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Vaccinating Your Dog

Vaccinating your dog is a more controversial topic than ever before. If you ask five different veterinarians what vaccinations your dogs need, you will probably get five different answers! This article is based on my veterinary opinion, with information from research articles added for support. Your veterinarian may do things differently from this, which does not mean it is wrong, just different.

Let’s start with a puppy. Most veterinarians recommend starting puppy vaccinations between 6 and 9 weeks of age. Core vaccines include some type of distemper and parvovirus combination vaccine and rabies. Vaccines are boostered every 3-4 weeks until usually 16 weeks of age. State law dictates when the rabies vaccination is administered. Individual veterinarians may also offer a kennel cough vaccination, a Giardia vaccine, a Lyme disease vaccine, coronavirus vaccine, and canine hepatitis vaccine. All of these are controversial and vary by veterinary preference and geographic location.

Puppies need vaccinations because their immune systems do not recognize these viruses or bacteria and they can become ill. When we really start getting into the controversy is when we talk about revaccination. Many veterinarians believe that boosters must be given one year after the puppy series is complete. After this, anything goes. Some practices booster the vaccines every year, some every two years, some every three, some every five. It is important for you to talk with your veterinarian and find out what the vaccination policy is. Ask questions about why it is done a certain way. If you are not comfortable with your veterinarian’s policy, ask if you can make an individual plan for your dog. Most veterinarians will be more than happy to work with you, especially if you are committed to bringing your dog in for annual check-ups (even if no vaccines are due).

Vaccine titers can be run in place of vaccinations at annual check-ups. Blood is drawn and the serum (liquid part of the blood) is submitted to a laboratory that can run the test. A number result is obtained from the test that helps your veterinarian tell if your pet has protection from the viruses that we vaccinate against. Titers are another controversial topic, with some veterinarians believing that they do not offer any valuable information.

There is some information available that blames vaccines for many health problems. Scientific proof of this is not available, but many veterinarians are researching this topic so that we can do the best thing for all pets. In the United States, we have a relatively low prevalence of some serious viral diseases that are contagious between dogs. Rabies is a disease that is contagious not only between different species of animals, but also contagious to people through the bite of an infected animal. Vaccinations have prevented rabies from becoming a health hazard to the same degree that it is in some other countries where vaccination is not as common, or greater populations of animals live in close contact with humans. Do your research and talk it over with your veterinarian. Above all, act responsibly to protect the health of your pet and your family.

Please note that this information does not replace professional veterinary care. It is solely for educational purposes. Your pet's medical condition should be evaluated by a veterinarian before any medical decisions are implemented. If there is a potentially life-threatening emergency involving your pet, take your pet to a veterinarian or veterinary facility immediately.

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