Whether or not you live in an area where you're legally required to get your dog vaccinated, doing so can save his life. Your veterinarian keeps a record of what vaccinations your dog has had and when, so you can keep his shots up to date and prevent a litany of serious health conditions. While your dog may not always need every vaccination he gets at the moment he gets it, the pros of regular vaccinations outweigh the cons.
Just like humans, dogs are susceptible to a wide variety of infections and deadly conditions that vaccinations can prevent. For example, canine distemper virus is a frequently deadly condition that causes nervous disorders and fever. Parvovirus, the biggest viral killer of dogs, can kill an adult in as little as three days and a puppy in as little as 12 hours. Because these conditions and others are so serious, prevention is more effective than treatment.
What Vaccinations Do
Vaccinations are mutated doses of the viruses they protect against. A small dose is injected into your dog, prompting his immune system to protect itself by developing the antibodies that defend against the virus. These antibodies stay in your dog's system for an inexact period of time that may vary depending on the virus -- this is why veterinarians typically recommend that dogs are re-vaccinated on a regular basis, providing them ongoing protection.
Case Against Vaccines
While vaccines generally are not considered bad for a dog, they may be considered unnecessary at times. Veterinarians cannot accurately predict how long a dog's natural immunity to a virus will last after vaccination, so they make educated guesses. This may mean that your dog is occasionally given a vaccine that he doesn't need yet, because the antibodies still are circulating in his body. While some veterinarians believe that this is wasteful, T.J. Dunn Jr., DVM writes for PetMD that it is better for your dog to be vaccinated according to guidelines than to take risks by skipping doses.
The Final Verdict
Ultimately, vaccines are generally good for your dog. Even if they seem wasteful at times on principle -- such as when your dog doesn't necessarily need another dose yet -- the protection that vaccines offer from deadly, painful and fast-striking diseases is highly valuable and should not be taken for granted. Regular vaccinations keep your dog's immune system strong, and can help him live a long, healthy life.
By Tom Ryan
About the Author
Tom Ryan is a freelance writer, editor and English tutor. He graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a degree in English writing, and has also worked as an arts and entertainment reporter with "The Pitt News" and a public relations and advertising copywriter with the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.