The Importance of Vaccinations for Dogs

Posted by Jackie Ly on

dog getting vaccinated

Vaccinations are important in building your pet’s immunity and avoiding viruses and infections. Doing what you can to keep them healthy are all great things– taking them out for a walk, giving them training they need, feeding them a balanced diet, and keeping their skin clean are all essential in maintaining their overall wellbeing. 

But there are still persistent viruses and diseases that can still attack your dog. And the only effective prevention is vaccination.  

Vaccinating your pet shows your dedication to keep them healthy. 

Here are important things you should know about vaccinations, and why they are important for your dog.

How do vaccines work?

Pet vaccines work the same way as human vaccines. They exist to keep your pet healthy. They offer protection against a variety of contagious illnesses that can affect both people and animals.

Vaccines work by triggering the body's immune system to recognize and fight a specific microorganism such as a virus, bacteria, or other infectious organisms. They contain a  weakened or altered virus or bacterium that is no longer dangerous or virulent but is still capable of triggering the body's immune system to create antibodies.

Once your dog is exposed to the actual disease-causing bacteria or virus, these antibodies will give them protection and fight the virus. Antibodies stay in your dog’s body for a limited time, that is why boosters are needed. 

Yet according to new studies, not all vaccines need yearly boosters. To determine if your dog needs boosters, blood tests are sometimes recommended to measure levels of antibodies. Or you and your vet can determine your dog’s risks. 

Storage and delivery of vaccines requires a series of precisely organised actions in temperature-controlled environments. From the time they are made until the moment of vaccination, vaccines must be stored continuously within a set temperature range. Vaccines should be stored in their recommended temperature to preserve its potency. If they are exposed to too high or too low temperatures, they can lose their potency. Due to this, it’s another major decision which vet clinic you’d trust for your dog’s vaccines. 

Healthy and relaxed animals respond to vaccinations best. A vet might weigh risk factors when vaccinating sick or poorly puppies, or when your dog is undergoing surgery. The average time it takes for the body to react and build immunity is seven days. Giving your dog a vaccination while they're sick will result in lower effectiveness of the vaccine. And other medications or treatments may interfere or cause too much stress on the dog’s immune system. 

And remember that vaccines act more as a preventative measure than as a treatment for illnesses.

Types of vaccines

Pet vaccines have two categories: Core vaccines and Non-core vaccines.

Core vaccines

The World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) defines core vaccines as the ones that every dog should have, regardless of age, environment, habits, breed, or situation. They can avoid catching globally distributed life-threatening illnesses by receiving core vaccinations.

In Australia, core vaccines for dogs include: 

  • canine distemper virus
  • canine adenovirus
  • canine parvovirus

These vaccines are often bundled into one injection known as a "C3 vaccine."

Non-core vaccines

Non-core vaccines are ones needed depending on the environment your dog lives in. This includes place of residence, environment, and lifestyle.

Non-core vaccines include:

  • parainfluenza virus
  • bordetella bronchiseptica
  • leptospira interrogans

The WSAVA defines a third category of vaccinations that are not recommended, like the Canine enteric coronavirus. These types of vaccines lack sufficient scientific support for either their usage or effectiveness. In this case, it is better not to take the vaccination for your dog than to risk anything.

How often should dogs get vaccinated?

While it was common in Australia to vaccinate your pet every 12 months, recent studies have shown that some vaccines are still effective after more than a year.

The amount of time between each vaccination depends on the age of your dog. Puppies  typically receive three vaccinations over the course of six months, and may need follow-up shots every year or even every three years. 

In most cases, core vaccinations are given every three years, or even more often if your dog's circumstances and environment allow for it.

Importance of vaccination for dogs

It keeps your dog healthy

Vaccination is essential for the health of your dog. Vaccinations guard them against a variety of diseases and infections. It's best to  start getting their shots as early as possible. Newborn dogs still have a weakened immune system and they need vaccinations and booster doses as the months go by to help avoid diseases.

Senior dogs also require an immune system boost to stay healthy as they age. Veterinarians stress that prevention is always better than cure. Maintaining vaccination schedules for your pet is one of the best ways to keep them protected.

It prevents disease

Vaccines help protect your dog from a variety of extremely dangerous and infectious diseases.  Although mothers give their newborn pups some immunity through the colostrum in their milk, this immunity only lasts for a short time. The best way to guarantee a long and happy life for your dog is to help supply immunity by vaccinating them against common illnesses.

Here are four common diseases that vaccinations fight against.

Canine distemper

Canine Distemper is an extremely infectious disease and is transmitted through discharges from the nose and eyes of infected dogs. Lethargy, fever, coughing, diarrhoea, and vomiting are common symptoms. In the final stages, neurological signs including convulsions and paralysis may appear.

Canine distemper is extremely difficult to cure and sometimes deadly, and your greatest line of defence against it is vaccination. Even if your dog recovers from the disease, several body parts, including the neurological system, are often permanently damaged.

Canine hepatitis

Canine Adenovirus Type I, which causes infectious canine hepatitis, spreads among dogs by contact with fluids like saliva, contaminated urine, or faeces. A variety of clinical signs are associated with canine hepatitis including liver failure, eye damage; this disease can either be mild or severe.

Canine parvovirus

Canine parvovirus is a debilitating and extremely infectious disease transmitted through infected faeces. Puppies and older, unvaccinated dogs are at most risk. The virus itself is extremely resilient and may survive for several months in the atmosphere.

Fever, sluggishness, vomiting, and bloody diarrhoea are all symptoms of canine parvovirus. The only effective way to protect against this potentially lethal illness is vaccination. 

Kennel cough

The term "kennel cough" is used to refer to a number of bacteria and viruses, such as Bordetella Bronchiseptica, Canine Parainfluenza virus, and Canine Adenovirus Type II, which cause respiratory problems in dogs.

Kennel Cough is characterised by a dry hacking cough that can last weeks and is brought on by airborne transmission of the pathogenic bacteria and viruses. All dogs should have the vaccine as it's a very contagious disease that, in some pets, can progress to deadly pneumonia.

Protects your family’s health

Vaccinations protect your dog against infectious diseases, and when they’re protected, they are less likely to spread any virus in your home, guaranteeing your entire family’s health too!

Vaccinations for dogs are recommended by veterinary health professionals in order to safeguard the dog's human caretakers. Pet vaccinations help avoid zoonotic diseases like rabies and leptospirosis that may be transmitted from animals to people. 

These are essential if you have family members who are immunocompromised, such as young children, the elderly, or those who have chronic illnesses.

Protects other pets

Several dog diseases are contagious– Canine influenza, kennel cough, and parvovirus are all contagious to other dogs.

Regular vaccinations are advised by veterinarians since they protect not only you but also other dogs  in your home as well as your neighbourhood. Your dog won't spread any infections to other dogs  if they're vaccinated. 

You're sure that no other dogs  will become sick if a bite happens, too. Unvaccinated dogs can be a serious liability.

Required for travelling 

When travelling with your dog internationally, general vaccines are required, and one of the key prerequisites for pet travel overseas is an up-to-date vaccination record. While Australia is a rabies-free country, other countries require vaccinations for your dog, and vice versa if your dog comes from other countries. Travel is also when your dog might need rabies and leptospirosis vaccines.

Bonus: More savings on immunizations than expensive treatments

Veterinarians advised that if you regularly vaccinate your dog, you'll spend less on overall pet healthcare. Vaccinations protect your dog and prevent them from getting sick, thus, you can worry less about them getting sick and the expensive treatments needed. 

After all, prevention is more inexpensive than cure.

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