Vaccinations have become somewhat of a controversial topic. It seems like everywhere you go, someone has their own well-formed opinion about the best way to vaccinate a dog. But who should you listen to?
The answer, of course, is your vet. Veterinarians are highly trained and they stay up-to-date on the latest developments and discoveries. They’re also experienced, and they understand how critical it is for dog owners to fully understand their own pet’s vaccination requirements.
Here are some of the most common myths and misconceptions surrounding vaccinations for dogs…and what you need to know instead.
“My dog needs every vaccination available. It’s the safest way.”
There are a plethora of vaccines available to pet owners. And it’s true that for some dogs, an overabundance of caution when it comes to vaccinating is the best way to protect against common diseases. But does your dog need every single vaccine on the market? Probably not.
Every dog’s specific set of life circumstances play a role in which vaccines he truly needs. A dog who never goes to the groomer or the boarding facility, for example, might not necessarily need the Bordetella vaccine on a regular basis. Likewise, there’s actually a rattlesnake vaccine now available that might be a no-brainer…for dogs in states with rattlesnakes. The only way to know for sure which vaccines are most likely to protect your dog is to talk to your vet.
“Every dog should be on the same vaccination schedule.”
Again, this myth is rooted in caution, but it’s slightly misguided. There’s something called a “standard vaccination protocol” all dogs should undergo when they’re very young. The core vaccines for dogs, that is, those vets agree are in the best interest of all canines, are given at regular intervals during the first year of life. Because dogs’ sizes and situations differ, there’s generally a two-week to one-month window of variation for dogs getting these vaccines. What’s most important is that the vaccines are given on a set schedule.
Non-core vaccines are entirely different, mostly because not all dogs need them. One dog might be given the flu vaccine in October, for example, while another might not get one at all. It’s all about talking to your vet about which vaccines are right for your dog, and when.
Rabies vaccinations are a special case. It’s the law in all states for dogs to get a rabies vaccination by 12-16 months of age (dependent on the state), and most states require boosters a year after that. From there, vaccinations against rabies every three years are usually acceptable, but it depends on the situation.
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“I need to have my dog vaccinated every year.”
A lot of well-meaning pet owners make annual calendar appointments to have their pets vaccinated. That’s love! While some non-core vaccines like Lyme disease and parainfluenza only last for a year, other vaccines can last up to three years.
Rabies vaccines, for example, are often given every three years instead of once a year, depending on the dog. Circumstances such as location, the size of the dog, the dog’s inherent risk factors, and more are important to consider when determining exactly how often vaccinations should be given. As always, ask your vet.
“Dog vaccinations cause doggy autism.”
Let’s be clear: Almost all vets agree that dogs cannot be diagnosed with autism. There are, of course, some very minor risks that come part-and-parcel with vaccines. Do they outweigh the potentially life-saving benefits of inoculation? No way.
For pet owners who absolutely, positively refuse to vaccinate their dogs with vaccines containing Thimerosal, the mercury-containing preservative some say is linked to autism, there are options. Certain canine vaccine makers actually produce versions without the ingredient…but be warned: they are incredibly expensive.
The vet’s advice? Stick with science and vaccinate your pet. The benefits drastically outweigh the risks.
Do you still have questions about vaccinating your dog?
Of course you do! Which vaccinations your dog needs as well as the order and schedule he needs them in are entirely dependent upon your situation. The only way to know for sure exactly what to do next is to talk to your vet.