Understanding Dog Vaccines and Vaccination Schedules

Vaccines are a controversial subject, but the need for them is difficult to dispute. Unfortunately. dogs are highly susceptible to a large range of infectious diseases, some of which can have fatal consequences. If you want a healthy dog that will live to a ripe old age, then the right vaccine schedule is imperative.

Vaccines are the first barrier of defence against certain diseases, and remain even today the most effective preventative measure you, as an owner can take. Fortunately, canine vaccine treatments have come a long way, meeting rigorous ethical and medical standards. There is no one size fits all vaccine schedule. Different dogs need different vaccines depending on breed, environmental considerations and other factors. This guide will equip you with knowledge of the essential vaccines and a schedule of when to have them administered.


Why does your dog need vaccines?

There are certain diseases that your dog is vulnerable to, which will be discussed further below. But for now, it is best to think of vaccines as putting an invisible bullet proof jacket on your dog. Just like humans require certain vaccinations, dogs are exactly the same. Their immune system may seem robust because they eat absolutely everything from pond water to animal excrement on their walk, but some diseases, such as rabies, will have a devastating effect on even the healthiest dog. That is why The World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) issues strong advice emphasising the importance of core vaccines. Core vaccines are the essential vaccines any dog needs, and they will be discussed next. Other vaccines are classed as non-essential, but dependant on the breed, age and other considerations, your dog may be suitable to receive. Advice on specific non-core vaccines can be sought from your locals vet.


What core vaccines does your dog need?

Core vaccines are those determined essential for all dogs, based on the severity of the disease, the level of exposure, and the risk of transmission to humans. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the AVMA Council on Biologic and Therapeutic Agents recommend the following vaccines as essential:

Canine Hepatitis


Canine Parvovirus


All dogs should receive these vaccines and can receive them from their local vets.


What are the non-core vaccines your dog should possibly get?

There are also a number of non-core vaccines dogs could need, depending on factors such as level of exposure, age, and breed. These are vaccines to protect against:

Bordetella bronchiseptica (causes kennel cough)

Leptospira bacteria

Borrelia burgdorferi (causes Lyme disease)

For more information on whether your dog is suitable for one of the non-core vaccines, consult a medical professional or your local vets, who will be able to give you advice on such treatments.


What should your dog's vaccine schedule look like?

So you have established your dog either needs a core vaccine or might need a non-core vaccine, but how do you go about establishing what their vaccine schedule should look like?


Veterinarian, Dr. Jean Dodd has undertaken a wealth of research and used her own experience to put together a typical core vaccine schedule for your dog:

  • 9-10 weeks- Distemper and Parvovirus

  • 14-15 weeks- Distemper and Parvovirus

  • 18 weeks- Parvovirus only (new research suggests the last Parvovirus vaccine for your puppy should be at 18 weeks old)

  • 20 weeks or older (dependant on law in your state)- Rabies (given 3-4 weeks apart from other vaccines)

  • 12 months- Distemper and Parvovirus (optional booster)

  • 12 months- Rabies (given 3-4 weeks apart from other vaccines)

This is a rough guide for what to expect when it comes to having your dog vaccinated with the essential vaccines. A schedule for non-core vaccines will depend on the vaccine itself, the age and breed of the dog, as well as any other factors your vet may consider important.


Now you know

Now you have a clear understanding of why it is vital dogs receive their core vaccines, and why non-core vaccines should also be explored with your vet. You also have a guideline for a vaccine schedule so you know what to expect when it comes to the timescale of your dog's vaccines. Most importantly, you have the knowledge to keep your dog fit and healthy, and by your side for as long as possible.

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