Vaccinations for Dogs – Parvovirus, Distemper and Other Viruses

Dog owners, especially those who are new to having pets, may underestimate the importance of proper vaccinations for their four-legged friend, but that can be a costly mistake. Failing to provide necessary vaccinations can lead to your pet contracting a preventable disease that could take his life. Also, some shots are required by law and you could face fines or even have your pet taken away by the city for failing to comply.

Normally, just one trip to the vet per year is all that is required to keep vaccinations current. In some cases, you may have to return for a booster shot. Below is a list of the common vaccinations required or suggested as well as a description of the disease being vaccinated against.


This disease often causes death, even with early detection. While this disease, which severely compromises the dog’s immune system, is more common in Dobermans and Rottweilers, all dogs are susceptible to it and should be vaccinated.

Bordatella (Kennel Cough)

This disease affects the bronchi and causes the dog to suffer with a loud cough. The disease is easily transmitted between pets. While rarely fatal, this shot should be included in yearly vaccinations, especially if your dog socializes with other animals.


This disease may start out by appearing like a cold. Shortly after the respiratory symptoms, however, more serious symptoms such as seizures will begin. This disease can be fatal.

Lyme Disease

While this disease is not fatal, it will cause your dog to suffer with severe arthritis and lack of energy. The effects of Lyme disease can last for several months and antibiotics are required in order to treat the disease.


This disease is highly contagious and symptoms often include a cough that may or may not be productive. In some cases, this virus can lead to pneumonia.

Corona Virus

Causes severe’ diarrhea‘ and is often associated with an infection of the’ parvovirus. Corona, while miserable for both you and your pet, is not fatal.


Rabies is a fatal disease. In addition to being fatal to your dog, an infected animal provides a large risk to its owners and to other people. This vaccine is required in most locations and owners who cannot provide proof of the vaccine can be subject to criminal charges.

In addition to the vaccines above, your vet can advise you as to whether any other shots are recommended. Also, you should always provide heartworm prevention for your pet. There used to be a vaccination that provided protection for one year, but it is no longer available as some pets became ill, and some died, after receiving the vaccine. Heartworm prevention must be given orally once a month. Also, tests should be done annually to be sure that your dog is not infected. Heartworm infestation is often fatal and symptoms may not show for years.

Now that you have some basic information about what vaccines are necessary, below is an explanation of how vaccines work.

Vaccines for pets work in the same way as the vaccines given to humans. By injecting a form of a certain virus into the system, the immune system kicks in and provides the body protection against whichever virus was injected. Of course, if a disease causing virus is injected in an animal, that animal would become infected with the disease. Instead, the virus must be altered so that it can provide protection, but not do harm.

Once the immune system detects a foreign agent in the body (the virus) it reacts by producing antibodies which kill the virus. Also, chemicals are produced which may kill the virus or protect the body by helping other cells fight the virus. Most vaccines must be repeated in order to remain effective.

As there has been with vaccines for humans, there have been some problems associated with vaccines for dogs. An example of such a problem, with the heartworm vaccine, was mentioned earlier in the article.

Some dogs are not able to receive vaccines due to a compromised immune system or other medical problem. In such rare cases, the vet will provide the owner with certification that the dog is not able to be vaccinated. This will keep the owner out of trouble with the law, but the unvaccinated pet should not socialize with other animals and should be kept indoors as much as possible.

Scientists are working on safer vaccinations and are also trying to develop vaccines for other parasitic diseases that are not currently protected against by vaccines. Also, vaccinations against cancer and some forms of diabetes may be possible in the near future.

Still have questions about vaccines? Here are answers to a few of the most commonly asked questions.

What if my pet misses a dose of a vaccine?

Missing a recommended dose of any vaccine puts your pet at risk for disease. Every attempt must be made to keep your pet’s vaccines current according the schedule set up by your vet. If, however, your pet does miss a dose, you can work with your vet to get the pet back on schedule. If the missed dose was a booster, he will likely have to start over by receiving the initial vaccine again.

My pet had a bad reaction to a vaccine. Should he be vaccinated again?

This decision must be made by you and your vet on a case by case basis. There are many factors to consider in such a case including type of reaction, overall health of the animal and how likely the pet is to come in contact with the virus in question.

How old must my pet be before he can begin receiving vaccinations?

Normally, puppies can receive their first shots at 6-9 weeks of age. In some cases, a vet may decide to vaccinate a bit earlier, especially if the animal is in an environment where he will be exposed to several other animals.

Is vaccination a guarantee that my pet will not be affected by a virus?

Some animals do contract diseases that they have been vaccinated against, but the percentage of such cases is small compared to the number of animals vaccinated. In some pets, the virus fails to stimulate the immune system. Again, this is rare and most dogs benefit greatly from receiving vaccines.

One thing is certain: if you love your pet you should take the time to have an annual exam and round of vaccines at the vet’s office. Also, provide monthly doses of heartworm prevention. Doing so could save your dog’s life.



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