Invariably, dog owners ask themselves: ‘Do I really need to vaccinate my dog?’ The short answer is yes.
“Vaccines are health products that trigger protective immune responses in pets and prepare them to fight future infections from disease-causing agents,” according to the American Veterinary Association. “Vaccines can lessen the severity of future disease and certain vaccines can prevent infection altogether.”
Simply explained, vaccines stimulate a dog’s immune system to protect itself against disease. “When the antigen or infectious agent enters the dog’s body, it is recognized as foreign and antibodies are produced to bind to it and destroy it,” according to the Dog Owner’s Guide. “The cells that manufactured the antibodies ‘remember’ it and will respond more quickly the next time the same agent [infection] is confronted.”
However, nothing is 100 per cent, including vaccines. Breakdowns can occur for any number of reasons, including fever, steroids, disease and maternal antibodies – which are provided to newborn puppies from their mother’s milk, which can all block the dog’s ability to create antibodies. Vaccines can also fail if they are given too close together. However, if given too far apart, the memory response of the immune system may not be properly stimulated.
Reactions to vaccines are also possible – more so in young puppies and toy breed dogs. Adverse reactions, which, if they do occur, will happen within the first 24-48 hours, and usually consist of a low-grade fever or muscle pain/ache, loss of appetite and increased sleep. Severe reactions include hives, face swelling or vomiting.
There are two types of vaccinations – modified-live and killed, both of which have pros and cons.
Modified-live vaccines provide stronger, longer-lasting and more rapid protection, including local immunity. They are generally less expensive and require only one dose to be effective. On the negative side, they have the potential to become active and cause the very disease they are intended to prevent, especially in a dog that has a weakened immune system.
Killed vaccines cannot become virulent or produce local immunity. However, they are more likely to cause allergic reactions and require more initial and frequent doses.
An example of the two vaccine variations is the Bordetella vaccination. The killed Bordetella vaccine requires two injections, yet they are only 60-80 per cent effective and do not provide local immunity to the airway. On the other hand, the Modified-live Bordetella vaccine is given via the nostril, requires one dose and starts to provide local immunity within 48 hours.
Once your new puppy is brought home, it is imperative a visit to your veterinarian is made within the first 24 hours. At this visit, you will be inundated with puppy raising information, but also a vaccine schedule. At which time come the confusing questions and answers: What does this vaccine prevent? Is this or that one necessary? Is this vaccine annual or every few years?
Prevention against Distemper is extremely important as it can permanently damage the dog’s nervous system, sense of smell, sight and sound.
Which vaccines your dog receives and how often, is dependant on your location. Consult your veterinarian to create a schedule that is best suited to your dog and its needs.