP for short), all combined into one vaccine (one injection). Rabies is the other core vaccine, and it is given separately and is required by law in some areas. The designation of a vaccine being core or non-core is based on the recommended guidelines presented by the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) and Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA). Their websites can be visited for more information on administration and frequency of vaccination.
There are several other vaccinations otherwise known as non-core vaccines that can be added to the basic DHPP and rabies protocol, and they protect against leptospirosis, kennel cough, and Lyme disease. Your pet’s individual vaccine program should match your pet’s lifestyle, travel agenda, and regular exposure to other animals, as well as take into account your beliefs about vaccination while keeping in mind the social responsibility of keeping these diseases controlled within a population. You should think of these vaccines as recommended but not required.
Many vaccines, especially the core vaccines, are highly effective, and if given appropriately, do an excellent job of preventing contraction of the diseases they are intended to protect against. And even those that aren’t quite as powerful can reduce the severity of symptoms should your pet contract the disease and become ill. It is true that some vaccines don’t have the efficacy of others, and these should be given only if their benefits outweigh their risks.
Quality studies have been done on vaccine safety, and the results have shown that reactions occur in a very small portion of cases. Research in actual pet populations seems to indicate that the true incidence is even lower. And keep in mind that the majority of vaccine reactions in pets are hypersensitivity reactions, or allergic reactions, which can be easily treated and have no lasting effects. The bottom line: There is a much higher risk to your pet of becoming seriously ill from contracting a disease than from receiving a vaccine.
When vaccines first became commonplace, there was not much research available showing how long their efficacy would last. Therefore, it was standard practice to vaccinate a pet each year. This approach has been widely abandoned in recent years as veterinarians and researchers have developed more of an understanding as to how long the vaccines provide protection. While individual considerations need to be taken into account, it is generally standard practice to give a series of core vaccines to puppies between the ages of 6 and 16 weeks, with a booster a year later. The core vaccines are generally given every three years. You can discuss with your veterinarian the use of vaccine titer tests to reduce the frequency of vaccination, but there are conflicting views on the efficacy of these tests and their ability to confirm protective immunity against a disease.
Our pets rely on us to provide them with proper health care, good nutrition, and plenty of love. Vaccines are an essential tool in keeping your dog healthy and happy. Don’t let these myths prevent you from vaccinating your pet; learn the truth behind the science.
For a brief overview about the 5 reasons to vaccinate your dog take a look at the clip below!
Carmichael, LE. “Canine viral vaccines at a turning point – a personal perspective,” Advances in Veterinary Medicine 41 (1999): 289-308. Accessed June 15, 2018, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9890023
Stogdale, Lea. “Study of Canine Vaccine Antibody Responses,” Innovative Veterinary Care (February 3, 2017). Accessed June 15, 2018, https://ivcjournal.com/vaccine-antibody-responses/
Valli, J. Lois. “Suspected adverse reactions to vaccination in Canadian dogs and cats,” Canadian Veterinary Journal 56(10) (October 2015): 1090-1092. Accessed June 15, 2018, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4572830/
Canadian Veterinary Medical Association. “Vaccination and Your Dog.” Last modified July 20, 2016. Accessed June 15, 2018. https://www.canadianveterinarians.net/documents/vaccination-and-your-dog-animal-owners
UC Davis Veterinary Medicine. “Canine and Feline Vaccination Guidelines.” Last modified January 2018. Accessed June 15, 2018. http://www.vetmed.ucdavis.edu/vmth/small_animal/internal_medicine/newsletters/vaccination_protocols.cfm
the website of the American Animal Hospital Association; aaha.org
the website of the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association; canadianveterinarians.net
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