Vaccinating Dogs: What Every Dog Owner Should Know

This graphic has a picture of a dog lying down as they are receiving a shot. There is a deep green overlay on top of the image with a title that reads, "Vaccinating Dogs: What Every Dog Owner Should Know".
Dr. Rick Coufal, DVM

Dr. Rick Coufal, DVM

Dr. Rick Coufal is the founder and lead veterinarian for Ponderosa Veterinary Clinic. Coufal graduated from State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences in May of 2000.

Whether your dog is only a few months old or several years old, vaccinations play an important part in each dog’s lifespan. Vaccines keep them healthy, strong, and safe. But knowing which vaccines your puppy needs and how often they need them can be an overwhelming task. Here is everything a dog owner should know about vaccinating dogs!

At Ponderosa Veterinary Clinic, a vet in Colorado Springs, it is our mission to provide pet owners with transparent education when it comes to the care of their animals. That is why we have created this go-to guide for dog vaccinations so that every pet owner knows the types of dog vaccines available, the side effects of vaccines in dogs, and the vaccination schedule for dogs. We believe the more knowledgeable you have about vaccines, the more you will feel in control of your dog’s health. 

To learn more about vaccines for puppies, how they work, and why they are important for your puppy, keep reading!

A picture of a dog receiving a vaccination.

Why Vaccinate Dogs?

Every puppy receives antibodies from their mother’s milk until they are six weeks old. Afterward, puppies will need their first vaccinations in order to boost their immune system to keep them safe from viruses, infections, and other types of illnesses.

Vaccines stimulate your dog’s immune system by acting as a mild version of the real, more severe virus. The goal of vaccines is to build resistance to the virus in the future. After your dog is vaccinated, their immune system will have the ability to keep itself safe against the virus or infection when exposed to it. 

Since dogs are exposed to bacteria more than humans, they are susceptible to picking up illnesses. It is imperative to vaccinate your puppy to protect them from infectious diseases, strengthen their immune system, and keep them strong, healthy, and safe for years to come.

Types of Vaccines for Dogs

Vets categorize vaccines into type types: core vaccines and non-core vaccines.

Core Vaccinations

Core vaccines are the most important for your dog. In fact, many times, they are required by law. Core vaccinations are always recommended. These vaccines for dogs help fight off common or deadly diseases. Therefore, it is crucial your dog receives core vaccinations.

Non-Core Vaccinations

Non-core vaccinations are not always recommended. These vaccines help dogs fight off various diseases they may come in contact with depending on environmental factors. You should check with your vet about these types of vaccines. Your vet will have an understanding of your pet’s life to make the determination of whether they should get more vaccines.

a picture of a dog at the vet getting a shot

Types of Core Vaccines for Dogs

Core vaccinations are always recommended because they protect your puppy from mild and severe infectious diseases. The exposure, severity, and likelihood of these illnesses being caught by your dog mean all dogs should receive these core vaccines. Without vaccinating your pet, you run the risk of them getting sick. These diseases include:

  • Canine Parvovirus
  • Canine Distemper
  • Canine Hepatitis 
  • Rabies

In a single three-in-one shot known as the DAPPv — also called the distemper shot — your dog is protected against Canine Parvovirus, Distemper, and Hepatitis. It is also highly recommended to look at your state laws to see if some of these core vaccinations are mandatory. For example, the rabies shot is obligatory under Colorado State Law for puppies and new owners. Core vaccinations not only help your dogs stay healthy but also help prevent harming the general public as well.

Types of Non-Core Vaccines for Dogs

Non-core vaccines are given based on the lifestyle of your dog, in addition to environmental reasons. Oftentimes, these vaccinations will largely depend on your puppy’s individual exposure to various illnesses and infections. Here is a list of these vaccinations: 

  • Canine parainfluenza virus (CPiV)
  • Canine influenza virus
  • Distemper-measles combination vaccine
  • Bordetella bronchiseptica
  • Borrelia burgdorferi

These diseases are relatively common. For example, if you board your dog, you’ll want to protect your pup from kennel cough. Another example is if you go into the woods with your canine — don’t forget to protect them from Lyme disease.

However, you never want to vaccinate a dog that is not at risk. Therefore, it is always suggested you consult your veterinarian to see what is best for your pet. For more information on the various diseases and core and non-core vaccinations for dogs, visit UC Davis’ School of Medicine page for a thorough overview.

Graphic explaining the vaccine schedule for both cats and dogs

Side Effects of Dog Vaccines

The benefits of getting your dog vaccinated certainly outweigh the risks involved. However, there can be some side effects of vaccinations, such as lethargy, fever, diarrhea, or loss of appetite. This is nothing to be concerned about unless the symptoms continue for more than a week. If symptoms do persist, contact your pet’s vet clinic to update your vet about what your dog is experiencing.

While serious reactions are rare, serious side effects include vomiting or rashes. If your puppy is showing signs of difficulty breathing, this is definitely an emergency. In the case of allergic reactions, call your veterinarian immediately.

Vaccine Schedule for Dogs

For newborn puppies, there are three courses of vaccinations all puppies need to go through. They will start to receive their vaccinations starting around six to eight weeks of life. Their final vaccination occurs around 16 weeks of age.

Once your puppy receives their necessary vaccinations, your adult pet will generally only have to have vaccinations annually or every three years depending on your dog’s health and state law.

As a general rule of thumb, it is best not to vaccinate your dog unless they need the vaccine. Giving too many vaccinations can be problematic for your pet. Another way to check if vaccinations are important is through a titer test. A titer test is a blood test that shows your dog’s antibody levels. This will help your vet make the determination on what non-core vaccinations your dog needs.

What to Consider When Vaccinating Your Dog

Vaccines are highly important and effective at keeping your puppy healthy and protecting their immune system from disease. It is crucial that you stick to a vaccination schedule for your dog to ensure they receive the necessary vaccinations to keep them safe.

Additionally, it is important to not over-vaccinate your pet. Your dog only needs the vaccinations that they require. There are many factors that go into whether your dog requires a vaccine, such as.

  • Age
  • Overall health
  • Number of shots
  • Allergies
  • Environmental factors
  • Lifestyle
  • Vaccination history

Next Steps for Vaccinating Your Pet

The best way to determine whether your pet needs vaccinations is to discuss this with your veterinarian. Your veterinarian will be knowledgeable on the types of vaccinations your dog needs and when they need them. They will help set up a vaccination schedule for your pet to keep them healthy and happy!

Vaccinations play an essential role in keeping your puppy safe from infectious illness, infection, and disease. Vaccines keep your furry friend’s immune system safe and ensure they grow up strong. For example, vaccines keep your pet safe from canine influenza, Lyme disease, parainfluenza, bordetella bronchiseptica, and a number of other diseases.

a picture of a vet holding a dog

Vaccinate Your Dog With Ponderosa Veterinary Clinic

Your dog’s well-being is the top priority. Vaccinations work to keep your pet healthy, strong, and safe by protecting your dog from illness and infection. Not to mention, some vaccinations are required by law. No matter what age your dog is, keeping on top of their vaccination schedule is an essential part of their health history.

At Ponderosa Veterinary Clinic, our professional staff treats each patient with integrity, transparency, and compassion. We want you to make the best possible decisions for your pet, which is why we are passionate about empowering pet owners with educational resources about vaccines. If it is time for your dog to get their vaccinations, or if you have any questions about vaccines, please contact Ponderosa Veterinary Clinic!

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