Vaccinations for Adult Dogs
Vaccines trigger protective immune responses and prepare them to fight future infections from agents causing deadly diseases such as rabies, distemper and parvovirus. Many owners assume their dog should be vaccinated for everything, but vaccination is a medical procedure, and as such, is not one-size-fits-all. The American Animal Hospital Association divides vaccines into two types: core vaccines, which are advisable for all dogs; and non-core vaccines, which are advisable only for some dogs. Core vaccines are those for rabies, distemper, canine parvovirus, and hepatitis. Non-core vaccines include those for leptospirosis, bordetella, parainfluenza, and Lyme disease. Your veterinarian can advise you if your dog’s lifestyle and environment put him at risk for these diseases. Vaccinations are also available for corona virus, giardia, rattlesnake bite and periodontal disease - your veterinarian can advise you as to whether (or when) these may be necessary for your dog. Every vaccination has pros and cons, and whether one outweighs the other depends on your dog's health and possible exposure. In the case of core vaccines, the pros almost always outweigh the cons.
Your dog should have received a series of vaccinations as a puppy. One year later, his immunity should be boosted with a revaccination---just once this time. Following that, boosters for most core vaccinations should be given every three years. This interval, although longer than the traditional yearly boosters that were advocated for years, has been found to be equally effective and is now suggested for most dogs. Rabies may be boosted every one or three years, depending on local legislation. Non-core vaccinations may need to be boosted more frequently, sometimes as often as every 6 months.
Although adverse reactions are uncommon, some vaccines are more likely to cause them than others, and such reactions are more common in toy breeds. If reactions do occur, they usually happen minutes to hours following administration, and consist of a low-grade fever, lethargy, and loss of appetite. Less commonly, severe reactions, such as hives, facial swelling, or vomiting may occur.
Some breeds, most notably Rottweilers, Doberman Pinschers, and American Pit Bull Terriers, don't acquire immunity from vaccinations as reliably as do most dogs. Your veterinarian will determine if your dog will need additional vaccinations. Blood titers can indicate if a dog has built up sufficient immunity. Some veterinarians and owners prefer performing anitbody titers as a method of determining their dog's level immunity (antibody levels may indicate that certain vaccinations are not necessary). Your veterinarian can tell you if antibody titers are advisiable for your pet.
Most vaccinations are combined so that only one injection needs to be given. A "5-way" vaccine, for example, usually includes distemper, parvovirus, adenovirus, hepatitis, and parainfluenza. Your dog should be in good health when vaccines are administered, and should not have any conditions that compromise his immune system. This is one reason your veterinarian should check your dog's health before administering a vaccine.
It's prudent to have a veterinarian check your dog's health status and provide the vaccines that are advisable in your area. Be aware that not all vaccine is equal; vaccine acquired elsewhere may not have been stored properly. Rabies vaccine must be administered by a veterinarian for legal reasons.
The goal of vaccination is to vaccinate only as needed, with what is needed, and never less than needed.