Vaccinating your dog against disease protects him from serious illness. But in many cases, it is not without hazards. Although veterinarians say that vaccines are safe, most will caution that mild reactions can be expected. For dogs who have previously experienced vaccine reactions or side effects, extra caution is necessary.
Look for Reactions
Watch your dog closely after he has a vaccine. He may be sleepy, off his food, or sensitive at the site of the shot. You may see some swelling at the vaccination site. These symptoms are considered mild if they last for 24 to 48 hours.Call your vet if mild symptoms continue for more than two days. Vomiting, fever, severe swelling at the vaccine site, difficulty breathing, seizures, extreme itching or coughing are serious reactions. One or more of these may indicate an allergic reaction and require immediate veterinary attention as soon as the symptom occurs.
Avoid Frequent Vaccinations
Many veterinarians now vaccinate dogs every three years instead of annually, which used to be the standard protocol. The American Animal Hospital Association updated its vaccination guidelines for vets in 2011. The AAHA Canine Vaccination Task Force recommended that all core vaccines be given at three-year or greater intervals, except for core one-year rabies vaccines. The task force determined that immunity from distemper and parvo vaccines lasts for five years.
Test for Immunity
Rabies vaccines are required in every state, but in the case of non-core vaccines, your dog can have a blood test, called a titer test, that determines the level of immunity he carries. If he has adequate immunity to a disease, he will not need to be vaccinated. Older pets frequently maintain sufficient immunity from early vaccinations and a titer test will indicate that another shot is not necessary. Discuss having a titer test done on your dog with your veterinarian before vaccines are given.
Just Say No
Talk to your vet before you give your dog elective vaccines he may not need. Chances are your vet will agree if your dog isn't exposed to groups of dogs in kennels, boarding situations, at dog shows or competitions, he doesn't need the canine flu or bordetella vaccines. If you don't live in an area with ticks, your dog shouldn't need the Lyme disease vaccine. The leptospirosis vaccine is recommended for dogs who may be exposed to this bacterial infection. If your dog spends time in the water, drinks from puddles, or drinks water from rain or snow runoff, your vet may recommend it.