Is Vaccinating Your Dog That Important?

Warning: I am not a veterinarian. All advice I give should be taken with a grain of salt, as with a lot of advice you may read online. I just like to help animals, through helping their pet parents, with the 19 years of experience I have gained by working in veterinary medicine.

Ultimately, you should consult your veterinarian before trying anything yourself at home.


Ok, let me back up a bit and be realistic.

Your dog’s lifestyle has everything to do with what vaccines they should be given.

But, without a doubt, your dog should be given a Rabies vaccine and stay up to date on it throughout their life.

I will get to the other vaccines in a minute, but let me explain why the Rabies vaccine could mean life or death to your dog in the blink of an eye.

Rabies is a deadly, incurable disease that is still very much a part of life, in the wildlife population, in every state of the United States. I think Hawaii is the only state that doesn’t have an issue with Rabies.

If your dog comes into contact with any type of wild animal, the consequences of that contact (whether it be minimal, they actually get attacked, or they bring catch or kill a wild creature) could affect you and your pet’s life if you have no way of knowing if that wild animal is carrying Rabies.

A quick story, a while back a woman called our clinic looking for somewhere to quarantine her two 7 month old puppies for 6 months.

They were caught, in the owner’s back yard, playing with a dead bat. The woman threw the bat away, but then wanted to make sure everything was ok, so she called the county animal control center.

Since the puppies had never been vaccinated, and the woman no longer had the bat so it could be tested for Rabies, it was an automatic 6 month quarantine with very little contact, or the puppies could be euthanized.

It’s a horrible story, and the woman finally got the animal control authorities to allow her to quarantine the puppies at her home after spending hundreds of dollars constructing an at home kennel where the puppies would live for the remaining 5 months, but the animal control authorities can not take the potential risk of the puppies spreading Rabies to anyone they come into contact with.

There are also rules of quarantine for animals who go overdue on their Rabies vaccine.

The strangest things can happen, especially when we live so close to nature, which is everywhere. Keep your dog’s Rabies vaccine up to date, and keep that paperwork somewhere safe.

The Rabies vaccine is also important if your dog ever bites another animal or person.

If that happens, and you have no way to prove that your dog was vaccinated, and the injured person or animal goes to the hospital for treatment, the hospital is legally required to report the bite to the appropriate authorities.

Due to Rabies still being very much an issue, they have to make sure everyone is safe from all possibilities.

You may think that your adorable, sweet dog would never bite anyone, but you have no idea what animals will do when they are put in stressful situations.

They can also bite when they are scared or painful, among many other possible scenarios.

Now, back to other the other vaccines.

It is important to vaccinate your dog when they are puppies, regardless of what their lifestyles are going to be. Vaccines help keep them from contracting the common diseases that still plague dogs, regardless of your lifestyle.

Puppies get a series of combination vaccines containing Distemper, Adenovirus, Parainfluenza, and Parvo vaccines typically starting at 6-8 weeks of age, given every 3-4 weeks until they are 18-20 weeks old (4 boosters altogether) and a Rabies vaccine at 3 months old.

There are other vaccines that are recommended based on where you live, like Corona Virus, Leptospirosis, Lyme, and Influenza. Then there is the Bordetella vaccine that is also required for boarding, or recommended if your dog is in confined spaces around other dogs or will be in contact with larger groups of dogs, like the groomers or at the dog park.

Your veterinarian should be able to tell you which vaccines are important based on where you live and you and your dog’s lifestyle. If you don’t trust what your vet has to say, then you need to find another clinic to take your pet’s to. You HAVE to be able to trust that your pet’s doctor is trying to do what’s best for you and your dog.

You can also contact other clinics and see which vaccines they recommend. If multiple clinics give you the same answers, then you know there’s a common protocol in place for a reason.

Another way to find out which vaccines are important is to call boarding facilities.

Boarding facilities don’t get any money from your dog receiving vaccines, they’re just looking out for the welfare of all the pets that they care for. If they require certain vaccines, there’s a reason for it.

After your dogs puppy vaccines they will need to return a year later for their annual boosters.

After that, they get boosters every 1 to 3 years, based on your vet’s protocols, the area you live in, and your pet’s lifestyle.

What are you vaccinating your dog against?

Rabies Virus:

From Wikipedia

Rabies is a virus that attacks the nervous system and ultimately ends with death.

Most of us have seen ‘Old Yeller’, the yellow lab in the movie ends up getting Rabies and becomes aggressive towards his family and ultimately has to be ‘put down’. Very sad.


From Wikipedia

Canine distemper is a viral disease that affects a wide variety of animal families, including domestic and wild species of dogs, coyotes, foxes, pandas, wolves, ferrets, skunks, raccoons, and large cats, as well as pinnipeds, some primates, and a variety of other species.

In canines, distemper affects several body systems, including the gastrointestinal and respiratory tracts and the spinal cord and brain, with common symptoms that include high fever, eye inflammation and eye/nose discharge, labored breathing and coughing, vomiting and diarrhea, loss of appetite and lethargy, and hardening of nose and footpads. The viral infection can be accompanied by secondary bacterial infections and can present eventual serious neurological symptoms with a high rate of mortality.


From Wikipedia

Infectious canine hepatitis (ICH) is an acute liver infection in dogs caused by Canine mastadenovirus A, formerly called Canine adenovirus 1 (CAV-1). CAV-1 also causes disease in wolves, coyotes, and bears, and encephalitis in foxes. The virus is spread in the feces, urine, blood, saliva, and nasal discharge of infected dogs. It is contracted through the mouth or nose, where it replicates in the tonsils. The virus then infects the liver and kidneys.

Symptoms include fever, depression, loss of appetite, coughing, and a tender abdomen. Corneal edema and signs of liver disease, such as jaundice, vomiting, and heptic encephalopathy, may also occur. Severe cases will develop bleeding disorders, which can cause hematomas to form in the mouth. Death can occur secondary to this or the liver disease. However, most dogs recover after a brief illness, although chronic corneal edema and kidney lesions may persist.



The respiratory signs for parainfluenza resemble those found in dogs afflicted with canine influenza, but the similarity ends there.  Both are quite contagious and are commonly found in areas of high concentrations of dog populations, like dog race tracks, shelters and kennels for example. They are very different viruses and, accordingly, require different treatments and vaccinations. Parainfluenza virus infection is a highly contagious viral lung infection which can be a component in infectious tracheobronchitis, commonly referred to as “kennel cough”.

The symptoms of parainfluenza virus infections are listed below.  The severity or intensity of these symptoms may vary based upon the age of the afflicted canine or the condition of the immune system of the host:

-Coughing – This can be either a dry cough or moist and productive (can include blood)

-Low grade fever Discharge from the nose – This can be mucus, pus or even blood

-Decreased energy

-Decreased appetite


From Wikipedia

Canine parvovirus (CPV, colloquially parvo) is a contagious virus mainly affecting dogs. CPV2 is highly contagious and is spread from dog to dog by direct or indirect contact with their feces. Vaccines can prevent this infection, but mortality can reach 91% in untreated cases. Treatment often involves veterinary hospitalization.

Dogs that develop the disease show signs of the illness within 3 to 7 days. The signs may include lethargy, vomiting, fever, and diarrhea (usually bloody). Generally, the first sign of CPV is lethargy. Secondary signs are loss of weight and appetite or diarrhea followed by vomiting. Diarrhea and vomiting result in dehydration that upsets the electrolyte balance and this may affect the dog critically. Secondary infections occur as a result of the weakened immune system. Because the normal intestinal lining is also compromised, blood and protein leak into the intestines leading to anemia and loss of protein, and endotoxins escape into the bloodstream, causing endotoxemia. Dogs have a distinctive odor in the later stages of the infection. The white blood cell level falls, further weakening the dog. Any or all of these factors can lead to shock and death.

In my own personal opinion, yes, your dog should be vaccinated. Even if you only do your dogs puppy vaccines, it gives it a good start of immunity.

If your dog is active outside of your home or other animals, the vaccines should be updated as often as your veterinarian recommends.

All dogs should stay up to date on their Rabies vaccine regardless of lifestyle, unless it’s health is compromised and it is recommended by your veterinarian to not be done.

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