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Vaccination of dogs

Programs supporting regular vaccination of dogs have contributed both to the health of dogs and to the public health. In countries where routine rabies vaccination of dogs is practiced, rabies in humans is reduced to a very rare event.

Currently, there are geographically defined core vaccines and individually chosen non-core vaccine recommendations for dogs.

Most vaccination protocols recommend a series of vaccines for puppies, with vaccine boosters given at one year of age. Frequency of vaccination thereafter varies with the disease and vaccine type.

Most vaccines are given by subcutaneous (under the skin) or intramuscular (into the muscle) injection. Respiratory tract disease vaccination may be given intra-nasally (in the nose) in some cases.

Vaccine immunogens may consist of killed or inactivated pathogens, bio-engineered pathogen proteins or polypeptides, or, increasingly rarely, modifed-live virus. Most vaccines contain adjuvants designed to boost the immune response to the vaccines. Many adverse reactions are associated with reactions to these adjuvants.

Additional recommended knowledge


Core vaccines for dogs

Government laws and local recommendations vary, but in countries where rabies occurs naturally and laws address licensing and vaccination of dogs, rabies vaccination of dogs is required by law.

Other core vaccines in most regions include canine distemper, canine parvovirus, canine hepatitis virus or adenovirus-2. In some regions, vaccination against specific serovars of leptospirosis is considered core.

Non-core vaccines for dogs

Non-core vaccines for dogs, which may be important to administer when exposure is predicted, include Bordatella (kennel cough), canine parainfluenza virus (another kennel cough agent), and Lyme disease. Generally not recommended owing to unproven efficacy are canine coronavirus, canine adenovirus-1 (which also causes significant reaction), Giardia vaccine and rattlesnake envenomation vaccine. The rattlesnake vaccine available from Red Rock Biologics is given to dogs in two doses with yearly boosters recommended for best results. It is marketed as a safer and more economical alternative to antivenom treatment but does not negate the need for immediate medical treatment for such a bite. Vaccines for other species of poisonous snakes are being developed by Red Rock [1].

Controversies in dog vaccination

There are evolving theories about the necessity and frequency of vaccinations for domestic dogs. Many dog owners and now many academic veterinarians have expressed concern that dogs are being vaccinated too frequently. Specific adverse reactions and general consequences for long-term health are both being cited as reasons to reduce the frequency of vaccination of adult dogs. Manufacturers of vaccines for dogs have responded by developing more vaccines with at least three year efficacy proven. Many states and communities have changed ordinances to allow for longer intervals between rabies vaccinations when vaccines of proven efficacy are administered.

Adverse reactions to vaccines

Adverse reactions usually occur because of a harmful immune-mediated reaction to either the vaccine immunogen itself or to the vaccine adjuvant. Rarely, modified live virus vaccine agents cause disease directly.

Ischemic Dermatopathy / Cutaneous vasculitis

A little known and often misdiagnosed reaction to the rabies vaccine in dogs, this problem may develop near or over the vaccine administration site and around the vaccine material that was injected, or as a more widespread reaction. Symptoms include ulcers, scabs, darkening of the skin, lumps at the vaccine site, and scarring with loss of hair. In addition to the vaccination site, lesions most often develop on the ear flaps (pinnae), on the elbows and hocks, in the center of the footpads and on the face. Scarring may be permanent. Dogs do not usually seem ill, but may develop fever. Symptoms may show up within weeks of vaccination, or may take months to develop noticeably.

Dogs with active lesion development and / or widespread disease may be treated with pentoxyfylline, a drug that is useful in small vessel vasculitis, or tacrolimus, an ointment that will help suppress the inflammation in the affected areas.

Owners and veterinarians of dogs who have developed this type of reaction should review the vaccination protocol critically and try to reduce future vaccinations to the extent medically and legally possible. At the very least, vaccines from the same manufacturer should be avoided. It is also recommended that the location in which future vaccinations are administered should be changed to the rear leg, as far down on the leg as possible and should be given in the muscle rather than under the skin.

Urticaria / Anaphylaxis

Fortunately, severe systemic reaction to vaccine allergy is very rare in dogs. When it does occur, however, anaphylaxis is a life-threatening emergency. More often, dogs will develop urticaria, or hives within minutes of receiving a vaccine. When this occurs, a veterinarian will treat the reaction with antihistamines and corticosteroid drugs and this is usually effective. Future vaccine protocols must be modified according to the vaccine component suspected to have triggered the reaction.

External Resources

  • 2006 AAHA Canine Vaccine Guidelines
  • AVMA Principles of Vaccination
  • The Vexing Vaccine Issue from JAVMA News
  • UC Davis VMTH Canine and Feline Vaccination Guidelines
  • Vaccine FAQ from The Pet Health Library
  • Baughan, Loretta. Are We Over Vaccinating Our Pets? Spaniel Journal


  1. ^ [1]

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Vaccination_of_dogs". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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