Most pet parents know that having a dog comes with a series of responsibilities. One of the most important ones is getting your canine friend vaccinated.
But why should you vaccinate your dog? What dog vaccines are mandatory, and which ones aren’t? How much does it cost to protect your pooch? Just keep on reading to find out the answers to all your puppy vaccine questions!
Core dog vaccines
Not all vaccines are created equal. Your pet needs several, and they are essential, as not getting your Fido vaccinated against these diseases can endanger his or her life. But did you know that there are diseases that can be passed on to humans by dogs?
One of them is rabies, but there are many others, too. And you can vaccinate your dog against these zoonotic diseases.
Here is a list of necessary vaccines.
Canine distemper virus
Canine distemper is one of the most severe and contagious diseases of dogs, but not just dogs — it can affect other animals, ranging from raccoons to skunks. It is transmitted through sneezing and contaminated food and water bowls.
It is extremely dangerous for puppies, especially since they don’t have the body resources that are necessary to put up with the abuse caused by the virus. Clinically, dogs that are infected with Canine distemper virus show discharges from the nose and eyes, diarrhea, vomiting, twitching, seizures, paralysis, and even death.
To date, there is no treatment for this disease. That is what makes the vaccine even more essential.
Parvovirus is very contagious, too, and while it does affect dogs of all ages, it is especially deadly in puppies. All dogs younger than four months of age are at a higher risk of developing a more severe form.
This virus attacks the digestive tract. Clinically, dogs infected with parvovirus show vomiting, profuse and bloody diarrhea, fever, and lethargy. Most dogs die because they get severely dehydrated since they lose so many liquids and have no time to replenish them.
As is the case with Canine distemper, this disease also has no specific treatment. Repeated vaccination guarantees immunity against it.
Canine adenovirus-2 causes infectious hepatitis, a viral disease that affects the kidneys, liver, lungs, spleen, and even the dog’s eyes. Even though the virus has nothing in common with the same pathogen that causes hepatitis in people, some of the symptoms are similar.
A dog with infectious hepatitis will show vomiting, jaundice, pain around the liver, and an extended abdomen, in general. To date, there is no treatment available, so once again, the vaccine can prevent this potentially deadly condition.
Rabies needs no introduction. Most people know that it is zoonotic, meaning that it can be transmitted from animals to humans. While the chances of your dog catching rabies from another pooch or even a wild animal nowadays are very slim, you could still run into problems if you choose to skip this vaccination.
If you want to avoid any legal problems, in case your dog ends up biting someone, you should vaccinate your dog against rabies.
Not every dog has to be vaccinated against every disease that exists. Some canine vaccinations can be administered depending on a set of factors, such as the pet’s age, medical history, travel habits, lifestyle, or the environment where he or she lives.
For example, if you ever want to travel and you’re looking to take your Fido to a boarding facility, you should make sure that your pet is vaccinated against kennel cough.
Here is a list of optional vaccines. It doesn’t hurt to consider them, even if you think that your dog has little to no chance of being exposed to any of the pathogens.
- Leptospira species
- Lyme disease
- Kennel cough (Bordetella bronchiseptica)
- Canine parainfluenza
- Canine influenza
- Canine Coronavirus
While these infections can, of course, affect your dog, some of them are even dangerous for humans. Leptospirosis, which is most often transmitted from infected wildlife to dogs via urine-contaminated soil, is a somewhat rare bacterial infection that can be transmitted from animals to humans.
In people, it causes coughing, chills, fever, headaches, diarrhea, jaundice, rashes, and irritated eyes. Severe leptospirosis can lead to renal and hepatic failure, but also meningitis. As you can see, while the vaccination against this disease in dogs is optional, it doesn’t hurt to consider it.
Canine Coronavirus is very different than the novel Coronavirus that causes COVID-19, a respiratory infection that can be fatal for humans. Canine Coronavirus or CCoV is a highly-infections intestinal infection that’s especially dangerous for puppies.
Puppy shot schedule
When do puppies need to be vaccinated? The answer to this question is a little complicated since almost every country creates a different vaccination plan. However, most vets recommend starting the puppy vaccination schedule around the age of 6 to 8 weeks.
The first vaccine typically immunizes the puppy against distemper and parvovirus while the second is a polyvalent one, and it protects your dog against distemper, infectious hepatitis, parainfluenza, and parvovirus.
At 16-18 weeks of age, the pet will receive a shot against rabies and the same polyvalent vaccine, which will be repeated two to three weeks later. This vaccination is repeated yearly.
You can vaccinate your dog against Influenza, Leptospirosis, Bordetella, Lyme disease, and Coronavirus depending on your lifestyle and your pooch’s infectious risks.
How much does it cost to get your dog vaccinated?
It depends on the vaccine and the country where you live. In North America, you will pay around $75 to $100 for the entire vaccination plan consisting of the first three vaccines. The rabies vaccination is usually paid for separately, and it costs approximately $20 to $30.
If you decide to adopt a dog from a shelter, the pup’s vaccine schedule likely has already started. As you might have noticed, vaccines tend to cost more during the first year of your dog’s life — mainly because there are several of them.
The reason the vaccination plan begins at six weeks is that puppies whose mother was vaccinated are protected for a short amount of time. Newborn animals receive maternal antibodies, but these don’t last long.
This is called passive immunity, and it can be transmitted through the colostrum (the first milk of the mother) or placenta during gestation. In any case, it is merely temporary, and it usually disappears after the puppy gets to be 12 weeks of age.
As popular as the anti-vaccination movement has become in the past decade, the fact is that vaccines save lives — in all species, including humans.
If you don’t want to vaccinate your canine companion, you’re both putting his health and life in danger, but you’re also making it impossible for herd immunity to do its job.
This means that if your dog gets an infectious disease, he or she will spread it on to other unvaccinated animals, too. Vaccinating your pet is a responsible act for both of you, but it is also a responsible act for the whole community of pets and pet parents.
Side effects of vaccines
Now that we have established that some vaccines are necessary as they prevent potentially deadly diseases let’s look at what adverse reactions they could cause.
Most dogs experience light fever over the first 24 to 48 hours following the shot, but this happens in humans, too, so it is a common side effect.
Some dogs are allergic to the ingredients in the vaccine, but it’s almost impossible to know whether your canine friend will have this problem unless you have tested him for a variety of allergens.
Here are some probable side effects after vaccination:
- Vomiting or diarrhea
- Loss of appetite
- Swelling or pain around the injection site
The following adverse reactions are rare.
- Facial or paw swelling (allergic reaction)
Most mild symptoms go away naturally in less than two days. If you think that your dog might be suffering from a more severe reaction, get in touch with your veterinarian as soon as possible.
Dangerous substances in vaccines
Vaccines have done wonders for animals and humans alike, and they have helped prevent dangerous or deadly diseases over time. However, not all vaccines are great, especially in terms of their ingredients.
We’ve already mentioned swelling at the injection site as a side effect, and this can happen both because of the way the shot was performed, but it can also occur because of some substances in the vaccine itself.
The most dangerous substances that some vaccines contain are thimerosal, aluminum, formaldehyde, and mercury. Thimerosal is neurotoxic, and aluminum is a carcinogenic substance.
All of these ingredients have serious side effects, some of which might not be visible right after the vaccination, but they can affect the dog’s health in the long run. It would be a good idea to have a talk with your vet and tell them your concerns so that they can choose an appropriate and safe vaccine.
If you want to make sure that your dog will lead a long, happy, and healthy life, you should stick to the vaccination schedule recommended by your veterinarian.
Not all vaccines are necessary, especially if you know that your pooch has virtually no chance of getting that particular disease. However, the core vaccines are critical and can prevent life-threatening conditions.
With a Ph.D. in veterinary oncology, Cristina Vulpe is a life-long lover of pets. She’s passionate about infectious diseases, animal welfare, nutrition, and pathology. She manages a cat blog, My Feline Buddy, where she gives advice on preventing and treating feline diseases.