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Should Dogs Be Vaccinated Every Year

↯ Key takeaway points

  • Vaccinations are crucial for protecting dogs against fatal diseases and canine viruses.
  • Many vaccines are now given every three years instead of annually, based on extensive research.
  • The American Animal Hospital Association recommends vaccinating adult dogs every three years.
  • Core vaccines, such as canine distemper and parvovirus, are essential for all dogs, while non-core vaccines, such as bordetella and leptospirosis, are recommended for dogs in specific situations.
  • It is important to follow your state's laws and consult with your vet regarding the need for annual or triennial boosters and any concerns about your dog's health after vaccination.
Written by Jay
BsC (Hons) Animal Behaviour & Welfare graduate with a passion for advocating for misunderstood animals.
Licensed veterinarian and animal behaviorist with over three years of experience and a Ph.D. in Poultry Science.
Published on
Saturday 22 January 2022
Last updated on
Tuesday 6 June 2023
dog vaccines
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While the science surrounding vaccines evolves, many pet parents today wonder, “should dogs be vaccinated every year?” Vaccinations are crucial for protecting your pup against killer diseases and canine viruses. They are likely to be a requirement if your dog needs to go into a boarding kennel or travels abroad with you. However, with the many vaccines that your pup needs, it can be daunting to plan ahead for when, and how often, they need their next shots.

The yearly vaccination of dogs is a thing of the past for most vaccines. It was once thought that all vaccines should be given again after one year. Now, many vaccines are given every three years instead. However, getting a booster one year after the initial series of puppy shots is crucial for assuring that your pup keeps its immunity for the next three years.

How Do Vaccines Work

To understand how often to vaccinate a dog, we must first discuss what exactly vaccines do and how they work. In short, a vaccine is either a weakened or inactive microorganism that is inoculated into the body, typically through an injection, that triggers an immune response in the body. This weak or inactive version of the microorganism does not cause disease but instead prompts the immune system to respond as it would if it was encountering the actual thing. To fight off the microorganism, the immune system produces antibodies. After the immune system responds, it remembers how to build the specific antibody to fight that microorganism.

How Often Should Dogs Be Vaccinated

The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) recommends that vets vaccinate adult dogs every three years. In the past, it was recommended to re-vaccinate dogs every year instead. Before 1995, the USDA licensed all dog vaccines and marketed them based on short-term studies. These studies were not extensive, lasting just a few weeks or months at the time. As such, all vaccines went on to include the disclaimer “annual revaccination recommended”, without much insight into whether the duration of immunity (DOI) was one year or a lifetime.

By 1995, studies were undertaken to look at this disclaimer. One article, titled “Are we vaccinating too much?” highlighted concerns about the lack of scientific documentation to back up label claims that call for annual revaccination. This article was the catalyst for changing how often we vaccinate our dogs. Now, thanks to extensive research, veterinarians have a better understanding of just how often each vaccine should be given to our furry friends and under/over-vaccinating.

what are dog vaccines
Core vaccines are considered vital to all pets based on the risk of exposure, the severity of disease, or the transmissibility to humans.

Types of Dog Vaccines

Dogs can receive core and non-core vaccines depending on their age and their vet’s recommendation. Core vaccines are those that are required for all pets. Non-core vaccines are those that physicians suggest depending on a pet’s specific medical history and lifestyle.

  • Canine distemper: First dose 8 wks, second dose 10-12 wks, third dose 1yr, booster triennially
  • Parvovirus: First dose 6-8 wks, second dose 10-12 wks, third dose 1 yr, booster triennially
  • Rabies: First dose 12-14 wks, second dose 1 yr, booster annually or triennially
  • Leptospirosis: First dose 8-12 weeks, second dose 10-16 weeks, annual booster
  • Bordetella: Can be given as early as 3 weeks, booster every 6 months – 1 yr

Canine Distemper (Core)

Canine distemper (CD) is a highly contagious disease of dogs. The most common source of infection is through direct contact between dogs, making it a huge problem for places where dogs are in close contact. As such, vaccination is crucial in preventing canine distemper. Canine distemper vaccines provide prolonged immunity and their efficacy reaches 99%. However, just one vaccination is not enough. Your puppy can get their first CD vaccine at 8 weeks old. From here, they will need a second vaccine 2 to 4 weeks later. Puppies must receive a booster injection 1 year after their initial set. Then, all dogs need a booster every 3 years. The CD vaccine is a core vaccine that all dogs must receive.

Parvovirus (Core)

Canine parvovirus is an extremely contagious viral disease of dogs. This disease typically affects young unvaccinated puppies, and without quick treatment, the disease is fatal 90% of the time. Because of the curious nature of puppies, it’s very common for a puppy to catch parvovirus from contact with the poo of another dog. Your puppy should get their first shot at six to eight weeks old. They will then need a second shot two weeks later. After this, they need a booster vaccine at one year old. From here, the booster shot is necessary every three years to maintain immunity.

Rabies (Core)

Nothing strikes fear in the heart of pet parents as much as the word “rabies.” Rabies is a rare but very serious viral infection of the brain and nerves. Your dog can get rabies through direct contact or with saliva or brain tissue from an infected animal. Because rabies is so deadly and poses a great risk to the public, the rabies vaccine is a legal requirement in the USA. All dogs must receive their first rabies vaccination at about 12 to 14 weeks old, and then again at one year old. Depending on your state, re-vaccination should occur every one to three years. The rabies vaccine does not need to be given in two sequential doses like the distemper vaccine does.

Bordetella Bronchiseptica (Non-Core)

The Bordetella vaccine is a “non-core vaccine” that is most often given to dogs who are in close contact with other dogs in boarding or social settings. Many dog daycare centers, boarding kennels, dog shows, and training classes require you to vaccinate your dog against this bacterial agent. This is because Bordetella bronchiseptica is the most common cause of kennel cough in dogs. The best way to determine how often your dog needs the Bordetella vaccine is to ask your vet. Generally speaking, healthy adult dogs who come into contact with large groups of other dogs should get the vaccine every year. This is because studies show that the vaccine is effective for one year. Some boarding facilities require a booster within the last 6 months before they can take your dog in.

Leptospirosis (Non-core)

Leptospirosis is a bacterial infection in dogs. The bacteria live in soil and stagnant water, especially where there are farm animals and rodents. In some severe cases, leptospirosis can cause death in dogs. Because of this, along with the disease’s widespread prevalence, vaccination is an important way to keep your pup safe. Unfortunately, there are over 250 strains of the bacteria – we can currently only vaccinate our dogs against four serovars, which accounts for most, but not all, of the types that can infect dogs. Puppies who are at risk of getting leptospirosis can receive their first shot as early as 8 to 9 weeks old, but some experts recommend waiting until they are 12 weeks old. After this, your puppy will need a booster after 2 to 4 weeks. A booster is necessary one year later.

dog vaccine importance
Vaccinations can help avoid costly treatments for diseases that can be prevented.

Yearly Dog Vaccinations: FAQ

Have any more questions or concerns about the yearly vaccination of dogs? Feel free to check in with our FAQ for more details. If ever in doubt about your dog’s vaccination schedule, it’s best to talk to your vet.

When should I start vaccinating my puppy?

Once your puppy is 6 to 8 weeks old, they can have their first series of vaccinations. Several initial injections will be needed, followed by regular boosters that you must keep up to date for the rest of your pup’s life.

What if my puppy misses a vaccination?

If your puppy misses a vaccination, you must speak to your vet right away. It’s important to give your puppy the next vaccine as soon as possible. When they are late for their vaccine, their immune system will no longer be as active against the disease, and there will be less of an immune response for any further vaccines they get. Because of this, your puppy will need to have their vaccine as soon as possible, then a booster two to four weeks later.

Can a dog survive without vaccinations?

Dogs who never receive any vaccinations are at greater risk of contracting serious diseases. However, it is difficult to say exactly how risky this is. This is because disease rates vary from year to year and from region to region, and not every dog shows signs of potentially fatal diseases when they carry them. Sadly, though, many of the diseases that we vaccinate our pets for are fatal without vaccination or treatment.

Should dogs have boosters every year?

Whether your dog needs annual boosters depends on the vaccination in question and the laws in your state. For example, canine distemper and parvovirus vaccine boosters are given every three years. In contrast, your state laws may state that you need to get your dog re-vaccinated for rabies every year or every three years.

Can vaccines make dogs feel bad?

Like people, some dogs may feel unwell for a short time after receiving a vaccine. This is normal. The side effects of your dog’s core vaccines can include a mild fever, a loss of appetite, and a loss of energy for a day or two after their shots. Some other adverse reactions include vomiting and swelling at the injection site. If you have any concerns about your dog’s health after their shots, always ask your vet for advice.

Some dog vaccinations call for re-vaccination yearly or triennially. Whether your pet needs their re-vaccination every year or every three years may depend on your state laws. Be sure to check with your vet about the requirements in your state.

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