Preventing dog health problems is better and cheaper than treating them.. Such problems include infectious diseases, internal and external parasites, physical accidents, unwanted pregnancies(naughty teenage dogs!), and diseases that might spread from your dog to you, or vice versa.

Vaccination is the most important measure you can take to ensure your dog’s good health, but the subject has rightly become a topic of intense discussion. My advice is to read the following and then, with your vet, develop an appropriate inoculation schedule for your dog.

A vaccine contains disease-causing bacteria or viruses (or parts of them) that have been modified so that they no longer make your dog ill. Crucially, however, they retain the ability to “activate” the body’s immune system, preparing it to fight off future infection. When a dog is vaccinated, against distemper, for example, some of its white blood cells “learn” to produce antibodies – complex chemicals that neutralize the distemper virus.

Vaccinations may be given as single inoculations, or as multivalent vaccines, where a single shot protects against a variety of diseases. The duration of the protection afforded by vaccines is largely unknown, with the exception of the rabies vaccine, which is known to be effective for a minimum of two or three years. Because no one knows how long protection lasts, many manufacturers and veterinary associations recommend annual boosters to keep immunity reliably high. However, some veterinary schools and practitioners employ a three-year re-booster schedule. This schedule is based on the realization that immunization to viruses may persist for years or even throughout the life of the dog. They claim that reducing the frequency of vaccination may help reduce some immune system problems. In Australia, most kennels will not take a dog for boarding unless they have been immunised within 12 months.

Protection plan
There is no general rule that dictates which vaccinations your dog will receive, but all puppies should begin a course of “core” vaccinations as soon as possible after eight weeks of age. The youngsters should not be put at risk until fully protected. If your dog is over 12 weeks of age and has an uncertain vaccination history, it is best to vaccinate as you would do for a puppy, although, depending on the manufacturer, fewer injections may be needed. Animals can occasionally react to vaccinations. These reactions are usually mild and short-lived, and may include muscular aches, mild fever, and drowsiness. Very rarely, there may be a more severe reaction, the most common side effects being vomiting, swelling of the face, and hives. In these cases, seek immediate advice from your veterinary surgeon.

Local knowledge
The risks to your dog will vary depending on where you live and vaccindations vary greatly from country to country. It is important that you discuss with your vet the core diseases against which your dog should be protected, and the frequency with which booster vaccinations need to be given.