Dog Tip: What to Know About Getting Your Dog Vaccinated
Updated: Apr 14
To Vaccinate, or Not to Vaccinate?
If you are a dog owner, you’ve no doubt considered this question. You aren’t required to vaccinate your canine friend to board them at The Dog House. However, we want to make sure you have enough information to make an informed decision about what is best for your dog’s health.
When Are Vaccines Helpful?
The most common vaccinations given to dogs are to guard against diseases such as rabies. Rabies kills 59,000 people globally each year, and this mostly happens due to transmission from dogs in countries where canine vaccination is not common. Thanks to the rabies vaccine, more than 90 percent of rabies cases in the United States now occur in wildlife, not pets, making the risk to human and pet health much lower than it historically has been. However, rabies (and other deadly diseases like it) is still alive and well, and getting your dog vaccinated will protect against it. This is also the case for other diseases, such as those caused by canine distemper virus, that used to be widespread but are now managed thanks to widespread vaccination.
When Should My Dog Be Vaccinated?
Most veterinary groups recommend that dogs get a suite of “core” vaccines as puppies, and at scheduled intervals as adults. Usually, these are given at 8, 12, and 16 weeks; after which they are given 1 year later, and every 3 years after that. We’ve provided more information about vaccine schedules at the end of this article, but of course the best resource will be a veterinarian who knows your dog and their history.
Titer Testing: Another Option
Vaccines are not always necessary to protect your dog's health. Have you heard of “titer” (pronounced “tight-er”) testing? In the context of pet health, this type of test uses samples of your pet’s blood serum to check for antibodies against specific viruses. These tests help your veterinarian decide whether or not your dog needs a dose of a particular vaccine, based on whether or not their immune system can already fight off the virus that the vaccine works against.
Not all pet diseases are good candidates for titer testing. This is because there are not enough data about these diseases to know an accurate immune threshold. In some cases, it is also because the vaccine is not yet good enough to fully prevent infection. However, in the case of most “core vaccines” - the ones strongly recommended for dogs by veterinarian associations worldwide - a titer test can be done to check for antibodies. This includes rabies, canine distemper virus, adenovirus, and parvovirus.
An in-depth titer test will go beyond a “yes” or “no” answer to the question of whether or not your pet has antibodies against a virus. It will tell you and your veterinarian how many antibodies are present. This is helpful, because the presence of antibodies in your pet’s blood does not automatically mean that they are immune to a given disease. It is important to get a test that will yield accurate results in this area. Check out the “Sources” section below to learn more.
When it comes to getting your puppy or adult dog vaccinated, it’s essential to equip yourself with the information you need to make an informed decision. We hope that this article helps you make the best choices for your dog’s health.
Puppy vaccine schedule: https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/health/puppy-shots-complete-guide/
Titer testing FAQ: https://www.vetmed.wisc.edu/lab/cavids/frequently-asked-questions/
More about titer testing: https://www.petmd.com/blogs/fullyvetted/2010/june/titering_or_vaccines-10182