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New Pet Dog Vaccination Guidelines in the USA
Vaccinations are an essential preventive care for your dog. Through
vaccination, dogs can now be protected from numerous disease risks,
including rabies, distemper, hepatitis and several others. Some of
these diseases are zoonotic (can be passed from dogs to people) and so
vaccinating your pet benefits public health too.
Recently, several studies have shown that vaccines protect dogs for a
longer period than previously believed. There have also been many
improvements in the quality of the vaccines produced. Pet owners are
now also aware and concerned that vaccination is not as harmless a
procedure as once believed.
To assist veterinarians with making vaccine recommendations for their
pet owners dogs, the American Animal Hospital Association has now
issued a set of canine vaccine guidelines. These guidelines were
developed by a group of experts and practicing veterinarians together.
A key recommendation is that all dogs are very different - and
therefore vaccine decisions should be tailored to the individual dog.
Factors including age, breed, health status, environment, lifestyle,
and travel habits of the dog should be always be considered. Infectious
disease threats differ from place to place and so you should work with
your veterinarian to tailor an immunization program that best protects
your dog based on his / her risk and lifestyle factors.
Am I Putting My Dogs Health at Risk When Vaccinating?
All medical procedures, no matter how routine, carry some inherent risk
and so it would be wrong to say that vaccinating your pet is risk free.
As with any medical procedure the benefits of performing that procedure
must be balanced against the risks. Veterinarians recommend that no
needless vaccination risks should be taken and that the best way to go
about this is to reduce the number and frequency of administration of
unnecessary vaccines.These decisions should be made after considering
your dog's age, lifestyle, and potential exposure to infectious
What are the risks associated with vaccination?
Vaccine reactions are infrequent in my experience. In general, most
vaccine reactions are mild and the side effects (local pain, itchiness
and swelling) are self-limiting. Allergic reactions are much less
common, but if untreated can actually be fatal. These can occur soon
after vaccination, usually within a matter of minutes to hours. If you
think this type of reaction is occuring, please contact your
veterinarian as soon as possible.
Also, in a very small number of patients, vaccines can sometimes cause
the patient's immune system to attack their own cells, resulting in
diseases that affect the blood, skin, joints or nervous system. Such
reactions are very rare but can again be life threatening.
There is also a possible complication of tumor growth developing at the
vaccination site, but this occurs most frequently in cats.
Please just remember, that if you have any reason to be concerned, just
call your veterinarian for advice.
There are so many vaccines available - How do I know which vaccines my
There are two general groups of vaccines: core and noncore vaccines.
Core vaccines are recommended for all dogs and protect against diseases
that are more common and are more serious. These diseases are found in
all areas of North America and are more easily transmitted than noncore
diseases. The AAHA guidelines define core vaccines as: distemper,
adenovirus, parvovirus and rabies.
Noncore vaccines are for patients at an increased risk for infection
due to exposure or lifestyle. The AAHA guidelines define non-core
vaccines as: kennel cough, Lyme disease and leptospirosis vaccines.
How often should my dog be vaccinated really?
It is essential that your dog has the complete initial series of puppy
core vaccines, as well as booster shots at one year of age. The young
dog is at high risk of contracting infectious disease and so every step
should be taken to prevent illness. Following the one-year boosters,
the AAHA Canine Vaccine Guidelines recommend that the distemper,
adenovirus and parvovirus core vaccines be administered once every
three years. Your state and local municipality govern how often rabies
boosters are administered and so please contact them or your local
veterinarian to get more information (some areas require an annual
rabies booster whereas others only require a three-year-effective
rabies booster every three years ).
Noncore vaccinations should be administered whenever the risk of the
disease is significant enough to override any risk of vaccination. For
example, a kennel cough vaccine may need to be given every six months
to a dog that is repeatedly kenneled or exposed to groups of dogs at
grooming salons or dog shows.
If my pet doesnt need annual vaccines does this mean I only need to see
my veterinarian every three years?
Regular health checks (once or twice a year) are a very important
disease preventative for your dog. Vaccinations are just one component
of a health check. Your veterinarian will thoroughly examine your pet
to ensure that all is well. your veterinarian has an opportunity,
therefore, to detect and prevent problems at an early stage. Just
think, dogs age more quickly than humans, so an annual exam equates to
a human getting a physical every 5-7 years. Plus they don't always
show signs of early disease, and they can't easily communicate
discomfort to us.
Can my veterinarian do tests to see if my dog needs to be vaccinated?
The answer is yes. Tests that measure protective antibody levels for
diseases are called titers. Reliable titer tests for canine distemper
and parvovirus now exist. Your veterinarian can provide you with more
Dr David Brooks is part of the online veterinary team at
www.WhyDoesMyPet.com. Veterinarians, Vet Technicians, Nurses, Trainers,
Behaviorists, Breeders and Pet Enthusiasts are here to answer your pet
questions and concerns... Our dedicated community of caring experts are
waiting to offer you advice, second opinions and support.
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