The Importance of Vaccinating Your Dog

Picture of dog on a tree stump

Why does your dog have to be vaccinated? If you’ve never been a dog parent before and you’re thinking of adopting a canine buddy, you might want to know that it’s not as easy as it all sounds. Of course, dogs are sweet, loyal, they care for you when you’re at your worst, and they have a sixth sense of telling that something’s right or wrong with you.

But in order for your dog to become your friend and trusty companion and in order for the relationship to develop into one based on trust and love, your dog needs to be healthy. And that’s where vaccines come into the picture. In this article, we’ll show you why vaccination is critical when getting a new dog, especially a puppy that has never been vaccinated before.

What is a Vaccine?

A vaccine is a medical substance that can contain two types of things that deliver immunity to your dog. Some people believe that vaccines contain the virus or bacterium themselves. However, this is not true. The first type of vaccine that exists out there has parts of an antigen (whether it’s a virus, a bacterium, or anything else). Those antigen fragments make your pooch develop an active immunity, which means that his or her body reacts as if the dog caught the disease. That is why many dogs have signs of mild fever and are a little drowsy after being vaccinated. These symptoms usually go away in about 24 to 48 hours following the vaccination because the patient can’t truly get sick since there was no active (complete) antigen involved in the process.

There is another type of vaccine that exists, and it consists of administering the antibodies directly to the dog. This is called passive immunity, and it occurs when antibodies are transferred directly to an animal without him or her coming in contact with the germ that is responsible for causing the medical condition.

Passive immunity is something that some puppies might have if their mother was vaccinated time and again. This usually helps them survive until they have to be vaccinated for the first time. Such antibodies can be transmitted through the placenta, but it all depends on the species since some (such as cows) get their antibodies from maternal milk (colostrum) right after being born.

To avoid making all of this complicated, you can think of immunity as something that you and every other mammal have to be equipped with so as to survive. The cycle of an infectious disease is like this. You come in contact with the antigen, the antigen triggers an immune response in your body, you fight (if you’re lucky enough) the disease, and what results following all of your body’s efforts to kill the germ and then recover is a collection of antibodies. These antibodies are what makes you immune against a particular antigen (disease). That’s why most of the people that had smallpox when they were kids don’t get the disease when they’re adults.

Core Vaccines

Some vaccines are more important than others because the diseases they prevent can be fatal to the canine or the disease itself is zoonotic – it can be transmitted to people. These core vaccines are those against Canine Parvovirus, Canine Distemper, Canine Type 2 Adenovirus, and Rabies. There are non-core vaccines, as well, such as those developed against Canine Parainfluenza, Canine Influenza, Bordetella, and Leptospirosis.

You should have a straightforward talk with your veterinarian before deciding on a particular vaccination schedule. Obviously, you will have to vaccinate your dog against the most important diseases, and if you want to make sure that your pooch’s health is always on par, our advice would be to also vaccinate your dog against less critical medical conditions.

Preventing Zoonotic Diseases

Here’s where vaccines really prove their worth. Dog parents that do not vaccinate their pets do not realize that these animals can actually transmit dangerous diseases to humans, including their owners. Rabies is the first that can cross anyone’s mind, but there’s a host of others, including Leptospirosis, which we have mentioned before.

Ensuring Group Immunity

One of the reasons that most dogs are free of these diseases, whether they are in adoption centers or in their forever homes is that it’s very difficult for them to get the disease from any dog since all the rest have been vaccinated. In a community where everyone has immunity against an antigen, it’s practically impossible for anyone to get sick or for anyone to get the disease and not recover from it. Vaccination can actively eradicate diseases, and while this has happened only with a few human ones, it has yet to happen with those that affect dogs.

Of course, you might argue that rabies will never be eradicated since it is also transmitted by wild animals. It doesn’t really matter. If your dog does come in contact with the urine or saliva of an infected animal, he or she will not get rabies if the vaccination has taken place. Naturally, what that means is that you can’t get rabies from your dog. Working on building group immunity is a long-term purpose. If all pet parents were to rely on group immunity and tell themselves that their dogs can’t get sick because there’s no other animal that can transmit the disease, there wouldn’t be such a thing as group immunity.

Vaccination Can save Your Dog’s Life, but It Can Also Help Avoid Costly Treatments

There are rare cases of Parvovirosis that can be treated, but most of the puppies that get this disease die. Their immune system isn’t strong enough to handle the aggression of such a medical condition. Failing to respect the vaccination schedule can also make your dog vulnerable to catching infectious diseases. So, if your vet recommends repeating the vaccine after two to three weeks following the first dose, do everything in your power to take your pooch to the vet when that time comes. The point that we are trying to make with this example is that most of these infectious diseases are lethal and many are dangerous to humans. Vaccines can prevent them.

If your dog were to get sick, you might have to pay thousands and thousands of dollars to get the right treatment. Some diseases can only be treated using interferons along with many other medications — and they’re still not a fail-proof treatment. The winning combination to avoid both your dog’s health problems and your future financial problems is to vaccinate your dog and get pet insurance. These two are the keys to having a happy and healthy dog for as long as possible.

Side Effects

As we have mentioned before, vaccines can trigger adverse reactions depending on the dog’s health status, age, whether he or she has been vaccinated before (usually, adults that have been vaccinated in the past have mild to no side effects), or allergies. While most of the vaccine reactions are self-limiting and minor, some can be quite serious, but they only happen in very few cases.

If your dog experiences difficulty breathing, seizures, facial swelling, hives, or collapses after being vaccinated, you have to take your Fido to a vet as soon as possible. If your pet is stable but has a fever over 103.5 F, has experiencing diarrhea or vomiting, or has lost his or her appetite for the past two days, contact your veterinarian.

There is another side effect that could happen, and that could bother pet parents even more than they could bother the pets themselves. Some types of vaccines can contain aluminum adjuvants that can lead to the development of a nodule at the injection site. It’s not something you have to worry about right away, but it would be a good idea if you were to ask before the vaccination if one of those types of vaccines were to be used. You can specifically ask for one that contains no aluminum adjuvants.


Vaccines are important, especially while your dog is growing. Puppies don’t have an effective immune system, so it’s better to supply them with the right antibodies to avoid any health problem that could be severe. Several years ago, pet parents had to take their dogs in for annual vaccinations, but nowadays, you can also vaccinate your dog every two and even every three years, especially if he or she has been vaccinated many times before. Don’t underestimate the importance of this prevention method because it can save lives.



One Response

  1. It’s nice that you talked about how vaccination could actively eradicate diseases. We bought our puppy this year and I think he is now at the right age for vaccination. We should probably ask for veterinary services, not only for vaccination but also for a checkup while we’re at it.

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