Vaccinations and Your Dog

It is very important to give your dog vaccinations! This is also a very important part of any total dog health care program. However, knowing what to vaccinate your dog for and how often to give your dog "its shots" are two very important questions. Basically, regular vaccines can prevent your dog from contracting many terrible diseases.

Canine parvovirus and canine distemper are two of the most important viruses to vaccinate for. Although your new puppy may squirm or even cry out when getting his shots, you must remember that it is just as important for your puppy to receive these "annual shots" as it is for your children to get their annual vaccines.

In fact, by keeping up to date on all your dog's vaccines, you could save his life. Basically, vaccinations are injections of a small dose of a specific disease (or combination of several diseases), which will prevent your puppy from developing that very disease by creating the necessary antibodies to fight it off later in life.


Most vets agree that it is vital to vaccinate puppies at 6 weeks of age and again at 8, 12, and 16 weeks for Distemper, Canine Infectious Hepatitis, Leptospirosis, Parainfluenza, Parvovirus, and Coronavirus (DHLPPC). It is also suggested that puppies are treated for rabies at six months of age and then repeat this process annually.

Some dog and puppy owners have concerns whether the repeated vaccines are really necessary and whether they are doing more harm than good. These shots work by stimulating the dog's immune system - encouraging it to readily produce antibodies to fight against many specific types of bacterias and viruses.

Stimulating the dogs immune system in this way does come at a price however when the actual introduction of this offending agent / disease in some form to the dog's system leads to illness. Once these shots are given, your dog's immune system will recognize the presence of a disease and will then create antibodies to fight it off. These antibodies only last from six months to a year, which makes regular vaccinations extremely important to maintain for your puppy or dog.

The question on the minds of many dog owners is usually - "is it dangerous to repeatedly give these shots to my dog each year"? Fortunately the dog experts do agree that the answer to this question is a resounding "no."

While there are rare cases of dogs that have become very ill or even died as a result of receiving a shot, there is no evidence to suggest that this practice in general poses any real danger to the general dog population. Oftentimes, the dogs that are adversely affected to vaccines may have already been sick or have some form of extreme allergy to a specific part of the vaccine.

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When using a vaccine that must be mixed first, there are four simple steps to follow. First: mix the vaccine by withdrawing all of the liquid from the appropriate vial. Second, inject it into the vial containing the dried portion of the vaccine. Third, remove the syringe, shake the vial to mix up the vaccination, and fourth, re-insert the needle and then withdraw the entire 1 ml contents of the mixed vaccination and administer.

Two different types of vaccinations exist which are a Modified Live Vaccine and a Killed Vaccine. A Killed Vaccine is when the virus itself has been killed before any injection occurs. A Modified Live Vaccine is the live disease being injected, while having been altered by the drug company to be unable to cause the disease it is protecting against.

Most vaccinations are administered subcutaneously (by injecting the vaccine just under the skin). One of the best areas is located in the shoulder or neck area. Simply lift a tent of skin into a triangle with one hand, and inject the vaccine with the other hand. Note: always use a separate sterile needle and syringe for each dog and also for each injection, and then dispose of all used needles and syringes in a safe location.

I feel that the best advice I can offer is that dog owners continue vaccinating their dogs according to their local laws and the recommendations of their own veterinarian or pet health professional. Since the annual vaccines are not harming dogs in any evident way, there is no cause for alarm and no harm in continuing the same routine until the veterinary community makes up its collective mind that a change is in order with regard to dog vaccines. In the meantime, a little prevention can go a very long way to keep your dog healthy and happy.

Return from vaccinations to puppy vaccinations

"Labradors [are] lousy watchdogs. They usually bark when there is a stranger about, but it is an expression of unmitigated joy at the chance to meet somebody new, not a warning." - Norman Strung