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Dog vaccination debunk: is it really the best for your pet?

Dog vaccination

Still on the fence about getting your dog vaccinated? Let’s debunk some misconceptions and discuss vaccination coverage. A vaccine contains disease-causing agents (alive or incomplete). When it’s shot into your pet, their immune system springs to action.

Two weeks post-vaccination, your pet reacts as if infected, developing targeted immunity against the injected infectious agent.

Dog vaccination myths and misconceptions

  • Dog vaccination factsOlder pets don’t need vaccinations: ❌ that’s false, as age weakens their immune systems.
  • Pets can get vaccinated after infection: ❌ that’s false, as vaccines are preventive, not a cure for a sick animal.
  • Every pet should be well-fed and healthy before vaccination: ✔ that’s true, as a primed immune system is key for optimal response.
  • Post-vaccination, your pet might experience fever, an allergic reaction (swelling and itching), and a small lump at the injection site: ✔ it’s true, but these side effects are rare and fade fast (24/48 hours).
  • Vaccinating your dog protects you too: ✔ it’s true especially with rabies.

Now, let’s take a look at which vaccines are most important and why.

Canine Distemper

  • Contagion: Through body secretions.
  • Observed symptoms: Fever, loss of appetite, followed by conjunctivitis, nasal and ocular discharges, cough, diarrhea, vomiting, pustules, and neurological disorders.
  • Fatal disease in most cases.
  • Vaccination at 3 months. Annual booster for proper protection.

Canine contagious hepatitis

  • Contagion: By ingesting urine, feces, saliva or contaminated objects.
  • Observed symptoms: Diarrhea, vomiting, loss of appetite. Liver and lymph nodes get affected and swollen. Cornea becomes opaque and blue. Puppies are particularly vulnerable.
  • Fatal disease.
  • Vaccination at 3 months. Annual booster for good protection.

Rabies vaccine

  • Contamination: Occurs after a bite from an infected animal (or if they lick an open wound). It’s a zoonosis (a disease that can be transmitted to humans).
  • Observed symptoms: Aggression, fear, swallowing issues, salivation, itching, paralysis.
  • Fatal disease after onset. It’s a viral infection that infects the nervous system (brain and spinal cord). Once declared, it’s fatal in all cases. If you think your pet is a carrier or if you’ve been bitten, a vaccine can be effective if you’re in the incubation period, which ranges between ten days and a year (more rare). You should consult as soon as possible. Mandatory for 1st and 2nd category dogs and for dogs crossing borders to be vaccinated.
  • Vaccination: This vaccine is recommended by veterinarians. The first injection is given at 3 months then annually for ideal protection.

We strongly encourage all  owners to responsibly vaccinate their dog against this horrific disease. Local government units sometimes organize free rabies vaccination sessions, call your town or city hall to check on the next schedule.


  • Contamination: A bacterial disease contracted when a dog drinks from stagnant water (where there is urine from infected animals like rats) or through the skin when it swims.
  • Observed symptoms: Hemorrhagic gastroenteritis, kidney failure, yellow mucous membranes, and nephritis.
  • Fatal disease. It’s a zoonosis, meaning it can be transmitted to humans.
  • Vaccination at two months and then a new injection four weeks later. Annual booster for good protection. Hunting dogs should be vaccinated every six months if they are heavily exposed.


  • Contamination: Spread through direct contact between dogs or through their feces.
  • Observed symptoms: Intestinal and sometimes cardiac impact. Pregnant dogs are particularly affected, leading to the death of the embryo.
  • Fatal disease
  • Vaccination at 12 and 16 weeks then an annual booster for good protection.

Kennel cough

  • Contamination: Caught through direct nose-to-nose contact during play or in a place with a high concentration of dogs (shelters, kennels…)
  • Observed symptoms: Coughing, nasal discharge, fever, and fatigue.
  • Disease that is treatable with antibiotics.
  • Vaccination annually for good protection. It’s not mandatory, but recommended if your dog frequents boarding kennels or dog shows.


  • Contamination: Tick bite. Dog gets infected two or three days after the tick settles in. To avoid contamination, regular examination of your dog helps to spot the unwelcome guest. It can be removed with tweezers. Make sure to remove the entire tick, especially its legs.
  • Observed symptoms: Sluggish dog, complete loss of appetite, fever, intense fatigue. A very serious disease and fatal if not treated in time.
  • Vaccination at 8 and 10 weeks in two injections with a 3-week interval. Annual booster. The vaccine doesn’t fully protect against the disease. It’s a good idea to supplement vaccination with tick protection in the form of a pill to swallow or a pipette whose liquid is spread on the animal’s skin (on the spine).
  • To better understand: Puppies are immunized at birth by their mother’s colostrum (liquid rich in proteins and antibodies produced by mammary glands before or after birth). This immunity disappears after about 8 to 10 weeks.
    At two months, they receive a first vaccination. Some of them cannot respond to this vaccination because their antibodies are still too numerous. That’s why they get a vaccine booster at 12 weeks for most of the described diseases. Your vet will establish your dog’s vaccination schedule with your agreement.

3 tips on dog vaccination

Dog vaccination schedule1/ If you live in Mediterranean regions or plan on visiting, consider getting advice on the Leishmaniasis vaccine. Available since 2011, it can be administered at 6 months old. Note that it’s not 100% effective and it’s pricey ($200 or 180 to 200 euros). Its action should be supplemented or countered with the administration of antiparasitics. This infectious disease is caused by the bite of an insect, the sandfly (a kind of mosquito). Fatal in most cases, your dog can survive but will have to take a lifetime treatment.

2/ During your puppy’s vaccine booster at three months old, make a list of all the questions you have about your new companion. As a professional, the vet will answer all your queries.

3/ Every year, your vet will send you a letter to remind you of your dog’s vaccination date. When they’re 8 years old (senior), they’ll propose a check-up (blood…) to detect any possible diseases. Catching them early makes it easier to treat them.


“Animals have one merit; they never disappoint.” Jean Rochefort

Images: dreamstime: Ivonne Wierink; Pixabay: Nancy Sticke, Mirko Sajkov

Written by Lydie Dronet | With over 20 years in the field of animal care, Lydie shares her paws-on expertise and experience. Other topics she loves delving into are nutrition and the medicinal uses of plants.
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