Regular vaccinations protect your dog from potentially fatal diseases. Find out what’s involved and why they’re essential to for keeping your dog safe.
Why do dogs need vaccinations?
Vaccinations play an important role in protecting your dog from dangerous and potentially fatal diseases like parvovirus, canine hepatitis and kennel cough.
Vaccines work by giving your dog a small amount of the bacteria or virus to be vaccinated against; this is usually a modified or dead strain, which is completely harmless.
Doing this exposes their immune system to the virus or bacteria and trains their system to recognise and attack it. This means, should they ever encounter it in the future, your dog’s immune system will be able to successfully fight it off, keeping them safe and healthy.
Vaccinations also help protect the wider dog community, as they reduce the risk of infection for all dogs in the area.
Read more about advice on being a responsible dog owner
What vaccines do dogs need?
We recommend that your dog is vaccinated against:
- canine parvovirus (a.k.a. parvo)
- canine infectious hepatitis
- kennel cough
- rabies (if you plan to travel abroad with your dog).
Your vet will assess your dog’s individual lifestyle and environment to decide which vaccines are essential to keep them safe and healthy.
What if my dog has missed their vaccination?
If your dog’s vaccination is late or overdue, please talk to your vet as soon as possible. There is a short period of time that can pass before some vaccinations will need to be re-started. Your vet will be able to advise the best option for your dog.
Puppies are particularly vulnerable to serious diseases like parvovirus and canine distemper, so it’s vital they receive their initial course of three vaccinations.
Puppies should receive their first vaccinations at eight weeks’ old, and it’s common for them to have these before they go to their new home; always check your puppy’s vaccination history before you take them home. They should then receive their second set of vaccinations at 12 weeks, and their third at 16 weeks.
It’s important not to mix your puppy with unvaccinated dogs until they’ve had all their vaccination injections and fully protected. This is usually two weeks after their second vaccination. More on puppy vaccinations can be found here.
Booster vaccinations for dogs
Many owners believe that once their dog has had their initial round of vaccinations, they’re protected for life. Unfortunately, this isn’t true. Annual booster vaccinations are needed throughout your dog’s life to maintain their protection from harmful disease.
Some boosters are required every year, while others are needed every three years; this is because the protection they offer becomes less effective over time.
The boost vaccinations dogs need are:
- boosters for distemper, parvovirus and canine hepatitis every three years.
- boosters for leptospirosis and kennel cough every year.
Do older dogs still need boosters?
Older dogs still need regular booster vaccinations to protect them from potentially fatal diseases, particularly as their immune system can weaken as they age.
Speak with your vet about your older dog’s needs to ensure they stay protected in their later years.
How to prepare your dog for vaccinations
Vaccinations are a safe and simple procedure, requiring little preparation from dog owners.
Any visit to the vet can be stressful, and puppies are often nervous, so we recommend bringing along their blanket or their favourite toy to give them a sense of security during the visit. You may also want to keep some treats on hand to reward them afterwards.
What happens at a dog vaccination appointment?
A vaccination appointment provides a chance for your vet to conduct a full nose-to-tail check of your dog to ensure they’re fit and healthy.
If there are no signs of illness or injury, they’ll review your dog’s vaccination history and discuss their needs with you before giving them the necessary vaccines.
The vaccines will be combined into a single injection, which is given at the back of their neck. The only exception is the kennel cough vaccination, which is administered into their nose.
Are there any side effects?
It’s incredibly rare for a vaccination to be associated with severe side effects.
It’s important to remember that vaccines go through rigorous trials before being licensed for use, and a robust reporting process exists to track any possible adverse reaction. This is then investigated and recorded to ensure pet vaccinations are completely safe and effective for long-term protection.
While your pet may seem quiet, under the weather, or off their food for a day or two after their injections, this is short-lived, and they should be back to their normal selves quickly.
Your vet will be able to assess the individual needs of your pet based on their age, overall health and lifestyle to ensure they receive the right vaccinations.