Published on January 6th, 2015 | by Debbie Martin0
Dog vaccinations and what you should know
When puppies first come into the world, they are exposed to all manner of nasty bacteria. Thankfully, nature has an ingenious way of protecting puppies from the worst of them; very young puppies are typically protected from infections by their mother’s milk – provided the mother herself has had her dog vaccinations.
However, this protection doesn’t last forever. After a couple of months, it becomes time for additional injections. There are two of these and in puppies they are typically administered when the puppy is between eight and ten weeks old. This should stand the puppy in good stead for at least a year, after which, a booster will be required.
As a dog ages, the immunity offered by these initial shots may fall into decline. It is advisable in most cases that an additional booster be administered annually. A vet will be able to offer additional advice.
What exactly is my dog being inoculated against?
Not all vaccines are the same; some will guard against diseases which others will not. Generally speaking, however, a number of diseases will be covered, including:
These diseases are hardly household names; indeed, the vast majority of people have never heard of them. These disease are uncommon, largely thanks to a widespread program of vaccination.
Is this a reason to not bother vaccinating? Of course not. As rare as these diseases may be, there is still a chance that your dog may come into contact with them – and the results can often be fatal, especially since the average vet has barely any experience with them. Why go through the heartbreak later down the line when you can protect your dog now before anything happens in the first place?
Do I really need to give my dog an annual vaccination?
The efficacy of annual vaccinations is much disputed outside of vetinary circles. The most enduring of these theories is that vaccinations are a cynical ploy on behalf of the pharmaceutical industry, in order to persuade concerned pet owners to part with their hard-earned cash.
It is unclear whether these concerns are warranted. As with any theory of this type, it is impossible to disprove that this is the case. If you are suffering from doubts, then a chat with your vet may assuage them.
You should, however, be aware of a number of points which are often cited as reasons to avoid vaccinating – and also the arguments against them.
Rareness of the diseases
This objection has already been mentioned and is perhaps the most widespread: the diseases these annual vaccines protect against are extremely rare. But this is only because they have been vaccinated against. Indeed, areas in which vaccination is not widespread suffer from greatly increased numbers of dogs suffering from the diseases in question. This is further evidence, if any were needed, of the efficacy of vaccination.
Like any biological organism, successive generations of the virus can mutate and thereby evolve to combat preventative measures. In humans, this evolution takes place over an incomprehensible span of time. Viruses, however, are much shorter lived – a year is enough time for an enormous number of virus generations. Consequently, new strains of a virus, resistant to a vaccine, may emerge. It is important, therefore, that dogs are protected against these new strains. The best way of doing this is by regularly vaccinating.
Are vaccines harmful?
Another popular idea is that vaccines can actually cause harm than good. Needless to say, there is little substance behind this objection. These vaccines are among the most vigorously tested of all animal medications. Even if a minute risk were to be present, it would be vastly outweighed by the risks of not vaccinating.
That said, vaccination does, in some instances, bring about some side effects. Though these instances are rare, dog owners should be aware of the possibilities before proceeding.
What are the side effects of vaccination?
In the overwhelming majority of cases, vaccination will incur no adverse side effects at all. If you have ever been vaccinated against flu yourself, you will have an idea of what to expect – you will feel a little under the weather for a day or so, after which you’ll be fine.
In some cases, the vaccine will produce a little bump where the needle went into the skin. While this may be slightly uncomfortable for the dog, it is no cause for alarm – and it should vanish entirely in a matter of days.
There are, however, some cases where a vaccination will produce a more serious reaction. These are a kind of allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis. The consequences of these reactions can be incredibly serious and in some instances, fatal. For this reason, the dog should be monitored in the days following an injection. If your dog should begin to vomit, or collapse, or go into seizure, then they should immediately be rushed to the vet.
All of this probably sounds alarming for those considering getting their dog vaccinated. While anaphylaxis is undoubtedly one of the most serious conditions a dog can face, it is worth stressing again the rareness of such an outcome following an injection. Of the millions of dogs who are vaccinated every day, only a tiny fraction suffer from anaphylaxis.
Are these the only vaccines I need to give my dog?
The annual refresher vaccination is an important measure toward protecting your dog from disease, but it is not a catch-all solution. Other vaccinations may be required in other special circumstances.
For example, if your dog has to visit a kennel, they may be exposed to other dogs, some of which will carry diseases. It is advisable, therefore, that such dogs are vaccinated against kennel cough – a highly contagious disease which thrives in kennels and whose symptoms can persist for weeks on end.
Similarly, when you are travelling to foreign countries your dog will need to be protected against other diseases, such as rabies and against parasites transmitted through mosquito bites, like the often fatal heartworm. If you intend to take your dog somewhere new, then speak to your vet about the required and recommended vaccinations – they will be able to advise you which, if any, are needed.