Vaccinating your dog

Why should dogs be vaccinated?

Veterinarians advise that responsible owners should take their dogs to have their vaccinations administered. A vaccine is the administration or inoculation of the weakened or dead strain of a pathogen into an organism’s body. The purpose of this is to trigger an immune response within the organism, in this case within the dog. Thus, following any possible future exposure to the pathogen, the organism’s immune system should be able to recognise the harmful bacteria or virus and respond to it effectively. This form of medicine is preventative and often ensures that animals are able to survive when exposed to a bacteria or virus for which there can be no cure. They survive because their own bodies, due to the vaccination, will usually acquire the ability to fight off the infection themselves.

It is essential for the health of dogs and puppies to be vaccinated in order to prevent the transmission of diseases. Dogs love to smell, touch, taste, dig up, and roll in the environment that surrounds them; all of which can result in them harbouring an infection. Even the way they greet each other can transfer a pathogen. Some of these diseases do not have cures and so prevention is vital in maintaining a healthy dog. If all owners responsibly vaccinate their dogs, then there would be greater protection against an infection which can sometimes even be fatal.

When buying a puppy, the owner should take it to the vet to be registered and then the information on vaccinations can be given. The protection from its mother’s milk only lasts a few weeks and so it needs all the help it can get. The vaccinations can often be given in one or two injections and so do not cause much distress or expense as opposed to if the animal actually contracted the disease. As pack animals dogs do need company and so interaction with other dogs, for example in the park, is recommended for a healthy dog both physically and mentally. As a result, vaccination is a healthier option for a pet rather than keeping it indoors away from other dogs or other possible sources of infection for the whole of its life.

When should dogs be vaccinated?

Puppies should be vaccinated at around seven to eight weeks of age which ensures that the immunity from the mother’s milk does not reduce the effectiveness of the vaccine. The course is administered in two doses within a time period of ten days. Following one week after the second injection is given; veterinarians often advise that the puppy is not allowed out of the house or come into contact with other dogs aside from its mother so that the puppy’s immune system has the time to have been appropriately developed.

For older dogs, following their initial vaccinations when they were puppies, annual “boosters” are required. This provides long term immunity and keeps your dogs relatively safe. The boosters can be given more regularly although it is more cost effective to do so annually and in many cases once a year may be all that is actually needed for the dog. The veterinary surgery should send reminders in the post telling the owner when their registered pet is due for its booster.

Which vaccines are most commonly used?

The main vaccines still used for dogs are important due to the occurrence of transmission from unvaccinated dogs. Fortunately, more owners are becoming responsible and having their dogs vaccinated which is leading to the decreasing numbers of fatalities and distress. However, this does not mean it is becoming safer to not vaccinate as these numbers can easily increase if even just one infected dog comes into contact with other unvaccinated dogs.

A brief overview of the main diseases is as follows:

Canine Parvovirus

Canine parvovirus is a fatal disease which can be transmitted by faeces. It is able to survive for long periods of time on items such as clothes, feeding bowls and fur. It is a highly contagious disease and the symptoms include bloody diarrhoea and vomiting.

Canine Hepatitis

Infectious canine hepatitis is an infection of the liver in dogs. This fatal disease can be transmitted via bodily fluids such as urine. The abdomen becomes very painful and the dog will cough, vomit, and have diarrhoea. A bluish tinge can also appear on the eye.

Canine Distemper

Canine Distemper is extremely contagious and caused by a virus. It can be transmitted via the air, bodily fluids, and faeces. The dog shows symptoms of vomiting, diarrhoea, hard pad, and fever. It is known for the infected dog to die suddenly.


Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease which can be transmitted by infected urine coming into contact with the dog’s blood, for example via an abrasion of the skin. The disease can be fatal and symptoms include fever, vomiting, bloody diarrhoea, and depression.

Kennel Cough

Kennel cough is a contagious disease which is usually transmitted between dogs via the air through coughing or sneezing. The disease is characterised by a dry coughing but other symptoms include sneezing, vomiting and sometimes fever.


Rabies is a fatal disease which is highly contagious even to humans. It is usually transmitted when the dog is bitten by an infected animal. In order to leave or enter the UK dogs need to be vaccinated against rabies and prove that they are not infected. There are three stages of the symptoms and it usually ends in death.  


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