Ask the Vet’s Pets: Why do dogs need so many vaccinations?

Dear Daisy Dog: I have Labrador retrievers, and I want a straight answer about canine vaccinations. Do our dogs need so many yearly vaccinations? What’s actually required? Which can be given every three years instead of annually? Daisy Responds: I wish I could give you a blanket answer, but the truth is that each dog’s risk of developing a given disease differs. Factors include how likely he is to be exposed to a sick dog, the strength of his immune system and chronic diseases that may suppress it, and even his breed and age. Because the veterinarians at Bernville Veterinary Clinic can assess your dog’s risk and know the prevalence of the diseases in our community, you should ask these important questions during the next wellness exam. That said, I can tell you that rabies vaccination is necessary because the disease is deadly to dogs and humans, vaccination is required by Pennsylvania law, and the disease is all too common here. Antibodies from the initial vaccination last one year; thereafter, duration of immunity is determined by the vaccine given. Most veterinarians recommend a distemper combo vaccination that also includes adenovirus, parvovirus and often parainfluenza. These viruses cause respiratory infection, neurologic disease, liver disease, vomiting, diarrhea and death. Both 1-year and 3-year vaccines are available. Our veterinarians may recommend annual vaccination to protect your dogs from leptospirosis, a bacterial infection that damages the kidneys and liver. “Lepto” can be transmitted to humans. Lyme disease, caused by bacteria that damage the joints and kidneys, is transmitted by ticks. The disease is often life-threatening in Labradors and other retrievers. The vaccine is boosted annually. Finally, you should consider having your dogs vaccinated for kennel cough if they are exposed to other dogs, particularly in close quarters or when under stress. The vaccine is given every six to 12 months.