Does my dog need vaccinations every year or can they be given less often?
The answer to your question depends on your dog’s age and its lifestyle. Some dogs need vaccines less often, some more often. All need check-ups 1-2 times yearly.
At Hespeler Animal Hospital, we recommend all dogs and cats get an annual physical exam at the very least. Senior pets need check-ups every 6 months. Dogs and cats age 6-7 years for every people year. A lot can happen in that time. Your pet might develop a heart murmur or a dental infection or a skin tumour (cancer). An exam less often means your pet might have advanced disease by the time it comes in for its next check-up. The earlier we detect illness in pets, the better. Especially if we diagnose the problem well before your dog or cat is showing any signs. Animals are good at hiding the fact they are sick, as a way of surviving in the wild, so their owners might not even know there’s a problem until it’s too late to do anything about it. Since we’re here to help your pet have the best quality of life possible and be around as your companion for as long as possible, we’re huge fans of preventative health care!
At the beginning of your pet’s Wellness Visit, we’ll ask you to complete a Lifestyle Questionnaire. Based on your answers, we’ll make recommendations for vaccines, deworming and other preventative care that is customized for your pets and your family. That way your cat or dog gets what it needs, no more and no less.
There are some vaccines that your dog needs once a year and others that can be given less often. Leptospirosis (Lepto) and Bordetella vaccines have a short duration of immunity, so they only last one year. That means they need to be given at least once a year for your dog to be protected from disease. Since Lepto is one of the more common infectious diseases in this part of the country, we include it as part of the core vaccinations for all our canine patients. Bordetella is necessary if your dog goes to boarding kennels, since Kennel Cough is an airborne germ, easily spread if a dog is coughing near other dogs, and so all kennels insist on it before they’ll look after your dog for you.
Other vaccines, such as Canine Distemper and Rabies, have a longer duration of immunity. Once your dog is an adult and has had both the puppy series and a yearly booster at age one and two, the Distemper Combo and Rabies can be given every 2 to 3 years. The Distemper combo vaccine also includes Infectious Canine Hepatitis, Parainfluenza and Parvovirus protection. At our clinic, we like a 2 year rotation. Why? Because we feel it’s safer for your family and easier on your dog. With a 3 year rotation, if a family emergency requires you to postpone your dogs’ vaccinations, the rabies protection may not be there if your dog needs it. But, if we vaccinate for rabies every 2nd year, there’s a built-in safety factor for you and your dog. Even if you’re a little late for the booster, your dog still has left-over immunity against the rabies virus.
And, by having the vaccines take turns, we can space the antigens out more evenly so your pet is not getting as many all at once. So, your dog might get Lepto and the Distemper combo for 2012, Lepto and Rabies in 2013, Lepto and Distemper combo in 2014, Lepto and Rabies in 2015, etc. Two year rotations are also easier to track, so it’s less confusing for you and for your pets’ health care team at the clinic.
We’re always very happy to answer any questions you might have about your pets’ innoculations. Please don’t hesitate to call, or you can ask the doctor at the time of your pet’s Wellness Exam.