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Ask Our Veterinarians
Vaccinating Your Puppy or Adult Dog 

Making sure your puppy or adult dog is up to date on its shots and tests is a critical component to veterinary preventive care for your pet. Thanks to the development of vaccines, dogs and puppies have been protected from numerous disease threats, including rabies, distemper, hepatitis and several others. Some of these diseases can be passed from dogs to people — so canine vaccinations have protected human health as well. 

To assist veterinarians with making vaccine recommendations for dogs, the American Animal Hospital Association has issued a set of canine vaccine guidelines. Developed by a group of infectious disease experts, immunologists, researchers and practicing veterinarians, these guidelines were first released in 2003 and revised with new information in 2006. One of AAHA’s key recommendations is that all dogs are different — and thus vaccine decisions should be made on an individual basis for each dog. Issues to consider include the age, breed, health status, environment, lifestyle, and travel habits of the dog. Health threats vary from city to city. To help you determine which vaccines and test your pet needs, use our Pet's Lifestyle Assessment Tool.

How do I know which vaccines my dog or puppy needs?

There are two general groups of vaccines to consider: core and noncore vaccines.

Core vaccines are generally recommended for all dogs and protect against diseases that are more serious or potentially fatal. These diseases are found in all areas of North America and are more easily transmitted than noncore diseases. The AAHA guidelines define the following as core vaccines: distemper, adenovirus, parvovirus and rabies. Noncore vaccines are those reserved for patients at specific risk for infection due to exposure or lifestyle. The AAHA guidelines classify kennel cough, Lyme disease and leptospirosis vaccines within the noncore group.

To help you determine which vaccines and test your pet needs, use our Pet's Lifestyle Assessment Tool.

Is vaccinating my puppy a risk to his or her health?

Vaccinating your dog or cat against disease is a medical procedure and, like all medical procedures, carries some inherent risk. As in any medical procedure or decision, the benefits must be balanced against the risks. Veterinarians recommend that no needless risks should be taken and that the best way to accomplish that is to reduce the number and frequency of administration of unnecessary vaccines. As is the case with any medical decision, you and your veterinarian should make vaccination decisions after considering your dog’s age, lifestyle, and potential exposure to infectious diseases.

What possible risks are associated with vaccination?

Vaccine reactions, of all types, are infrequent. In general, most vaccine reactions and side effects (such as local pain and swelling) are self-limiting. Allergic reactions are less common, but if untreated can be fatal. These can occur soon after vaccination. If you see such a reaction, please contact your veterinarian as soon as possible. In a small number of patients, vaccines can stimulate the patient’s immune system against his or her own tissues, resulting in diseases that affect the blood, skin, joints or nervous system. Again, such reactions are infrequent but can be life threatening. There is a possible complication of a tumor developing at the vaccination site in a small number of pets, most frequently cats. Please contact your veterinarian for more information.

How often should my dog be vaccinated?

Make sure that your dog completes the initial series of core vaccines administered at the puppy stage, as well as booster shots at one year of age. Following these one-year boosters, the AAHA Canine Vaccine Guidelines recommend that the distemper, adenovirus and parvovirus core vaccines be administered once every three years. States and municipalities govern how often rabies boosters are administered. Some areas require a rabies booster be administered annually. Others require a three-year-effective rabies booster be given every three years. Still others allow either a one-year or a three-year rabies vaccine to be utilized. Noncore vaccinations should be administered whenever the risk of the disease is significant enough to override any risk of vaccination. For example, kennel cough vaccine may need to be administered up to every six months in a dog repeatedly being kenneled or exposed to groups of dogs at grooming salons or dog shows. 
To help you determine which vaccines and test your pet needs, use our Pet's Lifestyle Assessment Tool.


Note: To read this entire article, please visit HealthyPet.com  All content provided on HealthyPet.com, and this website, is meant for educational purposes only on health care and medical issues that may affect pets and should never be used to replace professional veterinary care from a licensed veterinarian. This site and its services do not constitute the practice of any veterinary medical health care advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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