Vaccines can help ensure your dog lives a long and healthy life. Vaccines are important in preventing disease before it strikes, saving you thousands of dollars in medical expenses and preventing unnecessary suffering or premature death of your pet. Vaccines also prevent the spread of disease from animal to animal, so by vaccinating your dog, you are also helping to protect your neighbors’ pets.
4 Paws Kingdom requires dogs be vaccinated for rabies and encourages any additional vaccinations recommended by your veterinarian. This is for their own protection and for the protection of other animals and humans at the park. This policy is in keeping with the laws of the State of North Carolina, which require rabies vaccinations for all dogs in the state.
How do vaccines work?
Just as with humans, vaccines train your dog’s immune system to fight diseases through the introduction of antigens. These antigens look like the disease but don’t cause your dog to get sick. Instead, antigens prompt the creation of antibodies, which are special proteins that can recognize and fight the real disease if encountered. In short, vaccines expose your dog to a disease without actually making him sick, allowing his body to prepare in advance to fight off an infection.
Regardless of the lifestyle of your dog, the American Animal Hospital Association recommends all dogs receive the following vaccines:
- Canine distemper virus — The Distemper, Hepatitis, Parainfluenza and Parvovirus (DHPP) vaccine, also known as the distemper shot, protects your dog from four diseases with just one vaccine.
- Rabies virus — The Rabies vaccine is required by law in most states since it protects animals and humans from the fatal rabies virus.
Depending on where you live and the lifestyle of your dog, your veterinarian might recommend additional vaccines such as:
- Bordetella — Also called “kennel cough,” this virus causes an extremely contagious upper respiratory infection. This vaccine may be recommended for dogs that spend a considerable amount of time with other dogs.
- Canine Influenza — This is a viral upper respiratory disease that often spreads through animal shelters and boarding kennels
- Coronavirus — No, this isn’t the same virus that causes COVID-19 in humans. Canine coronavirus affects dogs’ gastrointestinal systems and can also cause respiratory infections.
- Leptospirosis — This bacterial infection is most common in moist climates with areas of standing or slow-moving water. This can also be spread from animals to humans.
- Lyme Disease — This bacterial infection is carried by ticks, particularly in the east and west coasts and areas around the Great Lakes.
Talk with your veterinarian about whether your dog might benefit from these additional vaccines.
How often do I need to get my dog vaccinated?
Most veterinarians recommend vaccinating puppies as soon as possible (often around 6 to 8 weeks old), followed with additional vaccines every three weeks until the puppy reaches four month of age. Here is the recommended vaccination schedule for puppies:
- 6–10 weeks: DHPP, Bordetella
- 11–14 weeks: DHPP, Leptospirosis, Canine Influenza, Lyme Disease
- 15–16 weeks: DHPP, Leptospirosis, Canine Influenza, Lyme Disease, Rabies
Once your dog has reached adulthood, he or she will only need periodic adult boosters. Each vaccine is effective for different lengths of time, so your veterinarian will inform you when a booster needs to be administered. Here is the length of time for which each canine vaccine is effective:
- DHPP – 1 year
- Rabies – 3 years (or 1 year, depending on the vaccine)
- Leptospirosis – 1 year
- Canine Influenza – 1 year
- Lyme Disease – 1 year
- Bordetella – 6 months
Side Effects and Possible Risks
Although adverse reactions to canine vaccines are rare, there are some side effects to be aware of after vaccination. Possible side effects to canine vaccines include:
- Loss of appetite
- Facial or paw swelling
- Hives and/or itching
- Pain or swelling around injection site
- Collapse, difficulty breathing, and seizures (indicative of anaphylactic shock)
If you are worried that your dog is experiencing a serious adverse reaction, contact your veterinarian immediately or take your dog to an emergency veterinarian.
For more information regarding dog vaccines, check out the following sources: