puppy yellow lab waiting to get vaccination from vets

Wondering Whether to Vaccinate?

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There are differing opinions among pet parents on the safety and necessity of dog vaccines. No matter with which side of the argument you agree, read on to become more well-informed. Knowledge is power, after all, and you are your pet’s first and best advocate for good health!

Pro-Vaccination Arguments

beagle looking nervous as a vet tech is holding a vaccination in front of him

There are many arguments given by pet owners and veterinarians who support annual pet vaccinations. A few of the most common arguments are:

  • My vet says I need to vaccinate my pet every year, and he’s a doctor I trust. Many veterinarians do believe that yearly vaccines are necessary. Conversely, many others agree that evidence shows immunity can last up to the lifetime of your dog or cat.
  • I don’t want my pet to get sick from a preventable illness. Nobody does! It is important to take many factors into account. Know the difference between core vaccines and non-core vaccines, and the risks for certain diseases in your region and with your pet’s lifestyle (indoor vs. outdoor cat, wooded area nearby with lots of wildlife, lots of unscooped poop in your neighborhood, etc.).
  • Vaccines are perfectly safe. Many pets do receive yearly vaccinations with no known problems or side effects, but this isn’t the case for all pets.
  • Vaccines have led to the eradication of some terrible diseases. This is very true! Certain vaccines, when given correctly, are great for prevention and eradication of deadly disease.

Anti-Vaccination Arguments

The anti-vaccination camp most frequently gives these reasons for avoiding vaccinations:

  • We give our pets vaccinations they don’t need. This is often true, but vaccinations are an important tool, especially for animals who have compromised immune systems and to prevent dangerous diseases.

A dog laying down with an icepack on his head in front of a first aid kit.

  • Vets and vaccine manufacturers are just trying to make extra money. Most veterinarians want to take care of your pet to the best of their ability. However, drug companies who make vaccines may only be after profits. Drug companies tell veterinarians that their vaccines should be given yearly when they’re actually effective for much longer. Some veterinarians may have the same mind-set.

Let’s Compromise

Core Vaccines vs. Every Vaccine

There IS a difference between the core vaccines that your dog or cat should probably receive and the ones that are added in there just because they’re available. Just because a vaccination is available does not mean that your pet is at risk and should receive the vaccine! Dr. Schulz says that the core vaccines that every dog should receive include: distemper, parvovirus, adenovirus, and rabies. Every outdoor cat should receive: panleukopenia, calici, herpes and rabies vaccines. Dr. Schultz recommends that indoor cats only receive the panleukopenia vaccine.

Ask Questions

You are paying your veterinarian to provide a service for you and your pet. If you have questions about a vaccine he or she is recommending, then ask! If your veterinarian does not have the time or ability to answer your questions thoroughly, then you need to find a new veterinarian who can. Ask why your vet thinks your particular animal needs this vaccine and don’t accept ‘because every pet should get it yearly’ as an answer!

Do Your Own Research

When we do our own research on dog vaccines and go into the vet’s office well informed, then you have an easier time make a decision based on what you learned and what the veterinarian is telling you. It’s important to listen to you vet, but also getting a second opinion or doing your own research is important as well.

Titer Testing for Vaccines

Did you know that there is a way to find out if your pet is still immunized from his last vaccination? It’s called a titer test. It’s a simple and relatively inexpensive blood test that you can ask your vet to do, or send away for results.


A dog getting heart listened to by vet with stethescope

When a vaccinated dog or cat gives birth, the babies automatically receive antibodies, or immunity, to the diseases for which the mother was vaccinated. Over the first weeks and months of a puppy or kitten’s life, this immunity wears off-somewhat unpredictably and at different times for different diseases. If a puppy is given his first round of shots, but he still has the mother’s antibodies for certain diseases circulating in his system, then those shots are useless and must be given again after the mother’s antibodies leave.

This is so the puppy has the chance for his own body to develop its own immunity. This is the reason that there are rounds of puppy and kitten shots. Since we do not know when the mother’s protection will end, we give all shots multiple times to make sure the pet is fully protected. This means that most puppies and kittens are given many unnecessary shots.

The best way to prevent this is titer testing. This testing can tell you what your pet is already immune to, so he will not have to undergo extra needles and vaccines. You can get this rechecked whenever you like, and titer testing has proven that immunization from vaccines can last much longer than one year, and even for the lifetime of your pet. The fees for titer testing I have seen range from $25 to $150, depending on which lab you go with, and not including your veterinarian’s blood drawing fee.

Follow the Law for Dog Vaccines

Most states require rabies vaccines. This is understandable, as the rabies virus is frequently deadly to any animal who contracts it, including humans. Some states require a yearly vaccine while others require vaccination every three years. Follow your state’s law.

Consider Individual Needs

Approach vaccinating your pet with a focus on individual needs! If your pet has an allergic reaction to a certain vaccination, weigh the pros and cons of getting the same vaccination next year, or trying a titer test instead. If your pet has a very weak immune system and is at high risk for disease, consider which vaccinations are necessary and which are not. Let’s all use our common sense!

So, no matter on which side of the argument you lie, consider the valid points made by the other side. Some vaccines are necessary and good, some are not. Vaccinate with your pet’s individual needs in mind, do your own research, and don’t be bullied into anything you don’t want to do!

Other sources: www.wholedogjournal.com

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This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Mia Evans

    Thanks for helping me understand that we should ask the veterinarian for any questions we might have regarding a vaccine. I will follow your advice, especially when I want to make sure that it is actually safe for a puppy. We will be getting a puppy soon, so we need to take it to an animal hospital first to get the needed shots and all to also ensure the safety of our kids.

  2. Eli Richardson

    It’s good to know that a lot of states ask dog owners to vaccinate them against rabies. My brother’s adopting a dog next week, so I think he’ll benefit from reading your post about vaccinations. Thanks for explaining that we’d research our state’s vaccination regulations to ensure our dog has the right care.

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