Canine Vaccinations 101

Are you new to dog ownership? Vaccination is your pet’s first line of defense against dangerous diseases, and it’s an essential part of great dog care. Here, your McHenry, IL veterinarian gives you a crash course in canine vaccinations.

How Do Vaccines Work, Exactly?

A vaccine works by administering something called an antigen to your dog’s immune system. Your dog’s body recognizes the antigen as a disease, and responds by developing antibodies to that particular strain of virus. This way, your dog’s system is prepared to fight the disease should the real thing ever come along, either lessening the symptoms significantly or fighting off illness entirely.

What Vaccines Do Dogs Need?

Most likely, your dog received the “core” vaccines together in a batch when he or she was a puppy. The core vaccines are considered essential for all dogs because of the contagious and/or dangerous nature of the diseases they protect against. They include vaccines against parvovirus, calicivirus, canine distemper, hepatitis, and rabies. These vaccinations may require booster shots to remain effective, occurring every year or on a multiple-year basis.

Some dogs also receive “non-core” vaccines. As the name suggests, these shots aren’t considered essential for all dogs but are necessary for some based on circumstance. For instance, a dog who will commonly be boarded at a kennel will likely benefit from vaccination against the Bordetella virus, which causes kennel cough.

Are Vaccines a Legal Requirement?

This is dependent on the vaccine itself and the regulations in your particular area. Some vaccinations are legally required in almost all areas; the rabies vaccine is a key example. Other vaccines, though, aren’t legally required—it’s purely up to you and your veterinarian if your dog receives them.

Keep this in mind: it may be difficult to get your dog boarded at kennels or accepted into training classes, dog spas, dog parks, or doggie daycares without proof of updated vaccinations. Proof of vaccination may also be required for your dog to travel to certain places or stay in pet-friendly hotels.

Are There Risks Involved?

Side effects are extremely rare, but they can happen. Dogs may experience minor symptoms like soreness, swelling, minor allergic reactions, or low-grade fever. Let your vet know if you think your dog is reacting poorly to a vaccine; your veterinarian can treat the symptoms easily.

Ask your McHenry, IL veterinarian for more information on the vaccines your dog needs.

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