What Shots Does My Dog Need?

by Katharine on March 14, 2010

dog with penRegular immunizations are an important part of keeping your dog healthy.  In order to prevent dogs from getting serious diseases that can make them very sick or possibly even die, we vaccinate against them every year or every few years.

How often your dog will need a shot varies between different vaccines.  Traditionally all shots were given once a year, but studies have since found that some vaccines — such as rabies — last longer than a year.  Additionally, vaccinating too frequently can actually be detrimental to your dog’s health.  For this reason, many vets vaccinate less often now, and often don’t give certain vaccines at all unless your pet is considered high risk.

Regardless of how long a vaccine lasts or whether your dog is high risk, however, local ordinances may require that you get certain shots every year.  Here are the shots commonly given to dogs, and some information to help you decide whether or not your dog will need them.

  • Rabies: Many, if not most, places require dogs to have regular rabies shots.  Usually you will need to get a rabies shot for your dog every year, although some communities only require it every 2 or 3 years, because of findings that some vaccines last longer than a year (and that over-vaccinating can actually be harmful to animals).
  • Distemper: Distemper is a highly contagious, often fatal disease that occurs more often in puppies and young dogs.  After the required boosters as a puppy, young dogs should be immunized against distemper every year, but older dogs can usually just get the shot once every two years.
  • Parvovirus: This is another disease that seems to affect mainly puppies and young dogs.  This vaccination is only done with your dog’s “puppy shots” — usually 8, 12, and 16 weeks.  You may also choose to vaccinate for parvo one more time when your dog is a year and a half old.
  • Leptospirosis: This is another serious disease that dogs should be vaccinated for, particularly if your dog ever drinks standing water or comes into contact with pests such as rats.  The vaccine doesn’t last as long as some, so you should get this shot every year.  Some municipalities may require that your dog have it.
  • Giardia: Dogs also get giardia, an intestinal parasite, from drinking outside water or eating other animals’ feces.  Like leptospirosis, giardia is a yearly shot.
  • Bordatella: Also known as kennel cough, bordatella is a respiratory disease that spreads quickly when dogs are kept in close quarters with one another.  The vaccination only lasts 6 months and usually isn’t necessary unless you are boarding your dog.  However, most kennels and some doggy daycares do require this shot.
  • Lyme disease: Depending on where you live, you might also want to vaccinate for Lyme disease.  Dogs get this disease from ticks, so if you live in an area where you have a lot of ticks, getting this shot would be a good idea.

Obviously you have a lot of things to vaccinate your dog for, and as you can probably imagine, the cost can escalate quite quickly.  Most dog owners should expect to spend $100 or more on vaccinations every year, not counting the cost of an office visit or a physical exam.  Because puppies have to be vaccinated several times before their first year, the annual cost of a puppy’s shots will be at least double that.  Having pet insurance can help soften the blow, plus you will be protected against other expenses that can come up during the year if your pet unexpectedly becomes ill.

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