As medicine advances, changes are made to types, frequency, and other aspects of vaccinating humans and animal alike. Anyone keeping current with the news knows that many improvements in medical knowledge are not implemented, or at least not quickly, due to legal processes. For instance, it was decided that in 2013 that dogs only need to be vaccinated every three year. Actually, the American Animal Hospital Association stated that distemper and parvo protection lasts at least 5 years, and adenovirus for 7 years! The same with humans, too much medicine is NOT a good thing. As I mentioned before, the political wheels move slowly and most veterinarians seeing animals today are still promoting annual vaccination boosters. This may be from needing additional income, ignorance, or because local requirements force them to practice in this manner; for instance, if your pet is picked up loose the judge may fine you if his shots are not “up to date” (been there, done that). Some vets may use annual booster shots to get owners to bring in their pets in for yearly checkups for heartworm and other invisible diseases. Dr. Richard Ford, a DVM who is on the AAHA canine vaccination task force, says that 60% of vets are still pushing for annual vaccinating. How to fight this? Ask your vet to perform blood titers to determine if your pet really needs additional medication. It won’t be much cheaper, but Spot won’t be getting drugs he doesn’t need. Truthfully, the only vaccination required by law is for rabies prevention. If your vet still recommends other vaccines, discuss with him/her what the real chances are that your pet will be exposed to that risk. Many dogs stay inside or in yards and aren’t exposed to nasties that may be transmitted by other animals or the external environment. Let’s answer some of the most common questions about vaccinating your dog . . . . WHY ARE DOG VACCINATIONS IMPORTANT? According to VIP PET CARE, regular vaccinations help prevent diseases and let you keep your dog around longer. And don’t we all want that? The diseases include rabies, parvo, hepatitis, distemper and others. You are also protected from rabies and leptospirosis that may spread from them to you. WHICH VACCINATIONS ARE REQUIRED BY LAW? Rabies is the only vaccination required by law. However, your vet will recommend others to prevent picking up nasties from the environment and other animals. For instance, rabies can be contracted from any other mammal and even if Fido is kept in his yard, things like cats, raccoons, and bats (yikes!) can wander in. Did you know cats, dogs, and cows are the three animals that catch rabies the most? In Texas, where I live, the only required shot is rabies every three years. ARE PUPPY SHOTS THE SAME AS YEARLY SHOTS? As the owner of a 10-month-old troublemaker, I felt like every time I turned around I was pulling out my wallet for puppy shots. They typically should get them at 6-, 12-, and 16 weeks old. These contain the same preventatives as adult shots. Then you start on the yearly shots. Puppies are most at risk for parvo, which can kill them within two days. There’s no cure once they get it – just trying to keep them hydrated during fever, diarrhea, and vomiting until their immune system might kick in. CAN MY DOG GET VACCINATIONS IF HE/SHE IS ON ANTIBIOTICS OR IF SHE IS PREGNANT? If your dog is on antibiotics, it’s best to wait until they’ve run their course. One reaction may be that your dog may feel kind of yucky and lay around for awhile. Another problem is that the vaccine may be destroyed by the antibiotic. So it’s better to just hold off until your vet says it’s okay to come back for the vaccinations. If your dog is pregnant, she may lose the puppies in response to a vaccination. Time the breeding for after boosters are given. Of course, you aren’t breeding a dog before the age of one year, are you? I should hope not! HOW MUCH ARE DOG VACCINATIONS? The average cost for all the puppy shots in the first year is about $75-$100. Even that free puppy you got from your friend needs these shots. Rabies boosters are around $20 plus the office visit – my vet gets $23 for me just walking in the door. Every state is not the same for rabies boosters, so check with your vet for requirements and costs. IS THERE A PLACE TO GET FREE VACCINATIONS FOR MY DOG? CAN I DO THEM MYSELF? There are some animal shelters that may give them free or at reduced prices. In hard times, I went to the local shelter and got them all for about $35, but I had to wait in a big room for about an hour trying to corral my dog from all the other 50 animals in there. Some people think they can give the vaccinations themselves and this is both true and false. As far as protection, you can give the shots yourself. But the state will not recognize that you did so. Only a licensed vet meets state standards. If you give the shots yourself, your dog may be protected, but if he gets picked up for any reason, you may get a fine. The law in many states is that your pet may be quarantined or even put down if his shots are out of date. My Buddy was overdue when I got him without realizing it and he got 10 days in the pound without contact with me or any other dogs. I almost died myself from the separation. CAN DOG VACCINATIONS MAKE THEM SICK? Just like people, some dogs may be allergic to their shots. There’s no way to predict this, and it may happen after two or even three in a series. Some dogs only get a little sick while some go into full-blown shock. The good news is that if you can get your furry friend to the vet right away, he can be saved. A FINAL WORD I have lost a show dog to distemper, my Buddy was in the early stages of heartworm when he died, and I got slammed with a hefty ticket plus $200 for boarding while he was in the doggie slammer when I didn’t realize Buddy’s shots were outdated . . . there was a teensie altercation with a feisty schnauzer next door. If you love your pet, mark your day planner for monthly heart prevention, puppy shots, and the required immunization boosters. Just like your kids, you gotta suck it up, pay the money, and get them done. This is part of being a responsible pet owner. Here is a video by Dr. Ronald Schultz on alternatives to annual vaccinations.