Vaccinations - Part II - Dogs

A happy, healthy dog is joy personified. As with cats, vaccinations are an important and occasionally controversial part of our dogs’ lives, as more and more vaccines are available to our vets.

When is the best time to vaccinate? Which ones are most important? What about stories we’ve heard about adverse reactions? These are just a few of the many questions that come up. And we find in all forms of media (the web, magazines, newspaper, TV) almost as many differing opinions to each of our questions, as we have questions.

As an integrative veterinary medicine vet, here are Dr. Frank’s answers to the following questions:

Q: What vaccinations do you recommend for my dog?

Dr. Frank: Just as with cats, my first answer is “It depends”, but my more complete answer is “As few as possible, while maintaining the health and safety of your dog”. What does it depend on? Factors we take into account include:

  • How old is your dog?
    Vaccinations on puppies may be more critical than for a 6 year old dog with a mature, healthy immune system.
  • What is the dog or puppy’s previous vaccine history?
    Contrary to popular belief, for puppies, their exact age and the dates prior vaccines were given is actually more important than the number of vaccines they received. If possible, know your puppy’s birthday. And keeping a detailed history of all vaccines is essential.
    For dogs of all ages, some vaccines remain effective longer than others. The history of what type of vaccine and how many vaccines were given in the past help determine what we may recommend at the time of your appointment.
  • What are your dog’s activities and exposure level?
    Does your dog go to dog parks? Does he travel to other parts of the state or outside the country? Do you take her to classes and/or competitions? Is he boarded at kennels when you are away? Or is your dog kept strictly at home in her own backyard? Stay-at-home dogs may not need some of the vaccines at a particular time.
  • Are there other pets in the household and what is their health status?
    If other dogs in the household have a contagious condition or disease such as kennel cough, vaccines may be recommended for new dogs entering the household that might otherwise not be necessary.
  • What are your personal feelings regarding vaccines?
    Ultimately, as your dog’s caretaker and owner, the decision is up to you. We sincerely respect that. We will inform and advise you of the recommendations for your pet, but you may always choose a different course of action and we will honor that choice.

All of this is discussed during an examination of your dog and a wellness plan will be agreed upon at that time.

Q: What if my dog needs several vaccines, can we do all the vaccines at one time and save a trip?

Dr. Frank: So as not to over-tax your dog’s immune system, I usually advise separating the vaccines by 2-3 weeks. If this is very inconvenient for the owner, the vaccines may be given all at once.

Something to keep in mind is there is no added cost at our clinic to bring in your dog an additional time to separate giving the vaccines. The decision to give the vaccines separately is suggested solely in the best interest of the pet. If you are not one of our clients, you will want to ask your vet their policy.

Q: What if my dog is not feeling well at the time the vaccinations are due?

Dr. Frank: It is not recommended that your dog be vaccinated if she is sick. It is better to treat the illness and wait on the vaccines until your pet is healthy.

Q: Is an examination really necessary if my dog is acting fine?

Dr. Frank: The examination is required prior to vaccinating because it is vitally important that your dog is healthy before proceeding with any vaccination. Your dog may appear as healthy as ever, but a hands-on examination can reveal possible issues you are not aware of. The exam and discussion is one of the best ways to help prevent an adverse reaction to a vaccine.