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Dog Vaccination - Why Vaccinations Are Vital To Your Dog's Health

What exactly are dog vaccinations?

There are many different types of vaccines, and the purpose of a vaccine is to help build immunity in our pets. Several different things are out there via bacteria or viruses that our dogs are quite susceptible to, especially at certain stages of their life. And the vaccine serves to help boost their immune system to protect them against some prevalent things out in the environment.


Dr. Cason McInturff
Berry Farms Animal Hospital - Cupola Animal Hospitals

How do vaccinations impact the health and wellbeing of my dog?

Vaccines are vital for younger dogs that have probably recently come home to you from being with their mom and the rest of their littermates, especially the distemper parvo vaccination. Once an animal leaves their mother, they don't have any of those maternal antibodies or that protection from mom created through nursing or getting milk from mom. So the vaccine serves to protect them against widespread things that are in the environment.

Are vaccinations required by law?

There is one particular vaccine that is required, and that's the rabies vaccine. Unfortunately, rabies is a highly fatal condition that is 100% preventable. And people still die in America yearly from rabies. Our dog population is very susceptible to rabies. At least in our county here in Middle Tennessee and surrounding counties, the law requires that all dogs be vaccinated against rabies. International travel also becomes essential when we talk about rabies vaccinations. Most countries out there are extremely strict about rabies prevention, and even if your dog may have been vaccinated previously, they will probably require that your dog be vaccinated again. We do have some rabies vaccines that can last three years, so your dog might not get the rabies vaccine annually, but we will give you a new rabies tag each year that's registered with the county that says your dog is protected and immunized against rabies.

Does my dog's lifestyle factor into what vaccinations my vet will recommend?

It certainly does. Many dogs may be joining you on hikes and going camping, [like why can't they just swim in the river], and we may choose to use certain vaccines based on that—lifestyle-type vaccines that can help protect us against Lyme disease and leptospirosis. We strongly encourage those vaccinations for those dogs that are in outdoor environments frequently. Even in inner cities, we may want to vaccinate against leptospirosis because the rodent population readily spreads that. Influenza is another lifestyle-based vaccine, so for dogs that may be going to doggy daycare or the dog park frequently, it's a good idea to protect them against canine influenza or other upper respiratory type infections that vaccines can help prevent. So there is some lifestyle variability based on which vaccines we may choose to give your pet.

How soon should I get my dog vaccinated?

This is a crucial question. For our puppies that have recently left their mother, it's highly critical for us to boost their distemper and parvo vaccines. Typically, if you've gotten your dog from a breeder, they may have even given the first vaccination at around six weeks of age. We encourage you to bring your new puppy in to use to be able to examine it as soon as you've gotten that pup home, and we can talk about the appropriate vaccination schedule for your puppy. We tend to vaccinate more mature dogs annually, or there may be the option for the three-year distemper parvo vaccine or rabies vaccine, depending on your pet's age.

Do I really need to avoid allowing my puppy to socialize with other dogs until they are fully vaccinated?

This is a fundamental question. And the answer is, yes, it's essential to limit exposure. The thing that we get the most concerned about is going to be the parvovirus, and again, the distemper virus that our puppies are very susceptible to. Once our puppies leave their mom, they don't have those maternal antibodies that help protect them against parvo. Parvo is very tough, and it survives in the environment for a very long period. And it's something that may be out there in the grass and something that, without appropriate protection, your puppy is highly susceptible to. We vaccinate our puppies against distemper and parvo about four times over their first four months of life, so around six to eight weeks, and then again, three to four weeks later through a series of four booster vaccines. Until your puppy has those four boosters, it is crucial to protect them against exposure to other dogs. A year after we give that distemper parvo vaccine, we then boost it a year later.

And that is the point where we're creating that full immunity against whatever the infectious agent is—in this situation, distemper and parvo. So it's essential to stay on top of that because parvo is life-threatening to our puppies because they're so susceptible to it. For other upper respiratory infections, such as Bordatella or the kennel cough vaccine, we can give a series of boosters for those as well to your puppy to help protect them and get them ready to meet and socialize with other young dogs.

Vaccines are critical. Depending on the area you live in, your veterinarian may prescribe certain vaccines. In this area, for outdoor dogs, leptospirosis and even Lyme vaccinations are essential. Other things that we'll talk about preventing are canine influenza and Bordatella. Out West, they even sometimes vaccinate against rattlesnakes, but they're not so much of an issue here in Middle Tennessee.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (615) 224-7776, you can email us, or you can reach out on Facebook. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as soon as we can.

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