Do I need to vaccinate my adult dog?

The best answer is yes, you should vaccinate your dog to protect it against many serious diseases that still threaten dogs’ lives and health.

Vaccination basics

Puppies are vaccinated when they are young and many people believe that once their pet is vaccinated as a pup, they do not require any further vaccinations but this is untrue. It is very important that vaccination is continued every year throughout their lifetime.

There are two different types of vaccinations that your dog should receive.

The first type is called “core” vaccines, and includes the vaccinations that are considered essential for all dogs, involving diseases that are easily transferred and/or fatal. These diseases are adenovirus, parvovirus and distemper.

Other vaccinations are considered to be “non-core” vaccines, and include protection against diseases that are dependent upon environmental exposure or lifestyle. These are the vaccinations that you will need to discuss with your veterinarian to determine if your dog needs them, and include kennel cough and leptospirosis vaccines.


How does vaccination work?


Vaccines contain harmless forms of the organisms that can cause infectious disease in your pet. Following vaccination, your pet’s immune system generates a protective response that stimulates the formation of antibodies and immunity. After this, the immune system is ready to fight infections and will help prevent the dangerous forms of these infectious diseases from making your pet ill.


Why Vaccinate?

Pets are always exploring the world around them and coming into contact with other animals. This makes them likely to come in contact with infectious diseases. Vaccination of your pet teaches their immune system how to recognise and defend against certain infectious diseases which can be incurable and may be fatal.

Unfortunately, the protection given by vaccinations declines which is why immunity protection needs to be maintained annually throughout its life. Many of the diseases pets are vaccinated against do not have a specific cure. Treatment can be given but this is limited to just supporting the animal in the hope they can overcome the infection.

In order to keep your pet in good health, we recommend regular preventative health checks. These health checks are normally carried out at the same time as vaccination. Your pet’s healthcare requirements will change throughout their lives from maturity up to old age. We will be able to advise you on how often these health checks are necessary.

Are there any health risks with vaccination?

Some pet owners worry that vaccinating their dogs will carry health risks as well. While any medical procedure, including vaccinations, carries some risk, the risk to your pet is generally much greater if you do not have your dog vaccinated at all.

If you are concerned about the potential side effects that the vaccinations can bring, you can talk to your veterinary surgeon about what is best for your pet. Keep in mind that your vet is there to protect and look after your dog, and will not bring unnecessary risks in his health care. He will base his decision to vaccinate on a number of factors, including the lifestyle and age of your dog, as well as his potential to be exposed to a variety of diseases.

Reactions to vaccinations are relatively rare, and may include pain or swelling at the point of injection. Allergic reactions to vaccination can occur shortly after vaccination which can be serious or even fatal. However, patients usually respond well to treatment. An even rarer reaction to a vaccination may cause an auto immune disease resulting in disorders of the skin, joints, blood or nervous system. Although very serious, these reactions are fortunately very rare.

What diseases  are dogs vaccinated against?


  • Canine Distemper: This disease is spread by direct contact with other infected dogs. It is almost always fatal. It causes variable symptoms such as fever, coughing, discharge from the eyes and nose and eventually cracked foot pads and noses. Some dogs may suffer from neurological symptoms such as seizures.
  • Infectious Canine Hepatitis: This disease is spread by direct contact with infected dogs and is potentially fatal. The virus attacks the liver, kidneys and lungs. Symptoms include coughing, vomiting, diarrhoea and pale gums. It progresses rapidly and can cause death within 24 to 36 hours. Dogs that recover can shed the disease for many months and therefore are a threat to other dogs. Thankfully, the cases of this disease are rare due to vaccination.
  • Canine Parvovirus: This is a highly contagious disease spread by contact with other infected dogs and by contact with infected environments. It is often fatal. It can infect dogs of all ages but puppies are particularly vulnerable. Symptoms are vomiting and diarrhoea which is generally bloody. Infected dogs are also lethargic and refuse to eat or drink. Outbreaks still occur regularly.
  • Leptospirosis: This condition can be passed on by contact with other infected animals and also from the environment. It can also be passed on to humans. It is caused by bacteria which can be picked up from watercourses and urine of other infected animals e.g. rats. Symptoms vary from flu-like symptoms to severe abdominal pain.
  • Canine Parainfluenza & Bordetella (Canine Cough): Several infectious agents cause Canine Cough. They are passed on through airborne droplets from one dog to another. The main signs are a harsh hacking cough with gagging and retching.


If you do decide NOT to vaccinate, we would strongly encourage you to book an Annual Health Check where your veterinarian will examine your pet from top to toe and answer any questions you may have.  This can aid in the early detection of disease and ultimately ensure your pet does not suffer unnecessarily.