Veterinary science, in conjunction with industry, has done a great job developing vaccines that are very safe and effective preventive measures. Vaccines keep your dog protected from serious infectious diseases. Diseases that, just a few years ago, were epidemics are now less common. It's not just a matter of more vaccines but also better vaccines that are more specific, provide longer protection, and allow your veterinarian to make recommendations appropriate for your pet.
Not all dogs need to be vaccinated for all diseases all the time. There are two general groupings of vaccinations: those that target “core” diseases and those that target “non-core” diseases.
Core vaccinations prevent diseases that are extremely widespread in their distribution and are easily transmitted. These diseases are commonly fatal or extremely difficult to treat effectively. One core disease—rabies, can be transmitted to humans with potentially deadly results. In summary, core diseases are the more contagious and severe diseases.
Core vaccines provide long term immunity, making yearly vaccination unnecessary. Core vaccines include:
Historically, these vaccines were recommended yearly but this is no longer the case. Duration of immunity from these vaccines has been proven to be at least 3 years. Rabies vaccines are sometimes administered more often based on state and provincial regulations. While not all vaccines carry a label that indicates they are effective for 3 years, current recommendations for core vaccines are that after the completion of an initial series, dogs should be revaccinated every 3 years.
Non-core vaccines protect against diseases that do not meet the core vaccine description. While all dogs are at risk for core diseases and must be vaccinated--risk of exposure, likelihood of infection, and severity of disease should be evaluated when making non-core vaccine recommendations. The indication for these vaccines should be based on a risk assessment that looks at local and regional incidence of the disease. The risk assessment should also take lifestyle into consideration. Non-core vaccinations may include:
These vaccines generally provide a shorter length of protective immunity, and dogs that are at risk for infection should be vaccinated every year.
How can you determine your dog’s risk of infection?
[Editor's Note: Having a conversation with your veterinarian is the number one way you can determine your dog's risk factors and which vaccines are recommended.]
- Lyme disease is no longer limited to the Northeastern United States. It is transmitted by deer ticks associated with white tail deer. The populations of deer are expanding and with them the incidence of exposure. While exposure and infection do not always result in disease, dogs considered at risk should be vaccinated and tested annually.
- Vaccination against leptospirosis should be considered for dogs who are exposed to wildlife environments like ponds, or when urban and rural wildlife share the environment with your dog.
- Vaccination against canine cough includes bordetella and parainfluenza vaccines. These diseases are respiratory infections and as such are transmitted from dog to dog. Boarding facilities, dog shows, dog classes, and parks where dogs play are all potential risks. Dogs exposed to these environments should be vaccinated yearly.
- Canine influenza is a relatively recently described disease and a relatively new vaccine. It should be administered yearly for dogs considered by your veterinarian to be at risk.
All dogs should be examined by a veterinarian at least yearly and a complete history and risk assessment should be performed. This will assure that your dog remains healthy and is appropriately vaccinated.
If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call your veterinarian -- they are your best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your pets.