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My dog was vaccinated as a puppy. Does he need ongoing vaccinations?

I made sure my dog got all of the necessary booster shots when he was a puppy. Do I still need to take him in for vaccinations now that he's older?

Dogs need yearly protection.

Every puppy that was properly vaccinated needs a yearly vaccine booster for DHLP-P, and, depending on the state laws, a rabies vaccine either yearly or every two to three years. DHLP-P is a multi vaccine that combines protection from several viruses into one.

Most vaccines need to be repeated on a yearly basis because the immunity that the vaccine stimulates declines over time. A vaccine usually contains altered viral antigen that stimulates the dog's immune system to produce antibodies against the virus. The viral antigen is altered in the vaccine so that it does not cause the actual disease, but it stimulates the immune system to develop defenses against the virus in case of exposure to the disease at a later time.

Some typical ongoing vaccinations for dogs include the following:

  • DA2LP-P vaccine - this contains a combination of Distemper, Adenovirus-type 2 that causes Infectious Canine Hepatitis (liver disease), Leptospirosis, Parainfluenza, and Parvovirus.
  • Rabies vaccine - every year to three years depending on the state laws. Lyme vaccine - usually given yearly, this vaccine is recommended for dogs at high risk of tick exposure. Deer ticks or "hard ticks" can transmit bacteria called Borrelia burgdorferi, which cause Lyme disease. There is some controversy as to the use and effectiveness of this vaccine. Consult with your veterinarian about vaccinating your dog for Lyme disease.
  • Coronavirus - this is given to dogs at risk of developing coronavirus and is used when owners want all possible protection against viral diarrhea.
  • Bordetella vaccine - This vaccine is either given intranasally (drops into the nose) or as an injection under the skin. The intranasal form has been found to provide better immunity. The vaccine helps protect against infectious tracheobronchitis, or kennel cough.

Consult with your veterinarian about your dog's risk and need for vaccines such as the Lyme, coronavirus, and Bordetella vaccines. The DA2LP-P and Rabies vaccines need to be repeated in all dogs and usually are not optional.

Although some breeders opt to give vaccines themselves, veterinarians do not advocate unlicensed individuals vaccinating animals. Nevertheless, if you are giving vaccines, please be sure that you know how to do so properly. If vaccines are given accidentally into a blood vessel, there can be a severe shock reaction and the dog can die. Also, if vaccines are left out on the shipping dock, not properly refrigerated, or not given correctly, the dog will be inadequately protected from potentially life threatening diseases.

Remember that vaccines are not the entire reason that an animal needs to go the veterinarian annually. A physical exam is critical, because this allows the veterinarian to detect any problems or diseases before it is too late to do anything about them.