Dog Vaccination 101

Core Vaccinations

Core vaccinations are either strongly recommended or legally mandated in most countries- simply because infected animals can cause dangerous, if not lethal, outbreaks.


Canine Parvovirus is highly contagious and often deadly. This rapidly spreading virus basically attacks a dog’s intestinal tract, preventing the animal from absorbing nutrients and causing severe diarrhea, weight loss, and eventual death. The survival rate, even with veterinary intervention, is about 70%.


Distemper is a contagious and serious viral disease with no current known cure. The later stage of the disease affects the brain and spinal cord; the dog may start having fits, seizures, even suffer paralysis.


Canine Adenovirus causes respiratory diseases in dogs, often termed ‘kennel cough’. The disease itself isn’t often fatal, but secondary complications- like pneumonia- certainly are. This disease is highly contagious, especially in crowded areas such as shelters.

Rabies - Legally Mandated

Last, but certainly not least, we have Rabies; a disease so terrible, if left untreated, it basically turns the victim (people, as well as animals, are susceptible) into the real life version of a zombie before death. Once contracted, our human treatment for rabies isn’t completely reliable. If animals test positive, they aren’t even treated; rather your veterinarian is legally obligated to remove the animal's head, put it in a plastic bag, and send it in for laboratory testing- that is how serious this is. The Rabies virus has about a 10-14 day incubation period.


A Lone Survivor

Jeanna Geise was a mere 15 years old when she became the World’s First Known Unvaccinated Survivor of Rabies. Jeanna wasn’t bit by a dog, but rather a bat, an animal with fangs so small they are hard to notice, and the Biggest Carrier of Rabies in the United States. While attending a church mass, she noticed the bat swooping around. To make matters worse, churchgoers continued to swat at the animal with their hymns and hats rather than simply leaving the building.

After an usher managed to swat the animal to the floor, Geise graciously carried it outside, intending to let it go. The bat, frightened, sunk its’ fangs into the girl.

In order to survive the disease, doctors had to place Geise in a medically induced coma. She underwent extensive therapy upon awaking, re-learning how to walk and talk properly. Even now, 13 years later, she hasn’t recovered fully.

Without treatment, Rabies is 100% fatal.


Optional Vaccinations

These are, of course, optional vaccinations, either because they are very rare or mild and not lethal (in the sense the above four can be). This list includes:

  1. Parainfluenza (CPIV)
  2. Bordatella
  3. Lyme Disease
  4. Leptospriosis


Store Bought Vaccinations

Many vaccinations can be purchased over the counter and administered to your pet, saving you some money. There are risks, including proper storage and transport, cleanliness and proper administration by those not medically trained; most veterinarians would strongly advise against these home- treatments. Rabies can’t be administered by anyone but a licensed Veterinarian.

'With the exception of rabies vaccine, adult dogs should be revaccinated with a single dose of core vaccines (CDV/CPV/CAV-2) every 3 years or longer, regardless of the product used (AAHA guidelines, 2011).'


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