Should you have your dog vaccinated every year ?

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Vaccination is very important for dogs regardless of their age and lifestyle. The vaccination protocol (vaccines used and frequency of recalls) must be established by the veterinarian treating the animal. While vaccines were routinely carried out every year in the past, the new recommendations allow for a reduction in the protocol for some vaccines.

What do I need to know about vaccinating dogs ?

Vaccination is essential for dogs : vaccines can protect them against serious diseases.

Vaccines are made up of active substances that induce an immune response protecting dogs from disease.

For immunity to be implemented correctly, it is usually necessary to give several injections of primary vaccination and then booster doses.

Vaccines are made up of several valences that protect dogs from several diseases. We distinguish between essential and non-essential :

Essential valences

There are several essential valences for dogs, these are the vaccines against :

  • Distemper
  • Parvovirosis
  • Rubarth hepatitis

These vaccines are to be carried out in all dogs whether they live in the city or in the country.

Non-essential valences

These are vaccines against leptospirosis, Lyme disease, piroplasmosis, rabies, leishmaniasis and kennel cough.

The choice of these vaccines depends on the animal’s lifestyle. They should be performed in dogs exposed to a risk of contamination. Caution however, leptospirosis vaccine is usually performed in all dogs.

Rabies vaccination is mandatory for foreign travel, for category dogs, it can also be requested in some pensions, campsites, etc.…

What is leptospirosis in dogs

Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease that mainly affects dogs, can be transmitted to humans and sometimes other animals. It can be very serious and it is therefore essential to take precautions, including vaccination, for your dog’s health, but also for your own !

Leptospirosis is an infectious disease caused by a bacterium (Leptospira) that occurs in stagnant water and soil. Rodents, especially rats, are a reservoir for the disease because they carry the bacteria without being sick and release it into their urine. They thus contaminate the environment by urinating on the ground and in the water.

The bacteria then pass to the dog by mouth when it drinks in puddles and by percutaneous(through the skin)  route when it bathes in a pool for example. Hunting dogs or dogs living in rural areas are therefore the most exposed.

Warning: this disease is a “zoonosis”, that is to say it can be transmitted from the dog to the man by a contact between the two. Therefore, care should be taken in the presence of a dog with leptospirosis.

How do we know if a dog has leptospirosis ?

The disease can present itself in several forms :

hemorrhagic gastroenteritis: vomiting with blood and black stools (because they contain digested blood).

acute renal failure (with urea attack)can also occur : the animal urinates very little or no more. Death occurs within 48 hours after a phase of hypothermia (i.e., very low temperature) and coma.

an ictero-hemorrhagic form : the animal has an icterus (yellow mucous membranes), with coagulation disorders and acute renal failure. Death can occur in 3 to 6 days.

nephritis: is acute renal failure that occurs more or less rapidly. We observe first a phase of compensation during which the animal drinks a lot, then a phase of decompensation characterized by the fact that the animal urinates very little. Death occurs within 15 days.

The disease can occur acutely : the animal then has a high fever (39.5-40° C), severe depression, anorexia and vomiting. He’s also very dehydrated.

The diagnosis can be made by means of additional blood tests by the veterinarian. A blood count formula will reveal a lack of blood platelets explaining the clotting problems, as well as an increase in white blood cell count (indicative of an infection).

There is also liver disease and an increase in urea and creatinine levels.

Serological investigations can be carried out : the antibodies the body has made to fight leptospires are detected by a test (but only when the disease has been developing for more than ten days).

Bacteriological investigations can also be carried out by trying to detect the presence of bacteria in the blood at the beginning of the evolution and then in the urine.

How to treat and prevent leptospirosis ?

To try to eliminate leptospires, which are bacteria, an antibiotic treatment must be put in place.

Renal failure requires resuscitation by an infusion that can be long. A high mortality rate is generally observed despite intensive treatments.

This disease is very serious. The high mortality rate and the risk of irreversible consequences, particularly at the renal level, make prevention all the more necessary.

The best prevention against leptospirosis is vaccination. The vaccine allows the animal to be protected against the two most common varieties of bacteria that reach the dog.

Primary vaccination is given in two injections with an interval of 3-4 weeks in puppies over three months of age. The recall is annual or even semi-annual in animals at risk (hunting dogs, dogs living in wet areas).

When do you have to get your dog vaccinated ?

Primary vaccination

The new recommendations encourage the primary vaccination for essential valences: it is recommended to carry out 3 injections of primary vaccination in the puppy at 8, 12 and 16 weeks of age.

For non-essential valences, primary vaccination can be carried out from the age of 3 months and requires two primary vaccination injections. For rabies, only one primary vaccination is required, the puppy is recognized as legally protected against rabies 21 days later.


For essential valences, the first booster should be given no later than one year after the primary vaccination. Caution: for animals that have received only 2 primary injections, the booster should be given at 1 year of age. Then, the reminders can be spaced and carried out every 2 years.

Although vaccination reminders can be spaced, it is strongly recommended that annual visits be made to the veterinarian to monitor the health status of the animal.

If the time frames are exceeded, it may be necessary to repeat the vaccination protocol at zero with two primary injections.

For non-essential valences, the reminders are annual.

Good to know: it is important to continue vaccinating older dogs even if they have been vaccinated all their life. Older dogs are more fragile, their immune defenses are decreasing, so vaccination remains very important.

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