All pets, including dogs, should have vaccinations to protect them against disease and illness.
Just like humans have vaccinations when children and then annual boosters (such as the flu vaccine), dogs need vaccinations when they are puppies, as well as annual boosters.
All vaccinations should be carried out by a registered veterinarian. They will have your pet’s health record on file. So, they will be able to tell you when their vaccinations are due. You should get reminders by text, post or email.
When dogs are puppies, they must be vaccinated in the first few weeks of their lives. Some may be the responsibility of the breeder, and others will fall in the timeframe that they are in their new home.
Puppies are typically vaccinated at eight and ten weeks with the second dose usually being given two to four weeks later. It is really important that the second dose is given as without it, your puppy won’t be able to go outside.
Your puppy will then require a booster vaccination at 6 or 12 months. As your puppy becomes an adult dog, you need to make regular visits to the vets to keep their vaccinations up to date.
Vaccinating adult dogs
Dogs must have regular vaccinations to ensure they remain healthy and strong throughout their lives. It prevents them from picking up any diseases or illnesses and also limits the spread of these illnesses.
Boosters usually occur annually. All are commonly given at once, and your dog may also be able to have their annual checkup at the same time.
If vaccinations are kept up to date and on time, it keeps their immune system healthy and ticking over. However, if too much time passes between doses, you may need to restart their vaccinations.
Which diseases are dogs protected against with vaccinations?
Dogs are protected against four main diseases with vaccinations and then have the additional option to be protected against kennel cough.
A virus that is spread by the infected faeces from another dog. The virus can survive in the area for nine months.
Parvovirus usually affects puppies between six weeks and six months of age but can also affect adult dogs who haven’t had their regular vaccinations. Puppies who are affected at a very young age can develop heart problems and die.
- Severe vomiting and diarrhoea
- Haemorrhagic gastroenteritis (bloody faeces)
- Severe dehydration
- White blood cell count drops, leaving their immune systems weak and susceptible to secondary infections
There is no specific treatment. A dog with suspected parvovirus can be put on a drip. This will give them medication to prevent secondary infections and stop vomiting. A drip will heavily increase their chances of survival, but it is still often a fatal disease.
A virus that is spread by all bodily secretions from an infected animal. Commonly, this is saliva. It is usually spread by direct contact, and other mammals such as ferrets can also become infected.
Those with severe symptoms commonly die. Any with mild infections can recover, but will often develop neurological issues later in life. This is known as ‘old dog encephalitis’.
The symptoms of the canine distemper virus can vary wildly from relatively mild health issues to serious illness, which is why it is vital your dog is protected.
- Coughing, vomiting and diarrhoea
- Discharge from eyes and mouth
- Muscle tics
- Difficulty walking
- Eye problems
- The thickening of the skin on the nose and pads – distemper is also called ‘hard pad’
There is no common treatment for distemper. Fluids can help with dehydration and medication can help control seizures and tics, but other symptoms are untreatable.
Lepto is a disease caused by bacteria. Contaminated water is the main way it is spread. In the UK, the main two strains are carried by dogs and rats, so dogs are particularly at risk if they swim or drink from stagnant water near where rats are. Water that cows use can also carry the bacteria.
Infected urine can also spread leptospirosis. In humans, leptospirosis infection can lead to Weil’s disease. It can also be fatal
- Haemorrhagic gastroenteritis
- Kidney and liver infection
Kidney and liver failure occurs in the most severe infections, but dogs at this stage will most definitely die.
Antibiotics and IV drips can help get a dog with lepto back to full health, but only if the infection isn’t too severe. Their urine will carry the bacteria for months even after they have a full bill of health, however. So, it is vital neither humans nor other animals come directly in contact with it.
Infectious canine hepatitis (ICH)
ICH, also known as adenovirus, is spread by the infected saliva, blood, nasal discharge, faeces or urine of other dogs.
There are two variations. One causes hepatitis (infection of the liver) and the other causes something similar to kennel cough.
- Vomiting and diarrhoea
- Abdominal pain
The above symptoms mean it is very similar to the other diseases on the list, often giving a crossover, so it can be hard to spot.
Again there is no specific treatment for ICH. However, if your dog is showing symptoms, these can be treated separately. Beyond this, there are no long-term effects, so most dogs will recover.
Kennel cough is not a core vaccine, like those above. It is optional but highly recommended for any dog who spends a lot of time around other dogs.
In the UK, the kennel cough vaccine is given annually. This is often at the same time as your dog is given booster injections. It is administered intra-nasally with the vet squirting it gently up the dog’s nose.
The kennel cough vaccine will not protect your dog from all strains of the virus, but it will still go a long way towards helping protect them if they mix regularly. It is particularly important for any dog with underlying health issues, particularly respiratory.
Many doggy day care centres and kennels will ask for proof that your dog has been vaccinated against kennel cough. You can read more, including prevention and treatment, in our kennel cough guide.
How much are dog vaccinations?
Dog vaccinations can cost a range of prices. It can depend on what the vaccination is, and the cost your clinic sets based on the practice rules and where you live.
Bought By Many found that the average cost of the first set of vaccinations for a puppy is £68. Kennel cough is usually not included in this, as an optional extra. The cost for kennel cough on top can range from around £10 to nearly £70.
Many vet practices will offer a discount on kennel cough if all are given at the same time, both during initial vaccinations and boosters.
The cost of boosters is often slightly cheaper. If your dog has missed their annual booster vaccinations, you may have to pay for a course of primary vaccines to catch them back up again. Ask your vet the best approach, however – they may recommend titre blood testing to see if immunity is still present. However, this is often around the same cost as vaccinations anyway.
Either way, the cost of annual vaccinations will likely be a lot cheaper than treatment for any of the potential infections and diseases. This could run into thousands of pounds if overnight vet stays and long-term medication is required. You should always have suitable pet insurance to cover these emergencies.
Are vaccinations covered by pet insurance?
Vaccination costs won’t be covered through pet insurance, no. But if your dog is vaccinated, some insurance companies could offer a cheaper policy.
How long do vaccinations last?
The time a vaccine lasts can vary. However, most vets recommend that you attend their practice for boosters annually, which is a good generalised meet-in-the-middle point for them all.
Immunity weakens over time, so it is vital you keep up to date with the vaccination records.
Rehoming a dog through a charity
The majority of charities will ensure dogs are fully vaccinated before they leave to come and live with their new owners. Adoption fees will go towards the costs of these vaccines, so it is a great way to keep initial costs low for you.
Any dogs taken into a rehoming charity who were abused, abandoned or taken away from their previous owners will likely not have full vaccination records, so it is a good way to get their vaccinations started.
Taking your dog abroad
If you are taking your dog abroad, there are compulsory vaccinations and paperwork that must be completed before you even pack your bags.
It does depend on your final destination, but in general, you will need a rabies vaccination.
Your vet needs proof that your pet’s at least 12 weeks old before vaccinating them against rabies. They must also be microchipped before their vaccination or at the same time. Otherwise, they will need to be vaccinated again.
If you’re taking your pet to the EU or Northern Ireland, you must wait 21 days after the primary vaccination before you travel. The vaccine needs to be approved in the country you’re travelling to.
You also need to have a pet passport or health record which shows their vaccination history. Some countries will also require other vaccinations.
Rabies vaccinations require a booster every year. It is easier to carry out this booster if there is potential you will travel again with your pet, rather than restarting their vaccinations.