Do you really need to vaccinate your dog?

Vaccinating your dog against infectious, life threatening viral diseases such as, parvovirus, distemper, leptospirosis, hepatitis, and parainfluenza should be a no-brainer.However, in recent times some dog owners have been questioning the use of vaccines, and in particular the annual booster. What follows will help to guide you through a crucial aspect of dog health.

How do dog vaccinations work?

In non-medical terms, they work in the same way that human ones do. The dog is injected with a small, but weakened dose of fragments of the the actual disease, that it is going to prevent. As a consequence, the dog's immune system reacts to this invasion by producing antibodies.

These cling to the microorganisms, that cause the virus, and destroy them. However, a footprint is left by the viral agents. Any consequent attack is quickly recognised, and similarly dealt with by a better informed immune system.

At what age should I first vaccinate my dog?

The milk from its mother gives a puppy a high degree of immunity from disease. But protection starts to decline from 6 weeks of age and is virtually non-existent at 20 weeks. Immunization against the above mentioned viral diseases are given in a single shot, usually administered at 12 weeks of age.

Vaccinated Retriever Puppy

Are there any side effects to vaccinating my pet?

When you take your puppy for his shots--the vet isn't just going to immunise your dog, and then bid you both farewell. This is the first contact point between your dog and his future health provider. And you should expect that your puppy will receive a thorough medical prior to any shots being given.

Reactions can occur, just as humans have reactions to immunisation. Today's vaccines are thoroughly tested, and undergo numerous safety trials, but problems can arise in a small number of pets. Usually this lasts for 24-48 hours and is characterised by a loss of appetite, and sleeping more than usual.

Only on rare occasions does a more severe allergic reaction occur. This can involve facial swelling, sometimes diarrhoea, and/or vomiting. The essential thing to do if this does happen is not to panic--but do contact your vet immediately.

Its because of concerns about the vaccination process that the American Animal Hospital Association and the American Veterinary Medical Association have published complimentary recommendations, and changes to their canine vaccination guidelines. The core advice offered to veterinarians by these two organisations are:

Decisions concerning a dog's immunisation schedule needs to take in to consideration the dog's age, its current health, its breeding, also its local environment and lifestyle. They pointed to scientific evidence that some vaccines afford more than a single year of immunity. And that annual boosters can cause vaccine-site infections, auto immune problems, and suppression of the immune system.

What are the alternatives to vaccinating my dog?

Homeopathic and herbal treatments abound, especially on the Internet. A growing number of people are shying away from modern medicine and turning to other forms of treatment. There are claims that homeopathic nosodes can, and do prevent canine viral diseases. There have been a few studies done and published in Homeopathic magazines but the evidence they drew was inconclusive.

Most responsible homeopathic veterinarians would agree that using homeopathic nosodes alone as a way to prevent disease is not a strategy that they would advise.

So, should I immunise my dog?

There are problems with vaccines. But the evidence is overwhelming that immunising your dog is the most effective treatment against diseases, that can and possibly will kill your dog or puppy, if left unprotected. To ignore this advise is extremely detrimental to your dog's health.

The most relevant, and individual advice, about your pet's health should begin at the vet's doorstep. It's there that you will be able to work alongside a health professional to ensure that your dog's vaccinations, and future health care, are in the best possible hands. That's a no-brainer.

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For more information about immunising your dog please consult the American Veterinary Medical Association: AVMA

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