Vaccines are a hot topic right now.
There are many people pro-vaccinations and many against, with some valid points from both sides of the argument. And after extensively researching for this article, I strongly advise you to do the same before deciding on a vaccine programme for your pooch.
Delve online to find out about the different vaccinations that are recommended to clarify…
a) if that vaccine is really needed (if you don’t live in certain areas, some aren’t)
b) if your dog’s breed is renowned for adverse reactions to a particular vaccine (smaller dog breeds get the same ‘hit’ as large breeds, so consider what’s necessary and what’s not)
c) how often you should go for the booster (it’s almost never annually)
d) if there’s a method for checking antibody levels before deciding to get the recommended annual boosters (there is – blood titres, more on this later)
Vaccinations for our canine friends are certainly beneficial. They’ve helped eradicate a number of deadly illnesses worldwide. And so, there are a few core vaccines that your pup should have:
- Extremely contagious
- Cause: paramyxovirus virus
- What it attacks: respiratory, gastrointestinal, and central nervous systems
- Symptoms: fever, runny nose, eye discharge, lethargy, lack of appetite, coughing, vomiting, diarrhoea, seizures.
HEPATITIS (ADENOVIRUS TYPE 1)
- Cause: contracted through the faeces and urine of infected dogs
- What it attacks: the liver
- Symptoms: lack of appetite, lethargy, fever, eye and nasal discharge, cough, eye cloudiness
- Extremely contagious
- Cause: direct contact with infected faeces or with virus-contaminated objects such as a food bowl, toys, etc.
- Symptoms: vomiting, diarrhoea, dehydration, lethargy, fever
These three core vaccines are usually given together in one shot at 11, 14 and 16 weeks, then there’s a booster after one year. But, if you can have them administered separately that would so much better for your dog – more on that in a mo.
Finally, depending on where you live, rabies is classed as another core vaccine.
- Extremely contagious
- Cause: virus
- What it attacks: muscles, especially in the head and throat
- Symptoms: restless, irritable, aggressive, fever, difficulty swallowing, excessive drooling, staggering, seizures
It’s then suggested that these vaccines are boosted annually. For life. And this is where the grey area starts.
Do dogs really need an annual booster?
Remember, each time you administer a vaccination, you’re injecting your dog with a dose of that infectious disease which he or she will likely feel, and then suffer some kind of a reaction to – mild or worse.
So don’t just ‘go for it’ because everyone else says so.
Of course manufacturers want them to be given annually, it’s big business! For your dog’s sake, however, consider if it’s actually needed first – there’s plenty of information online to the contrary.
What you can do to check if a booster shot is needed is get a blood titre test instead (also a cheaper, more definitive test).
Blood titre tests check your dog’s current immunity level for each disease, rather than administering the booster ‘just in case’. In fact this method is now advocated by the WSAVA (World Small Animal Veterinary Association) to avoid unnecessary immunisations.
A titre stops unnecessary antigens being put in your dog’s system, which causes the immune system to produce antibodies against it.
Stops unnecessary adjuvants being put in your dog’s system, which enhances the immune system’s response to the presence of an antigen.
And stops unnecessary preservatives being put in your dog’s system, which increases the shelf life of vaccines.
The titre will check if your dog’s immune response has dropped below a level of adequate immune memory. If not, you don’t need the booster yet.
One final point on the administering of vaccines… some vets may suggest administering the 7 in 1 jab – seven vaccines in one injection which covers canine distemper, adenovirus, hepatitis, parainfluenza, parvovirus, leptospirosis and coronavirus. But as I’ve already said, your dog may not even need some of these vaccines!
According to the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA), canine coronavirus shouldn’t be administered at all, because it generally occurs in dogs younger than 6 weeks (pre-vaccine age anyway) and it typically resolves itself without treatment.
And, by giving a dog too many vaccinations in one go, you increase the probability of some truly awful side effects.
So, for the vaccines that are needed, have them administered one at a time if that’s an option. It may not be because the manufacturers often pair them up, at least, but always worth checking with your vet.
And don’t be pushed into something you’re not comfortable with. Talk to your vet, or even find a new one if they aren’t open to your concerns or willing to discuss.
Your dog is your family. His (or hers) health and wellbeing comes first.