Vaccinations are a necessary part of caring for a dog of any age, but there are precautions you should take to avoid complications. There is an ever-increasing amount of information available to suggest that dogs are receiving too many vaccinations. There currently isn't one agreed upon solution to the frequency of vaccinations, or even if they are all necessary.
The core vaccines that many veterinarians agree are necessary include rabies, parvo, distemper, hepatitis and rabies. There are others, such as leptovirus, lyme disease and bordatella that are often just given if dogs enter high-risk areas for these diseases. I, for one, get titers for my dogs to measure the amount of protection my dogs currently have and to avoid over-vaccinating.
It can be more expensive because if the antibody levels are low after the titer test comes back, the vaccine is still necessary, adding to the cost. I absolutely think this extra step and any extra money spent is worth it. This is especially true since some of the vaccines contain a dose that lasts for three years. So, if I pay for titers, it is less frequent and not a given that I will have to pay for the vaccine as well.
Risks of Vaccinations
There are many risks including itching and swelling at the injection site to shock, lameness, vomiting, head swelling, diarrhea, trouble breathing and lethargy. Two of my clients recently had to rush their puppies back to the vet's office after an adverse reaction to the rabies vaccine that caused their puppy's heads to swell. Luckily, they were both fine. But the rabies vaccine is one of the more dangerous vaccines for dogs. See this article on the dangers of rabies vaccines.
What you can do
- Split vaccines into multiple visits and avoid "cocktail" vaccines. This will allow you and your veterinarian to identify vaccines that cause your pet to have adverse reactions
- Use titers when necessary to measure current levels of antibodies in your pet and avoid over-vaccinating
- Stay near your veterinarian's office for a short time after your vaccination appointment so your dog can get immediate care if there is a reaction
- Watch your dog closely for a few days after vaccinating to address side effects quickly if they occur
- Ask about 3 year vaccines